The realm of Minecraft has been a great interest of mine for many years now; with the focus on creativity and light spirited attitude, it’s been a game my soul has urged for. As somebody who has always needed a consistent feeling of forward movement and action to be entertained, it’s been hard for me to get into Minecraft. That is, however, until I was introduced to the recently released spin off Minecraft Dungeons.
Minecraft Dungeons is a dungeon crawler developed by Mojang Studios, and published by Xbox Game Studios. The game utilizes the familiar aesthetic, weapons and enemies of Minecraft, with some welcome addition including an all new story. I obtained the game through Xbox Game Pass on my Xbox One X, and used an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller.
The story of Minecraft Dungeons is one of adventure, heroism, and heart. The tale begins when a rejected and homeless Illager, Archie, stumbles upon upon an ancient and powerful artifact known as the “Orb of Dominance”.
Granting great power and corrupting him into the power-hungry Arch-Illager, he seeks to bring vengeance to all who have wronged him. He builds and sends terrible armies to raid villages and force the villagers into working slave labor. This causes the world to spin into unbridled chaos as Archie the Arch-Illager rules the lands in tyranny.
It’s now up to you to come to aid of the villagers and fight back to reclaim your homeland. Rise against the Arch-Illager’s armies, investigate his dark dungeons and bring the battle to him. In this story, you are the hero and you get to choose how the order of your story plays out.
Minecraft Dungeons is a family friendly story that presents itself as a fun adventure with great humor and epic moments. It’s short, at times a little too simple, but ultimately a story that’s worth experiencing for the fun attributes alone.
Minecraft Dungeons features hack-and-slash action gameplay from an isometric perspective, which is quite different from the standard Minecraft experience. There’s no actual mining, building or even an open world to explore. Luckily, this change in focus works surprisingly well in this action orientated spin-off title.
The combat is one of the main aspects where the game truly shines; combining elements of hack-and-slash action and easy-to-understand RPG elements. The standard combats revolves through a main attack, a long range attack, dodging and the use of slot abilities. It’s overall simple to play, but offers just enough variety through its weapons and enemy types to create a genuinely fun experience.
Main attacks differ based on the weapon being used, as a sword would feel different than a giant hammer or small shanks. Ranged combat primarily utilizes bows and crossbows, with an auto aim system which allows you to shoot the intended enemy with a smaller chance of error. There’s also 3 slot upgrades that can be activated with a push of a button, and can allow anything from explosive arrows, calling in a wolf friend, healing yourself and nearby allies and so much more.
While this sounds like an extremely basic combat system, in practice it makes for an enjoyable and at times a downright challenging experience. Especially when larger bosses are introduced with big health bars and powerful attacks. While this dungeon crawler’s combat may not be as deep as others, it remains a fun and mostly laid back game to enjoy by yourself or with friends.
As an overall simple hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, Minecraft Dungeons does feature its share of RPG elements. This comes in the form of character customization, equipment & gear enhancements, and a basic form of NPC interaction. There’s no real depth added, but it’s a nice addition that keeps the gameplay refreshing.
Character customization unfortunately doesn’t allow you to create your own skin or port it from standard Minecraft (yet), however it does have its uses. From acquiring special armors, weapons and power-ups, this easy to understand menu allows you to equip, exchange and enchant items on the fly. It’s the small details that give Minecraft Dungeons such personality, and although it’s not much, it’s great for those being introduced to an RPG for the first time.
Enchanting weapons & gear is satisfying, as it helps expand the combat into a further unique domain. A sword becomes more than a sword, it can be enchanted to have longer range, give back health or even have fire damage. Even the armor can be enchanted to be more protective and affect gameplay in ways that change the game.
As far as NPCs go, there’s really not much to offer. When at your base camp, you can approach some vendors that allow you to get random weapons and random power-ups. There’s no dialogue choices or character development, which would be disappointing if the game tried to be any more of an RPG game, which it doesn’t.
Minecraft Dungeons is certainly able to be played and completed solo while retaining its quality, however it’s clear that it was designed for a cooperative experience in mind. Playing the game with up to 1-3 friends is truly the best way to experience Minecraft Dungeons. Both online and local co-op is supported, meaning you can also have your entire fellowship playing from the same console if desired.
The dungeon crawler doesn’t hold back with its impressive variety enemies it throws at you either, so working together is a great way to conquer the day! Even then, the concept of “working together” is based on fighting more enemies with more allies. It’s a nice change from other co-op games that require serious communication, and with open arms it welcomes casual fun with friends.
As the name suggests, Minecraft Dungeons level’s take place in, well, dungeons. As such, it is not an open world to explore, but rather hand crafted areas with set routes and hidden secrets. For what the game is, this not only makes sense, but provides a great focus on combat and puzzles.
The world is created by a mix of hand made and procedurally generated dungeons rich with traps, puzzles, bosses and precious loot. You’ll explore a variety of different kinds of dungeons, each unique with their own look and feel. From a swamp, desert, lava mine and more, each level has a sense of creative personality and challenges.
The levels are quite large, from the ground covered to get from point A to point B, and many secret pathways that to lead to special loot. The well designed dungeons offer a fair amount of variety with puzzles to solve and traps set to keep you on your toes. With procedural generation, maps change enough that you will always need to keep a key eye for such things. Luckily you are given a map to help if you somehow get lost.
Currently there are only 9 levels, you’ll likely be replaying missions a lot after you complete your first play-through. Each level has been given a lot of attention, which is good for replayability even if there isn’t any sprawling paths to get lost in. There are also secret missions that can be found or unlocked, which are certainly worth keeping a look out for. Keep a look out for upcoming DLCs, which look to add a larger variety of levels and more.
Just as Minecraft before it, Minecraft Dungeons takes place in a world full of bright colors and charming imagination. The block-made artstyle itself stands out as the franchise always has, and it maintains the spirit of the original game. The focus on the fantasy aesthetic overall is a great fit and overall quite pleasing to look at.
Despite the cartoony and colorful aesthetic, the graphics themselves look absolutely brilliant. As the game is played from an isometric perspective, all of the in-game assets; characters, weapons, environments and more are enhanced with sharp and clear polish that can be easily seen. The lighting effects caused by explosions, glowing lava and even sunlight are vibrant and further show off colorful world.
The UI and Menu has the benefit of being nice to look at and easy to understand, as text uses bright colors and certain buttons use the classic block design. Everything is clearly marked with specific symbols, and text is large and accessible. The invite or join a friend screen is honestly one of the most convenient and easy to use in recent memory.
Music and Audio
Minecraft Dungeons features some of the most recognizable audio in all of gaming, and offers a beautifully composed soundtrack to compliment it. There was clearly a lot of effort put into the music and audio, and it reflects well throughout the game.
It uses a lot of audio queues from the original Minecraft, such as enemy moans and growls, weapon strikes, walking and more. However, everything sounds redone and is crystal clear with more oomph. The updated and instantly recognizable sounds will definitely make Minecraft fans feel at home, and provide a good experience for all players.
Simply put, Minecraft Dungeon’s music is outright gorgeous; with flowing melodies composed with harps and a piano, to epic fully orchestrated battle music. It’s the cherry on top of the world-building cake, which helps flesh out the world and set the tone for certain areas and encounters. Additionally it stirs a wonderful mix of relaxation and excitement throughout, creating a well rounded experience.
Minecraft Dungeons is, perhaps best of all, a simple action adventure game with extremely enjoyable gameplay. It’s made with exceptional quality and polish, and I’ve found myself smiling, laughing and just having a wonderful time playing through it. It hits almost every note with a brilliant stroke of creativity and wholesome fun with only a few minor downsides.
Playing in company with seasoned Minecraft fans, my younger brother and cousins, who are both knowledgeable and passionate about the game was an incredible experience. I was truly able to appreciate the co-op experience; feeling genuine excitement with my peers as we took down bosses and obtained sweet loot. Even replaying levels on higher difficulties is a blast, as it’s a game designed to be fun at its core.
My main criticism is the lack of character skin customization. It’s silly, but I felt a slight disconnection with my own character, as it was not my own design. The short campaign did leave some to be desired from a story perspective, and I was left me wanting more to play. Overall, these feel like extremely minor nitpicks compared to the massive amounts of joy I’ve experience with the game; and hopefully will dispensary with new content drops and further updates.
As somebody with no real experience with Minecraft and no preset expectations, I found Minecraft Dungeons to be absolutely outstanding. It was the soul lifting experience that I needed, and I enjoyed almost every second of playing this delightful dungeon crawler. It left me satisfied and I highly recommend this game to any Minecraft fan, as well as anybody looking for a fun and relaxing gaming experience.
The copy of the game was obtained through Xbox Game Pass and was reviewed for Xbox One X using an Xbox One Elite Series 2 controller. Minecraft Dungeons is now available on Xbox One, Windows PC, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.
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