Mojang Studios, Microsoft, and Double Eleven look to take Minecraft in an exciting new direction, as the voxel-based survival series treads new ground with the release of Minecraft Dungeons. Minecraft is one of the biggest intellectual properties in the gaming space, selling over 200 million copies and dominating the YouTube space for years. Despite its success, Microsoft and Mojang have been slow to explore avenues outside of its survival genre comfort zone, dabbling with Minecraft: Story Mode and Minecraft Earth, but nothing really aimed at reinventing its core gameplay design.
Minecraft Dungeons hopes to do just that with an isometric dungeon crawling action RPG that combines the charming aesthetic of Minecraft with a more action-packed direction. With no construction or block destruction in sight, does it maintain enough of the originals heart to appeal to fans? Let’s find out.
Minecraft Dungeons Review
The game delivers a simple but worthwhile narrative direction as players take on the roles of heroes attempting to save the Villagers of the Overworld. The evil Arch-Illager, shunned by his kind and pushed into exile, is attempting to destroy the villages of the Overworld with dark magic and hordes of Creepers, Zombies, Spiders, and an army of other Minecraft favorites. The game takes place across 10 unique levels as players dive into Creeper Woods, Redstone Mines, Desert Temples, and other areas hoping to foil the Arch-Illager’s plans.
Each area is a combination of carefully handcrafted segments alongside procedural generation to create a complementary mixture of replay value and that personal touch only possible when creating environments by hand. It keeps an otherwise short game refreshing throughout, with increasingly challenging levels that change each and every time you play. The base campaign can be completed in four to six hours depending on ability and how thoroughly you explore each area, but the game doesn’t really begin until you have finished the main story.
There are three base difficulties – Default, Adventure, and Apocalypse – with each difficulty unlocking once you have completed the end boss fight on a previous difficulty. Further adding to the challenge and replay value are difficulty sliders for each individual mission, increasing the difficulty of enemies in exchange for better loot, with loot being the backbone of Minecraft Dungeons’ progression system.
Defeating enemies, taking down bosses, opening chests, and discovering secrets are just some of the activities that have the chance of dropping Gear and Artifacts. Artifacts are cooldown-based skills that include an area of effect heal, an explosive arrow, and magical mushrooms that boost your attack. There’s a huge variety, and experimenting with new discoveries is a lot of fun. There are three types of Gear – Melee Weapons, Armor, and Ranged Weapons – along with a huge variety of Artifacts. Gear can be customized and improved via Enchantment Points, the skill points you receive when you level up. There’s a huge variety of Enchantments, from providing pets to firing explosive arrows to even summoning lightning strikes.
Furthermore, each Gear item also has a random aspect when collected. You can find a dozen Dual Daggers, but each will have different potential Enchantments, different stats, and rarity. It’s an intriguing loot system that really delivers on an exciting and rewarding progression system that’s only really let down by the lack of opportunities to get the actual loot. We often spent 20-30 minutes running through a level only to get one or two items, both of which were scrapped for Gems – the game’s currency that let’s you buy random Gear and Artifact items.
Although the games difficulty levels and huge pool of potential loot promise endless hours of replay value, the level design contradicts this direction. Many of the levels lack secrets or chests, often only offering a couple throughout the entire level. Meanwhile, other levels are filled to the brim with interesting secrets to discover and items to find. It bottlenecks players into running the same few levels over and over, ignoring some of its more exciting levels in exchange for a higher chance to progress.
Minecraft Dungeons’ combat is easily the best the franchise has ever offered. It’s fast-paced, strategic, and blends a simplistic design with enough depth to cater to players of all ages and experience levels. The Default base difficulty is a fantastic entry to the genre for the younger audiences, with very forgiving death mechanics and simple objective-based quests. Finishing the initial campaign, I was disappointed with the ease of completion, but switching up the difficulty transforms it entirely.
I played on PC throughout our adventure in Minecraft Dungeons, a technically flawless experience that didn’t suffer any notable issues from start to finish. I would highly recommend you use a controller to play. The keyboard and mouse setup is oddly stuck in a click-to-move design, which is clunky and slow; a completely contradictory experience to the fast-paced combat using a controller.
Minecraft Dungeons is a dungeon-crawling adventure that promises a lot of fun for gamers young and old alike. While its replay value may wane with time, a constantly growing progression system and its various difficulty settings offer a lot for those less affected by the repetition.
This Minecraft Dungeons review was written based on the Windows version of the game. A digital code was provided by Microsoft.
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