Minecraft Dungeons is an exciting addition to the Minecraft family. We’ve been playing the Mojang block builder for over a decade on a multitude of platforms. Since the Microsoft acquisition in 2014 Minecraft Earth and Minecraft Dungeons have been the diverse additions, on top of regular world updates. Having seen Minecraft Dungeons at PAX last year, its been well and truly on the radar.
Personally I love a good Dungeon Crawl, because nothing beats the smell of loot in dank tunnel.
The ingredients were already there after ten years of creativity and the story probably wrote itself. Surely it was easy to put together the landscape and inhabitants. The Minecraft palette and world are so familiar now and the engine breathes life into well-lit scenes. This isn’t an RTX shaded version of the game, it’s pure and simple and full of joy.
Take it to the couch
Like a lot of action RPGs Minecraft Dungeons is better in a crowd. To be honest we had the game for a couple of days, but Xbox Live was late to the party. That said, couch co-op was where its at. Minecraft Dungeons is very accessible to the whole family and in these uncertain times, its perfect for sitting down with the kids.
The story follows a quest through various levels and biomes in pursuit of the evil Arch-Illager. Inventive to say the least. During this quest there will be numerous encounters with familiar mobs and new creatures, levels often sprinkled with Boss fights. Its all pretty straightforward and nice.
Minecraft Dungeons Hacking ‘n Slashing
Combat is easy, mash the “a” button to swing your weapon(s) and Right Trigger shoots your ranged weapon. Arrows are a commodity, so don’t rely on them, as my trigger happy fellow adventurers soon found out. Add to this the ability to enchant items or add buff skills to your other buttons and you can soon become very handy in a scuffle. Having the ability to fling out exploding arrows, grab speed boost or imbibe your sword with something elemental make life easier.
Not forgetting of course that as you progress the beasties also come up against you with their own buffs and skills. Chaos soon ensues.
In the past I have often ended up accidentally playing Minecraft in third person and the combat was horrible. The animation and hit registers just never made it fun, thankfully scaled out in Minecraft Dungeons it works so much better. To be honest I’d like to play real Minecraft with a fixed perspective like this. While the game will never be a Diablo, it has a perfect spot on the shelf as an easy access RPG lite. That game never gave you the chance to explode a Creeper at distance with an exploding arrow, taking out zombies in the process.
What about the Minecraft Dungeons LOOT?
You don’t crawl a dungeon without loot, lots of loot, the more loot the better. To be honest, while there is loot I want more. More chests, more drops and more variety. It just feels a little light on the ground, hopefully subsequent adventures and replays will address that.
Levelling up and equipping new items still has the “new car smell”, especially as you can salvage equipment at the Blacksmith and get back the enchantment upgrades you’ve installed. Pickups aren’t just limited to weapons and arrows either, there is all sorts of food on offer to replenish your health. As every Minecraft player knows, where there is livestock, there is meat.
So, it’s not an open world?
Could it really work as a wide open setting is a question you have to ask. The level design is smart enough to suggest a free-roam environment, but has been put together in very particular paths. It often branches out and gives you a choice, but if you are like me you’ll always circle back in case of a missed chest. If this was a huge free-roam map, with additionally functionality I probably wouldn’t need another game for twelve months. As it is, Minecraft Dungeons does exactly what it says on the tin. In the footsteps other other more serious dungeon crawlers it caters to its audience, but does so very well.
Summed up by one of my fellow adventurers (Harvey, aged 9) “It’s awesome, but I want to dig and craft”. I wasn’t expecting the full-on Minecraft experience, but some people might. However this criticism comes from a young person with an impressive collection of Minecraft Titanic models.
At the end of the adventure
Minecraft Dungeons is a bold and colourful venture, using a very familiar assets and atmosphere. It really is a lot of fun, especially in a crowd. I’m excited to see what happens in the inevitable follow-up.
For now, I’ll keep dreaming about Minecraft PSVR.
Thanks to Microsoft / Xbox ANZ for providing the review copy.