What is that? A fun dungeon crawler set in the Minecraft universe
Expect to pay $20 / £16
Developer Mojang Studios
Editor Mojang Studios
Reviewed on i5-2500K, 8GB RAM, GTX 670
Link Official site (opens in a new tab)
I blast through crowds with my firework arrows that explode into a cloud of colored sparks on impact, dual-wielding sickles that freeze enemies and harvest the souls of the dead to power up my all-wiping laser cube on my way. Throughout this spectacle, the llama I summoned continues to charge headfirst into the crowds in a spitting jet of rage. It’s ridiculous and I’m enjoying every second.
Minecraft Dungeons (opens in a new tab) takes place in the same universe as its sandbox predecessor, but there is no crafting or construction. It’s a dungeon crawler that challenges you to furiously smash your way through hordes of enemies with multiple enchantments and fun items. It features four-player local or online co-op, so your friends can also join in its block brawls.
The story is light: the main villain is the evil Arch-Illager who finds a powerful artifact called The Orb of Dominance and seeks revenge on those who shunned it. The Arch-Illager has assembled an army of familiar Minecraft enemies to take over the world and your party must stop him. Sometimes you’ll be tasked with freeing captured villagers as a challenge in a level, but the story is mostly just a reason for senseless brawls.
The world of Minecraft Dungeons has been given a glorious glow from its sandbox counterpart. There are a handful of different biomes to choose from, including woodlands, mines, swamps, temples, and canyons, each with their own loot and enemy types. One of my favorites is Fiery Forge, where glowing lava cascades through the lower layers of the level. It looks amazing against the blue infused iron walls of the forge. It looks like Minecraft with a ray tracing mod, catapulting the blocky world to new graphical heights.
He looks even better during the bombastic fight. You’ll dodge exploding vines, dodge incoming arrows fired by skeletons, and steer clear of wizard-thrown potions that release a mist of purple toxic smoke. Throw enchanted weapons and powerful artifacts into the mix and battles are a frenetic mess of colors and explosions. It’s crazy.
Each level is procedurally generated but will always have a mix of hack-and-slash mobs, mini-bosses, and a large boss at the end. You are given map markers at the edge of the screen to show where your objective is, a bottomless healing potion with a thirty second cooldown and three lives. With this generous set of tools, Mojang has definitely focused on fun rather than challenge.
The strategy and theorizing are great, but charging headfirst and mindlessly hacking and hacking through a monster-filled cavern has its own charm. You can adjust the difficulty (opens in a new tab) with a threat slider in the mission menu that makes monsters tougher and harder to defeat. I mostly stuck to the recommended difficulty level, but on occasion when I felt confident in my character build, I would crank up the threat slider just to get more powerful weapon drops.
Loot to boot
Unlike the classes and skills you’ll find in Diablo and other action RPGs, your character’s abilities come solely from the gear you choose. You have room for a melee weapon, a ranged weapon, and a piece of armor, and each item can be upgraded with enchantment points. Although you’ll find the same item multiple times, each one is unique due to the enchantment options that come with it. Finding loot with different enchantments and spending points to activate those abilities is a big part of the game.
Enchantment points are only earned when you level up, but you can salvage old weapons to collect points and use them on a new weapon. This useful recycling system gives you the freedom to try out new weapons and abilities without feeling like you’re wasting time.
Alongside weapons, there are artifacts that give you ability bonuses like fire arrows and passive healing. The fun is finding artifacts and enchantments with overlapping abilities to create unreasonable synergies. I use a collection of items that collectively harvest all the ghostly souls of my fallen enemies to use as a resource to power my artifacts.
A handy feature is the ability to swap and pick up items on the go, modifying your build to effectively deal with any threat you face. With the right selection of enchantments, weapons, and artifacts, you can create a pretty powerful character. My Soul Eater build is great for large mobs with lots of tasty souls, but against a one-on-one boss battle, it’s pointless. My go-to boss items are artifacts and enchanted weapons that quickly rejuvenate my health, allowing me to bounce back after a few brutal hits. There’s enough variation in loot to create some fun builds.
I’ve played a lot of Minecraft Dungeons solo, but its mayhem is best experienced with a group of friends (opens in a new tab)-four block killing machines are always better than one. Players can easily drop in and out of each other’s game sessions, and Mojang has made sure that all the loot you find in multiplayer is yours, meaning everyone gets their own share of the goods. The ease of playing with friends and its airy nature make Minecraft Dungeons a perfect co-op pursuit. His shenanigans are more like Lego games than ARPGs like Diablo.
Minecraft Dungeons is the perfect introduction to dungeon crawlers for beginners and an airy adventure for veterans. There’s nothing special that sets it apart, but it’s a fun, streamlined take on the dungeon crawling genre. There’s little complexity – no intricate systems to delve into or epic battle plans to craft, so if you’d rather an ARPG have more depth, you might be disappointed. But it’s also likely that Mojang is planning to expand the world of Minecraft Dungeons. With a mysterious “Island Realms” option coming to the world map and a curious empty portal, it looks like there’s more to come.