Developed by Double Eleven and Mojang and published by Xbox Game Studios, Minecraft Dungeons is the next game to be released in the Minecraft realm. This time out, Mojang have decided to dip their toe into the dungeon crawling hack-n-slash genre. Many of the elements of the block master original do make an appearance; the graphics, architecture, characters, and enemies are all present and correct. There was quite a lot of anticipation around this game, and since having a taste of it at the X019 event in November last year, I was curious about it too.
The story is quite simple in that you and your friends have to brave the many dungeons that are filled with mobs of enemies. You free the villagers as you pursue the evil Arch Illager – the big villain of the story. The Illager (evil villager) was shunned by his own kind and found hatred wherever he went, so he wanted to get back at those that wronged him, and went searching with rage in his heart. He found the orb of dominance which gave him a lot of power, and he decided to use that power to destroy villages and imprison the villagers. Now it’s up to solo or groups of adventurers to bring down the Arch Illagers and stop his reign of terror.
Visually Minecraft Dungeons is everything you would expect from a Minecraft game. It has its signature blocky style, and the background music is also very familiar from the Minecraft series. All the main bad guys from the original game make an appearance, such as the zombies, spiders, skeletons with bows, creepers and even the Enderman…. plus, many others.
The controls are kept very simple, making it easy for all ages to get involved. You have one button for attack, one for a ranged attack which has limited ammo, and one for roll/evade. You do get to pick up magical artefacts which can be assigned to the other buttons, but these controls work with the simplicity of the game. Although most of the maps are randomly generated, they are still quite linear in their nature. You also get a steering yellow arrow to direct you where to go, so you should never get lost. The dungeons, although quite linear, do have extra paths which you can explore, but not all of them lead to anything which seems a bit odd.
As with all dungeon crawlers, you start with basic equipment. Then the more enemies you defeat, chests you open or maps you complete, the better the equipment you find. As you progress through the story, you also get some shop keepers back at your camp that you can spend your money on for a chance of better equipment. There are a variety of different melee weapons to find, different armours to wear and a couple of different bows to wield. Each of them has some pro’s and con’s and have a rarity value from common, to rare and epic. When you level up, you can assign some enhancement points to either of your weapons or your armour. Many different perks can be obtained from enhancing your gear, so it is worth doing.
Minecraft Dungeons has an auto-balancing element that is somewhat useful. Before you select a dungeon to crawl, there is a difficulty slider to review. This tells you your current level and the recommended level for that dungeon at that specific difficulty. However, it seems to prevent you from taking it too easy, which seems to be an odd choice. If you try to lower the difficulty, the game tells you it’s below the minimum difficulty and will prevent you from entering, but you can raise the difficulty beyond your level for an extra challenge. When you are playing local or online with friends, the game will calculate your combined level to recommend the difficulty of the dungeon you should enter. That helps those starting anew still play with someone further ahead and enjoy the experience.
It seems clear that this game was meant to be played with others, either locally or online. The frequent large mobs of enemies and tricky bosses can be tough for a single player, unless you are quite skilled at dungeon crawlers. Unfortunately, for now you are restricted to friends only online and you can’t mix local co-op and online together. The devs are working on adding in cross platform play soon, but it’s a definite blow to be so restricted in a game that is best – and clearly designed to be – played with others.
The Minecraft brand is massive, and to create a dungeon crawler with all the familiar characters and architecture makes absolute sense. It was always going to be tough to cater for all ages and abilities in this genre, but I feel they have handled it quite well. The lack of co-op and online play with players outside of your friends list is, for now at least, a massive shame as it’s clearly at its best when teaming up with a few players. Gamepass should make this a much smaller issue, but it’s still not ideal. However, this is still a fun dungeon crawler that will keep you entertained.
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.