Even if you’ve never played a video game in your life, you’ve probably heard of Minecraft. Originally released in 2011, Minecraft quickly gained popularity as a creative, wonderful world of possibilities. Since the game hit store shelves 9 years ago, the game has gone on to sell over 200 million copies, making it the best-selling video game of all time. Recently, developer Mojang created and released Minecraft Dungeons, a spin-off game in the Minecraft franchise that focuses on action and progression. Similar to games like Diablo and Torchlight, Minecraft Dungeons is an exciting dungeon-crawling adventure with loads of loot to earn. Whether you’re playing solo or with a friend, Minecraft Dungeons offers an easy-to-learn experience that is great for newcomers. With a budget-level price and a fun and colorful atmosphere, Minecraft Dungeons could be the next big thing. Let’s see if that’s the case, or if this is simply a mediocre rip-off looking to cash-in on Minecraft‘s success.
The Attack of the Illager
The original Minecraft was never big on storytelling content, rather encouraging the players to carve their path on their own big adventure. Although Minecraft Dungeons contains an overarching plot with heroes and villains, it’s similarly light on the specifics, instead focusing on the chaos of combat. At the beginning of the game, you’ll select your preferred character appearance and then jump straight into the action. The story is mostly straightforward, centering around your created character and their village currently under siege. Tempted by the power of an ancient relic, the evil “Arch-Illager” has invaded the mostly peaceful land of Overworld and has begun tearing things apart. After lighting the entire town on fire and kidnapping the majority of the townsfolk, the Arch-Illager makes his escape. As the only battle-ready villager around, it’s up to you (and your group of pals) to chase down the Arch-Illager and rescue your neighbors.
This daring adventure is spread across nine levels, each unique in their layout and visual style. You’ll battle through forests, deserts, and dungeons, slaying enemies and gathering loot. Unfortunately, apart from a few brief cutscenes, the storytelling mostly falls flat. Like the original Minecraft, a good narrative is not essential for Minecraft Dungeons, but the utter lack of any compelling story is just as hurtful. There’s a lot of cool environments and interesting places that would’ve been fun to explore and take up quests in, but this content simply doesn’t exist. In terms of fantasy stories, Minecraft Dungeons is as about as straightforward and as simple as they come. While the lack of a story doesn’t ruin the game at all, it’s a bit disappointing to see so much wasted potential.
Big Blocky Battles
While the story leaves a lot to be desired, it’s hardly the focus in Minecraft Dungeons. The major selling point of the game is its replayable nature, thanks to the procedurally generated levels and upgrade system. Like the story, gameplay in Minecraft Dungeons is very simple and easy-to-learn. Whether you’re a dungeon-crawling veteran or a complete newbie, slashing through enemies in Dungeons is as easy as could be. At the start, your character will be essentially empty-handed, but after playing for a bit you’ll amass a sizable inventory. You can experience the adventure either alone or with up to four players (both online and locally on the same system), so at the very least, you can jump into battle with your pals. There is no class system to speak of, so all players can pick up and use every item without restriction.
As you work your way through the game’s nine levels, you’ll battle through a variety of standard Minecraft enemies, including creepers, endermen, skeletons, and more. The layout of each level is randomly generated each time you enter it, so subsequent playthroughs of Minecraft Dungeons remain mostly fresh. There’s an adjustable difficulty mechanic based around your character level, which raises as you defeat enemies and gain better gear. This way, you can ramp up the challenge if you’re playing with a stacked crew, or lower it if you’re introducing a new gamer to the fun. Regardless, you’ll traverse through a variety of dungeon-layouts and visually unique areas, opening treasure chests and defeating bosses.
Better Loot, Better Battles
In expected dungeon-crawler fashion, Minecraft Dungeons has an impressive list of weapons, armor, and items to use. You can equip one melee weapon, one ranged weapon, and three active items, as well as one complete set of armor. There’s a great variety of weaponry across all categories, including axes, swords, and daggers, as well as an assortment of bows. Armor often bestows passive bonuses to the wearer, including enhanced health, higher attack power, and decreased skill cool-downs. The active items give you even more freedom in combat, allowing you to heal your team, push back enemies, and much more. There’s an abundance of new stuff to find and equip, so you’ll constantly be swapping out the old gear with newer finds.
Your character will also naturally level up as you defeat enemies, enhancing your health and attack while also granting “enchantment” points. Enchantment points can be used to power-up your weapons and armor, giving them unique bonuses. The better the gear, the more bonuses you can add, but maxing out any weapon will cost quite a few enchantment points. There’s a good variety of enchantment bonuses, offering even more strategy for players who like to personalize their load-out. If you synergize with your group correctly, enchanted gear can completely wipe out rooms of enemies or quickly dismantle major bosses. Either way, leveling up and enchanting gear is a mechanic that keeps you interested in the game, even if the combat can get repetitive at times.
Final Thoughts on Minecraft Dungeons
When you add up all the positives and negatives of Minecraft Dungeons, the good outweighs the bad. Sure, the story is significantly underwhelming and the procedurally generated levels are a bit overplayed at this point, but the game is still tons of fun. Thanks to its welcoming level of difficulty, it’s a great title to play with non-gamer friends or less-skilled young gamers. With only nine levels, the game can feel a bit short, but the inclusion of a dynamic difficulty system and new level layouts makes it easy to continue playing. At launch, Minecraft Dungeons costs a fraction of a big-budget title, so you’re also getting a decent deal. While it surely won’t see the same level of success as the original Minecraft, Minecraft Dungeons is still plenty of fun and well worth playing.