Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch,
May 26, 2020
Xbox Game Studios
Mojang Studios, Double Eleven
Few games have staying power the way Minecraft does. What spawned a genre, and even became the world’s best selling game, surely had more creative ideas to follow. Follow it did, with other video game forays such as an episodic Telltale series of the IP and more recently a mobile AR game. Now, Minecraft Dungeons, a dungeon crawler set all within the Minecraft world, is the latest to appear. With thanks to a review code from Microsoft, I got to jump in. Thankfully, it’s a welcome adventure addition to the franchise’s growing library.
Like many classic dungeon crawlers before it, Minecraft Dungeons has you hunting down a large threat over a number of environments. The evil Arch-Illager and his minions have taken over the world and captured those sweet innocent villagers. It is up to you and a team of up to three others to chase and mow down these foes and come to the rescue. Yes, like other classic dungeon crawlers, it’s quite story lite.
Boot up Minecraft Dungeons and to longtime Minecraft fans, everything is how it should look, sound and feel. Enchanting music comes in and that voxel art style pops as much as ever with fantastic use of lighting. Even watching new, artsy cutscenes and playing the game feels well within the realm of the Minecraft universe. Seeing the franchise in this new, though plausible light really is an exciting experience to be had. Minecraft Dungeons invites you in, settles you down and says “Welcome home.”
The scope for Minecraft Dungeons is near perfect. It’s not some deep dungeon-crawler RPG with plenty of daunting mechanics. Instead, it’s a fun and wholly new Minecraft game with generous nods to classic games of the genre’s past. It’s delightfully accessible too, crafted to be easily picked up and played by people of diverse ages. It was exciting to see my PAX gameplay impressions, and behind the scenes interview I sat in on, fully in practice.
Like dungeon crawlers prior, you’ll plunder a variety of environments, mowing floods of enemies with an isometric view. These can look like swamps, dark forests, canyons, caves and naturally, mines. Exploring each of these environments once more flooded back memories of the hundreds of hours I’ve spent in Minecraft. Many look not too dissimilar to biomes I’d traverse hundreds if not thousands of times before, in a new way. Additionally, it just worked. It really affirms that the environments and atmosphere of Minecraft were begging to see a dungeon-crawling treatment.
As mentioned earlier, Minecraft Dungeons has some great nods to dungeon crawler’s past. This isn’t just exclusive to the perspective of the game and environment exploration but also combat. Weapons and loot are aplenty here. Instead of trying to strictly pick up gear that only works for your build, Minecraft Dungeons takes a more accessible approach in removing class-based systems entirely. Players can instead pick up and use any weapon they find, with no restrictions. With this, I got the chance to try out and alter my arsenal greatly, finding what does (and doesn’t) work for me. There’s a bit of leeway here too. Enchantments, earned through skill points let you mod your weapon to be used in different ways, while artefacts are collectible abilities you can use to mix up your moves outside of melee and bow combat.
“…The environments and atmosphere of Minecraft were begging to see a dungeon-crawling treatment.”
Personally, I found great joy in a bow, shaped much like a harp. Adding an enchantment that let me fire multiple arrows at once caused an array of arrows at my enemies and served as a great aid. Charming and soothing little string noises played at each firing too. I finished this off with some great artefact abilities. I could occasionally shoot fireworks, creating big colourful explosions on my enemies, and even summon a spitting llama at my aid. It was really fun and got to even feel like a ridiculous, zany god.
There’s also plenty to see and do in Minecraft Dungeons, despite the game’s six hour or so campaign that’ll pass you by in a flash. Secret missions are unlockable, and levels are filled with treasure to be found in nooks and crannies. Power levels and ramping difficulties are present too, creating an emphasis on replayability that I can’t wait to get stuck into with more friends in the future. Oh, there’s even treasure piggies in levels with a chest of loot on their back, as well as a cute homely little Minecraft camp and house as your hub world. Visiting back here between levels to trade my precious emerald loot for weapons or artefacts was simply adorable.
Plenty of fun can be had in Minecraft Dungeons. Teaming up with friends to take down some big foes, new or old, or scoring some sweet loot all are more than enough to keep the player busy. Making the game smaller in scope and ambition definitely has made for a better product but there are still some lingering wishes I have for the game. Crafting, mining and building, all the things Minecraft was built off, really aren’t present in the game at all. I would love to see ways for these mechanics to be incorporated. Whether it be select spots you can build bridges to access somewhere new, breaking down certain walls for hidden loot, or maybe even using these mechanics to solve puzzles would’ve added just that little bit it needed.
Exploring Minecraft Dungeons while having zero care for the franchise roots will leave you asking for more if you’re only asking for a Diablo level dungeon-crawler experience. Still, with an admirable scope and great approach to accessibility, it makes up for what the game lacks. Here’s praying the planned DLCs and future updates make the experience all the more richer.
- A fun, pretty and new refresher on the Minecraft name
- Sweet nods to classic dungeon crawler games
- Wild and unique weapons and abilities
- Llama summon! Need we say more?
- Some players may be deterred by Minecraft skin
- No mining, crafting or building
- Campaign is over before you know it
In short, Minecraft Dungeons is a basic, albeit competent addition to the dungeon-crawler genre. Yes, it’s a glorified new way to use the Minecraft skin but it works. It’s more for those devoted to the franchise but I strongly believe there’s at least enough here to entice newcomers for some dungeon-delving fun.
Last decade, the gaming world was largely all about Minecraft. It undoubtedly dominated. With Minecraft Dungeon’s kicking off in 2020, I can’t wait to see where the franchise goes from here.