Mojang Studios took the world of Minecraft and crafted it into an action/adventure game with no mining and no crafting. Minecraft Dungeons is a dungeon crawler, plain and simple, albeit a bit dumbed down. Being dumbed down is by no means a bad thing. Minecraft Dungeons is a formidable game of the genre. Make no mistake, this is not the Minecraft that you have come to know and love, but an action/adventure masterpiece that is easy to play, and challenging to defeat. Think more along the lines of Diablo, but with less items, character skills, and gore.
Minecraft Dungeons – Storyline & Characters
I won’t get into too many details about the story, but you should definitely check out the opening cinematic. In a nutshell, the Arch-Illager, shunned by the others, found the Orb of Dominance and is now controlling the entire realm, and paying them back for being shunned. The developers make good use of the Illager character-set throughout the game. For example, the Pillager and Evoker, who caused us a lot of trouble throughout our adventure. Other characters, like Zombies, Skeletons, Endermen, Witches, and (of course) Creepers make numerous appearances. There are a host of new characters as well that get uncovered as you explore, including the Redstone Monstrosity. There is a lot to be uncovered, and shouldn’t be ruined here.
What about your character? In Dungeons, there aren’t any character customization, and no stats, or skills. Minecraft Dungeons is strictly item and level based. There are two weapon slots (melee and archery), armor spot and three artifact spots. Artifacts are, in a sense, abilities or sometimes boosts, depending on how you want to round out your character. Are you a healer? Then healing type artifacts are what you choose. Perhaps you want brute force heavy offense. Then strength and damage artifact types is what you’d look to find. Like any other dungeon crawler, as you progress through game, higher level loot (weapons & artifacts) drop. Since there aren’t any classes, you can change your playstyle, and can change on the fly, to how you see fit. While simplistic, it works. This made the game a more fun adventure, instead of just an item/level grind. Translation: Much more fun.
Gameplay – Diablo for Dummies
In the beginning, there is little-to-no challenge, which gave us a false sense of security (and worried me.) However, that quickly changed. As we leveled, so did the game. We got our ass handed to us on more than one occasion. The levels are procedurally generated, which will keep you on your toes regardless of how many times you’ve done “Soggy Swamp” or the others. They are so large that we often times needed to use the map overlay to make sure every square foot of them was explored. The jury is still out on whether we think this is a good or bad thing. The maps are so large, that completing one is quite draining, but gratifying to complete. They are so large that it often prevented us from starting on the next chapter, as we didn’t want to commit to another long adventure. Unlike Diablo, you can’t leave a map temporarily to head back to camp to resupply or take a break. Once you start a level, you’re finishing it as there are no mid-level saves.
I enjoyed that each map is re-playable at anytime. This allowed me to pursue all the item drops and also go back to level up. This didn’t get repetitive: the procedural generation of maps keeps the game fresh. Each generated instance is different from the last of any given map. If you’re up for even more of a challenge, there is also a difficulty setting for each map. Each difficulty will alert the player to what the recommended level needed or level of the team needed. Once the Arch-Illager is defeated, harder overall difficulties are available, which provide harder challenges, better loot and more rewards, adding to the replayability.
Graphics and Sound
Today in gaming, we expect rich 3D graphics, with incredible bump mapping and incredible pixel density. You won’t find that here in Minecraft Dungeons. What you will find is a beautifully rich and colorful isometric (top down) view of Minecraft. Colors pop both in dark and the light environs. Character animations are smooth and very much akin to the original Minecraft that we all love. Environmental sounds caught me off guard on more than one occasion, thinking that the sound was coming from outside, (or even worse….inside, my house.) Music is well orchestrated to add depth and intensity as battles go on. but never felt annoying or repetitive. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if they released the soundtrack. Graphics and sound fit like a glove. Each environment, both above and below ground, feature key art from the its namesake. You won’t see Gears of War level graphics here. but each level and character is beautifully crafted to be better than the original. yet very much the same.
Multiplayer – Couch Co-Op and Online Co-Op
Minecraft Dungeons supports both couch and online co-op play. Up to four players can team up quite easily to make a run through the game together. Unlike other crawlers, players cannot drop or trade items to other players. Each player can buff/heal another based on the artifacts that they are using. Co-op set up is a breeze, whether we were in the camp or in the middle of a map. While Dungeons is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Windows, cross-platform play is not yet available. Mojang Studies says that cross platform play is coming soon though.
Bottom Line : Minecraft Dungeons is a win!
This is, hands down, a great game-although a bit short. Currently, at about 9-10 hours deep into Dungeons, I have already reached the Arch-Illager. As I mentioned earlier, there are two other difficulties and many more items that I have yet to uncover. The good news: the replayability is there, and I have no doubt that we will continue to enjoy Minecraft Dungeons. Its a great, easy-to-pickup action/adventure game, that requires little thought, and provides hours of fun–even before the DLC hits. With its simplistic controls and no need to think about character development, along with the ease of grouping up in co-op mode, it’s a definite must have.
Minecraft Dungeons is available for purchase for $19.99, or on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. There is also a $29.99 “hero” edition, which includes chicken pets, the upcoming DLCs, a hero cape, and skins.
The Bottom Line : Minecraft Dungeons is a win, and not a game to be missed!