You may have missed this week’s big game release, its a new entry from a little known developer called Mojang and is a spin-off of their first, unknown project Minecraft. I mean, of course, you’ve heard of both of those. Anyway, I first saw a trailer for this a couple of months back and showed my other half who got a bit excited by it, I’ve detailed before how we’ve been playing a lot of couch co-op games recently and whilst Diablo 3 is on our list, we hadn’t gotten around to it just yet (technically, that’s not true, we started it back in 2017 but then abandoned it, since then its been a case of wanting to go back but not wanting to restart). Anyway, if that doesn’t give you a clue as to what Minecraft Dungeons is, and you haven’t been paying attention, then Minecraft Dungeons is an isometric dungeon-crawling loot collecting action RPG (Lite).
You’re tasked with saving the world/Minecraft place from an Illager who has gotten ideas above its station and gone a bit tin-pot dictator, and to do this you have to fight through 10 dungeons, killing everything in your wake, raiding treasure chests and toying around with your gear and abilities. You are automatically equipped with a melee and a ranged weapon and can chop and change and upgrade as you progress through the game. Upgrading gives your equipment unique abilities, leaving you with the sometimes difficult job of choosing between that shiny new Axe that is more powerful but doesn’t have the same unlockable upgrades that your sword had. As you level up you earn points that you sink into these upgrades, at first you will agonise over how to spend them, but then you’ll Salvage something you’d been previously using and realise you get any spent points back, allowing you to keep upgrading anything you equip instantly. Though you will begin to favour certain items over others, for example, I tend to stick to my Claymore, I did pick up a standard Sword that was five levels higher and some of its skills were also ones I’d applied to my Claymore, but I preferred my current weapons swing and reach, it was just so satisfying to use. Likewise, my partner in crime prefers Glaives.
I mentioned before that its a “Lite” entry into the genre, I’ve only really dabbled in a tiny bit of Diablo 3, some Torchlight and I think there was a PS2 or Dreamcast version of Gauntlet? I digress. Whilst you do level up and you do get skill points to upgrade your gear, that’s about it as far as RPG mechanics go, there’s no stats or customisation, your attacks are either melee or ranged and you can equip artefacts that add special abilities, which are on cooldowns, to these by equipping them in your inventory and then pressing one of your controllers’ face buttons to use them. I currently have one that turns my next arrow into a firework (which is great for dealing with larger numbers), another that gives me a set number arrows that use souls I’ve picked up to penetrate through multiple enemies and then a health replenishment token that also uses souls. You’re also given a health potion that auto-replenishes on a cooldown, though that cooldown period feels like it needs tweaking as it’s far too long and can often leave you spamming arrows from a distance whilst you wait for it to tick back to being usable.
Honestly, we’ve had a lot of fun, at the time of writing we’re going back through levels on the default difficulty level to try and find secrets and improve our gear as the final boss is surprisingly difficult, whilst it may be Minecraft this isn’t a “kids” game in that respect. Admittedly we’re not the best gamers in the world, but we’ve found it all too easy to get overwhelmed and both die before one of us can revive the other. On that, if one of you dies, it would seem there’s infinite revives, but if you both die then you only get three chances before having to restart that dungeon. Though the most common reason for either of us dying was that we were both getting confused as to who’s who, the markers are clear enough, ones a yellow/orange, the other a pale blue, so I’m not sure why that is, I also wonder if the HUD would be better placed at the top of the screen?
They’re only small issues though, the biggest is that I think there’s a missed opportunity here. This is Minecraft Dungeons, and aside from the upgradeable equipment, there’s no mining or crafting. When I first heard about it, before I watched the trailer, I had assumed we’d be getting something that had both of those elements in, that there’d be resource gathering and you’d need to craft your weapons and armour, amongst other things. Even a system where you gather resources and gradually build your camp up would have given it that Minecraft feel, I mean it looks like Minecraft, they’ve got the aesthetics down perfectly, it just doesn’t feel like Minecraft.
Formats: PC, XBox One (version tested), PlayStation 4, Switch
Release Date: 26 May 2020
Developer: Mojang Studios, Double Eleven