Minecraft, a game that is 11 years old, recognised all over the world, sold over 200 million copies and still has an incredibly active player base that brings its latest form to gamers in Minecraft: Dungeons.
Minecraft Dungeons is an all new co-op dungeon crawling action adventure game from Mojang Studios. It’s a game that takes up to 4 players on an epic quest to save the villagers from the villainous Arch-Illager.
This game takes the look and feel of the original Minecraft and adds something non-Minecraft players have been looking for in this world, a story. The story is pretty straightforward and you don’t need any prior understanding of the Minecraft universe as the story is set out as you move through the game. The character the player selects becomes the hero of the story and must pursue and defeat a power-hungry Pillager known as the Arch-Illager. This Arch-Illager throws up challenges along the way until you meet them in one final test of your strength.
When the player starts up the game they are taken to a character select screen set out with a number of pre-determined character models. This character selection is only about aesthetics, as this dungeon crawler does not have a character class based system like many of the other games it has been compared to. There are many similarities between this game and action adventure RPG’s, like Diablo, but it does offer a few differences as well as this game is tailored towards a more family friendly environment. Aspects like simplicity of controls and lack of character skill trees are just a few of the areas where this game differs from the rest. This doesn’t make it a bad game at all; just different to those it’s been compared to and does feel like a simplified version of Diablo made in the family friendly environment of Minecraft. This is perfect for those that want to introduce their younger children to a new genre, through a child’s love of Minecraft.
Once the player has selected a character, it’s straight into the world of Minecraft Dungeons via a tutorial that leads to a Base Camp. This is a safe haven at the centre of everything that happens and something you see from the majority of games of this genre. This central point provides the map for mission selection, various vendors for gear purchases and a few random chests scattered throughout the area. The vendors that are here provide random items in exchange for the gems accumulated throughout the game and each vendor unlocks as you progress through the missions. The best gear is definitely found by completing missions but these can be used when you’re looking for a little bit of a boost up when one area of your character is lacking.
There are 11 missions to select from (including the tutorial) that progressively unlock as you move through the game for the first time. Each pre-mission screen provides a recommended power level that can be used to gauge the difficulty of the mission and the chance of success against the power level of the character. The pre-mission screen also provides details of the story and gear and artifacts that can be found within the mission. This is where you set the difficulty of each mission and it can be broken down into two parts:
- The difficulty of the world – This is an overarching system made up of three difficulty levels (‘Default’, ‘Adventure’ and ‘Apocalypse’) that effects all missions within the world. All characters start with ‘Default” difficulty and defeating the Arch-Illager in that difficulty unlocks the next.
- The difficulty of the mission – Within each mission is a system to fine tune its difficulty known as ‘Adventure’ tiers. This provides six difficulty options for the player to select to fine tune the specific mission experience.
My first play through of the ‘default’ difficultly took approximately 5 and a half hours and that was with exploring every corner of each map, while missions on the higher ‘Adventurer’ difficulty were taking roughly 40 minutes. Progressing to the next difficulty level is where the repetitiveness starts, as these missions become a lot more difficult, and the rinse and repeat nature kicks in as you need better gear to progress. Those used to the genre won’t have an issue, but the more casual or younger gamer might find it a chore after the first few run throughs. It is an important part of the game, but it does rely on this replay need to extend its length.
The missions themselves are what you would expect from a dungeon crawler, with each map for the mission and it’s inner workings like enemy spawns, chest locations and more being procedurally generated. This is one of the reasons that will have you exploring each map every single time for that last piece of loot and speaking of loot, familiar character from Minecraft: Story Mode, Ruebin, shows up to take on the role of loot goblin. A loot goblin (Diablo term) is a character that needs to be chased down and attacked and when defeated drops extra loot for the players. You can identify this special pig by the massive golden loot chest on its back. In terms of loot, all loot is exclusive (and colour coded) to each player whereas arrows, food and potions are first come first served. To assist with this, all supply chests holding food and arrows can be opened by each player to help keep you stocked up.
Visually this game looks like a polished Minecraft from the character models and enemies right through to the scenery and gear. Each mission is also set in one of the easily identifiable Minecraft Biomes of the Minecraft world that are each beautiful in their own right.
On the topic of characters, the enemies are exactly what you would expect and have come to love from Minecraft, with all your favourites including creepers, skeletons, endermen, witches and golems.
One main difference between this and many other dungeon crawlers is player improvement. Minecraft Dungeons does not provide the player with a skill tree or other type of level progression; instead player improvement is down to the player’s equipment. This simplicity works really well and allowed my kids to customise their own character with minimal help. As part of this player progression and customisation, each player must obtain weapons, armour and artifacts by traversing dungeons and defeating enemies to improve the player to take on the higher difficulties. Player customisation and strength comes down to a character’s individual set up of a close and long range weapon, armour and three artifacts that offer short term abilities when manually activated. Each weapon and piece of armour also offers passive abilities that are activated and improved through the use of enchantment points that the player earns throughout the game. The great thing about these points is that when you recycle a piece of gear, the previously spent points are returned to you, so definitely spend away early to improve your gear. These passive abilities are totally random in nature though and this, as always, is about finding the right piece of gear for your play style that can take some time if luck isn’t on your side. Decent levelled passive gear abilities are a must for harder difficulties, so creating a character build with the right abilities that complement each other is important. The positive is that if you get some great passive abilities early on, you can also set the kids on their merry way and get an hour of peace and quiet in.
On that perfect transition, this game is definitely made with family in mind. For many, it’s our favourite genre that is set in the favourite universe of our children and it works quite well. There is no decapitation and blood splatter that comes with some of the more hardcore games in this genre; it has couch co-op for up to 4 players and a ‘G’ rating, providing the family with a game they can sit down with and have some fun. The game also provides an online co-op option for up to 4 players for online play with friends. The controls are also straightforward and displayed along the bottom of the screen, making this game even more child friendly. The one issue I had was that I couldn’t pause the game at all on solo or couch co-op mode, which really is a must when playing a game by yourself or with children.
Overall, Minecraft Dungeons is what you would expect from a Minecraft game set in a dungeon crawler world. The combination of Minecraft and dungeon crawler works really well and provides a great experience for all gamers. The game plays well and the controls are smooth and simple to use. The main concern being the small amount of levels that are present, which will be more of a concern for those not used to this genre of game, those that just don’t like repeating content are those expecting a larger world. There is already a placeholder on the mission select screen for “island realms” to come, and 2 DLC’s included in the future with the Hero Edition, so I would be expecting more content to come in the not so distant future. If you are a fan of Minecraft, a casual dungeon crawler or looking for something to play with children then this game is one worth picking up.
The standard edition can be purchased for $29.95 or the Hero Edition for $39.95 that includes a Hero Cape, two player skins and a chicken pet and two DLC packs when they become available. You could also just pick it up and play using Xbox Game Pass or Game Pass Ultimate on day one (26th May 2020).
+ Smooth gameplay and polished combat
+ Family friendly
+ Simplicity of controls work well on the Xbox controller
+ A game Minecraft fans will love
+ My kids loved the game
– More missions are required
– The progression system is made for the casual gamer and those craving the hardcore experience may feel like they need more
– Can’t pause the game on solo
Xbox Gamer Dad for One More Game
* Microsoft provided the review code for this game. One More Games thoughts on this title are theirs and theirs alone.