There’s a lot that can be said about Minecraft. From its humble beginnings to the juggernaut it is today, Minecraft has become a mainstay in homes across the World. With a diversified player-base, this block building phenomenon has captured the attention of millions. Be it casual players who rarely game or own just a few titles to those who consider themselves hardcore with a backlog that would take dedicated years to complete. The success of Minecraft is indisputable despite a lack of spin-offs in the series. When Minecraft Dungeons was announced, it was easy to snap to attention and keep a close eye on its progress. Now that it’s here, we take a look to see if this dungeon crawler lives up to the reputation the core game built block by block.
Shunned and mistreated, an illager is all but cast out of society. The hatred that spurned him away transposed into vile revenge. On his quest for retribution, the illager happens upon the Orb of Dominance. This ancient power, fueled by hatred, consumes the wayward soul and creates the evil arch-illager. The evil arch-illager spreads his power across the land like a plague. Only those brave enough dare stand up against this new evil.
Minecraft Dungeons is a top-down dungeon crawling RPG. This isometric setup gives a limited glimpse into the blocky world with no control over the camera angle. The action feels mostly hack-and-slash with a few spells based on artifacts you can find. The core gameplay feels a bit shallow in that leveling up offers little by way of customization. The only way to build a unique character is from item drops which happen just a handful of times per map. Loot is hard to come by and the majority of it is repeated.
The controls work well enough with the exception of ranged combat and the disregard of jumping. The aiming system misses the target figuratively and literally. And omitting a jump action made little sense as we would often get stuck on blocks and had to roll uphill. Spells or skills are activated with the Y, X or B buttons. Each skill has a cooldown and will help get you out of sticky situations when the mobs are otherwise too great to handle. One nice aspect of deviating from generalizing your character by job class is that you can easily swap weapons or artifacts to try different loadouts. This can also help if you happen upon a boss too tough to take down with your existing setup.
Minecraft Dungeons is deceptively simple. The game looks easy enough. Combined with the uncomplicated leveling system and basic controls, it belies a difficulty hidden below the surface. If you’re not careful, when hordes swarm your team with an onslaught of ranged attacks, failure is commonplace. When playing with a friend or family member, if one falls, you have limited time to revive them before you succumb to “night mode” and die regardless of taking damage from a charging creeper or wandering skeleton archerer. That said, each zone on the map can be attempted at different difficulties which you can set prior to entering the level.
The graphics pack no surprise to anyone who has played Minecraft. The exception being the world is static with no ability to craft, create or dig and destroy. The levels are few and pre set with no limit to how often you can attempt them. Each one is unique, providing a nice blend of Minecraft biomes for fans. The character avatars do change appearance when new armor is donned or weapons equipped. There’s also a decent amount of enemies so you just face a non-stop barrage of zombies, creepers and skeletons. Additionally there are fun pets you can summon to fight with you.
The music also pulls from the source game with its Minecraftian tones and lulls. The sound effects fit within this same ethos carved out by its predecessor. Anything other than the typical Minecraft tones would have been distracting and out of place. I had little doubt that they would get the graphics and sound wrong for such a beloved series and Minecraft Dungeons doesn’t disappoint.
The simplistic approach to Minecraft Dungeons should have been the biggest detractor for the game. Unfortunately, there were a slew of technical problems that cropped up. It’s lack of polish was disheartening as it was evident within our first hour of play. Mainly when connecting online players. One of the features is drop-in cooperative play. At one point it prevented my daughter from using her health potion at any time. Other times the game would crash or freeze. And the amount of graphical issues became too many to count.Another issue is a new player dropped in and it simulated joy con drift on a pro controller. At first I thought the controller was ruined but after testing we found it was caused by the game and was an isolated issue.
One of my biggest gripes is that you can’t use your Nintendo friends for online play. You have to link Minecraft Dungeons to a Microsoft account which was more than a chore thanks to Microsoft’s inane settings.
Minecraft Dungeons is certainly a fun foray into the blocky world for any fan of the series. It’s a quick pick-up-and-play adventure where nothing is on the line. For that reason, it’s great to play with my kids and blow off some stress. For the hearty adventurer who seeks depth in the leveling mechanics or combat, they will quickly bore in this world built of blocks. Since four players can quest for a decent price, it’s ideal for a family. Especially if you have a budding role-player. It serves as an introductory dungeon crawler with light looting and stiff character growth. The bugs are an embarrassing testament to such a simplistic entry with a short campaign. All of my critical qualms aside, from the perspective of my children, they loved their time in Minecraft Dungeons.
- Family Fun
- Drop-in Co-op for Four
- Proper Minecraft Spinoff
- Short Campaign
- Lacks Depth
- Bugs abound