Minecraft Dungeons is Mojang’s first venture into the world of the Dungeon Crawler, published by Xbox game studios, it is available for everyone Tuesday, May 26th, 2020! This review was conducted on Xbox One. Our download code was provided by Microsoft for the purposes of this review. Mojang first announced Minecraft Dungeons in 2019, and since then fans of the series have been waiting to get their hands on an action adventure game set in the Minecraft universe. Before we get into the meaty stuff, how about a quick overview of what you can expect with Minecraft Dungeons;
- Several procedurally generated, loot packed levels with mobs, mazes and secrets between you and your objective.
- Unique gear and artifacts that can be enchanted to customize your play style and abilities.
- Difficulty selection at each level, turn up the heat to earn better rewards, or ease off for a quicker play-through.
- Play solo, online co-op or couch co-op with players on the same platform. Cross-platform between Xbox and Windows 10 users is in the works and Mojang is considering cross platform as a possibility in the future.
- Minecraft dungeons is available May 26th on Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch and PS4. It will also be on Xbox Gamepass on launch!
- Fight familiar mobs (and some new ones) and listen to a musical score that reimagines the Minecraft soundtrack in all new ways.
Villagers have been taken hostage by the Evil Arch-Illager, you’ll need to fight through many levels and defeat many baddies. And that’s all you need to know really, the storyline isn’t super intricate and serves mostly just to string together a bunch of dungeon-crawling action. While you shouldn’t expect the kind of immersive story you saw in Minecraft Story Mode, Minecraft Dungeons does well on its own without all of the narrative. You’re not here to lose yourself in a jaw dropping storyline with powerful characters and mystifying history, you’re here to slay mobs and collect awesome loot! And maybe along the way, you’ll free some villagers and show the Arch Illager who’s boss, but that’s up to you.
Playing Minecraft Dungeons is remarkably intuitive and while it may not be unique or groundbreaking, it definitely offers a fast-paced and rewarding experience that anyone can pick up and play. Expect to spend a lot of time swinging your melee weapon, that’s unavoidable, but also prepare to fire arrows, dodge, and juggle the use of 3 different artifacts (these basically act as special attacks or spells). Outside of attacking and dodging, you’ll also need to maintain your health by using Potions or picking up food items that gradually fill your Heart meter. Arrows can be fired at the press of a trigger and aimed with the left stick or charged for increased damage! Unlike in the base game of Minecraft, you can’t craft arrows yourself so you will have to rely on finding more in Supplies Chests or mob drops along the way. This can feel like a hangup at first, but gets easier as you progress through the levels. Arrows also have a partial auto-aim feature so you’ve got a few degrees of wiggle room on either end of your aim.
At first you’ll be equipped with pretty basic weapons, a sword and a bow (with limited arrow supply) so combat may feel dry off the bat. Once you start picking up weapons and armour with enchantment slots is when things get interesting. When you’ve earned some enchantment points, and you have a piece of gear with a enchantment available (select an item then hit Y) you’ll be able to choose from a variety of pre-determined enchantment options for your items. 1-3 levels of power are available depending on how many enchantment points you have, much like the enchantment table of Minecraft, except you can manage these on the go! At first you may see basic buffs to your weapon attack damage, defence or attack speed but later you can expect enchantments that add special attacks and new combat mechanics that really change the way you play. For example, enchanting Hunters armour with Snowball level 1 means that your enemies are stunned with automatic snowball attacks every 5 seconds! These don’t do much damage, but they will stun un-expecting mobs, giving you a chance to get the jump on your enemy. And if you return and upgrade this enchantment to level 3, you’ll be dishing out stunning balls of frozen death every second, that’s a lot of snow!
Upon finishing the Squid Coast tutorial, you’ll find yourself setup at camp, your new home base. If you haven’t yet, this is a great time to get familiar with your HUD, Map, and inventory menu. For any seasoned MMO player, this HUD will be quite simple to learn, but even for those without much experience in this genre, it’s intuitive enough for anyone to master!
- X, Y and B buttons activate your equipped artifacts
- Left Bumper will trigger a rechargeable potion to bring your health bar back in a sticky situation
- Right Bumper (or right joystick) manages your dodge roll
- D-Pad up will get your straight into your inventory screen
- D-pad down clicked will bring up a mini-map overlay and a long press will bring up the full map screen where you can view how many secrets and chests you’ve uncovered so far in your level! This is an extremely helpful feature for the completionists out there. (More on this in the Secrets section)
- A button is your melee attack and interact button
- And last but not least, Right Trigger will fire arrows! (Hold to charge shot, and left stick to aim!
Other helpful elements of the HUD include a health bar, level count, arrow count, experience bar, Emerald counter and Enchantment count.
Combat with Artifacts
There are many elements of combat that work quite seamlessly. For instance, pick up and equip a Corrupted Beacon artifact, and you’ll automatically start collecting souls when you defeat enemies. Souls are needed to charge the beacon weapon, but no extra work is needed to do this at all! Simply keep slaying enemies, and the souls will come to you.
A Fireworks Artifact charges your next arrow shot with a powerful Fireworks explosion dealing extra damage in a splash radius. The explosion effect and travel of the arrow will definitely please you if you were a fan of these in the base Minecraft game!
Boots of Swiftness (A must have) increase your movement speed when activated for a set amount of time, allowing you to quickly traverse maps or get out of a sticky situation quickly.
Death Cap Mushrooms greatly increase attack speed and sightly buff your movement, allowing you to dole out 2x more attacks (or more) for a few seconds which actually allows a huge amount of destruction in a short amount of time.
The Fishing Rod pulls mobs to within reach and stuns them for a short duration, allowing you to get the jump on a ranged enemy. This is especially useful for Skeleton warriors that can pin you down with arrows from a distance, and run away from you when you get close!
All of these artifacts come in varying degrees of randomly generated power, attack levels, defence ratings and available Enchantments. That means you’ll be picking up repeats of familiar items but all with different degrees of power so make sure to check those details in your inventory screen, and salvage what you don’t need to recover Emeralds. When you do get a piece of gear that you really like however, you can hold on to it and continue upgrading by way of enchantment so you aren’t constantly having to shuffle to something new every time an item with a slightly higher attack/defence rating shows up. The developers really intended to offer a sense of progression with these items, by setting them up with this capability and to some degree it does work! That said, you’ll definitely still be shuffling to new items frequently, and it’s not a bad thing, if you’re a fan of the Dungeon Crawler or Loot n’ Shoot genre, this pace of gear turnover will feel right at home with you!
There’s really a lot on the table in terms of variability in your play style that Minecraft Dungeons has to offer. During this game, you may find yourself doing any of the following; Hurling TNT boxes, leaving trails of fire when you dodge roll, enlisting pets to fight along your side, firing hails of arrows from a cross-bow, calling lightning to smite zombies, consuming magic mushrooms, turning invincible, turning invisible, exhaling toxic clouds of gas, catching and recycling enemy arrows, throwing snowballs or randomly firing explosive arrows! The possibilities are vast.
Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of actual character progression. All of your abilities and stats center around your gear, so your character its self doesn’t hold any power or unique traits, other than a skin. Perhaps this is how Mojang wanted it, as a way to stay true to the Minecraft universe. A universe in which you’re subtly reminded that no matter what kind of armour you are wearing or what sort of enchantments you have on that diamond sword, without that gear you are just a Steve. You’re just a perfectly normal, unspectacularly vulnerable, flammable, and forgettable Steve….
After several hours of co-op play with 2 and 3 players, and a few hours of subjecting my girlfriend to some local couch co-op play, I can confidently say that the experience of Minecraft Dungeons is better with friends. Naturally, you can get by playing solo (and I have) – in fact at the time of writing this review I find myself replaying The Creepy Crypt and Soggy Swamp levels. Revisiting, I hope to test my fortitude against the waves of mobs without my co-op partners to back me up, and revive me when I die from Slime suffocation. The added difficulty of tackling these levels without the hope of re-spawn by companion, is quite daunting to say the least. I died much more often, took less risks, and was forced to play strategically.
In previous play-throughs, it was often a race to the finish, mobs were tough but the confidence of knowing that death can be prevented definitely allows a more brash style of play. When you are on your own, you must be much more strategic about space, dodges, types of enemies and your cool-down times. Managing these elements proved challenging in a way they hadn’t before, now suddenly I was very aware of the punishment of a wrong move, an ill-timed dodge, or a hastily drank health potion… All this to say that solo play is far from impossible, albeit it can be much more rewarding to the hardcore gamers out there and I highly recommend everyone give it a try.
Co-op however, is what this game was made for. In co-op play (offline or couch) you can;
- Teleport to each other’s locations at any point. Teleportation requires a charge up however, so you can’t be in combat to pull this off!
- Enjoy player specific loot drops and Emeralds. Just like Borderlands 3, your loot is your own! No need to share. Consumables however are one of a kind, so you’ll need to work collaboratively to share those.
- Split-up and cover more ground, or hunt as a pack! Go your separate ways and uncover more of the map at once, or stay as a tribe and teleport to each other only in the case of danger! (Or found chests)
- Revive downed team mates
- Optimize your abilities and work off of each other’s strengths. Use a variety of play styles to maximize your effectivity on the field. You can leverage Enchantments with support roles like area of affect healing when you consume a health potion, or even movement speed buffs for your team mates when you fire arrows at a nearby enemy.
In Minecraft Dungeons Co-op you can not;
- Share or trade loot, emeralds or enchantment points
- Perform any kind of joint-attacks
- Locate team mate’s exact location on the map (You will however get waypoint to show you their direction)
In conclusion, Minecraft Dungeons is a great action adventure title that is sure to offer you and 3 friends dozens of hours of fun. If you are hardcore, you could complete the campaign in 8-10 hours, and if you’re a completionist hoping to find every secret and chest….. Well I have no idea to be perfectly honest because out of dozens of Secrets hidden in this game, we weren’t so lucky as to find more than just a handful! They are well hidden and will throw even an experienced adventure enthusiast through a loop.
Minecraft Dungeons is a great adventure for anyone looking to easily pick up and play something for an hour here and there. It’s easy to jump in and out of and doesn’t require much ramping up, meaning it is also a great choice for younger players or players new to the genre of hack n slash, adventure, and dungeon crawling! Mojang has intentionally left the entry level wide open in an effort to introduce new demographics to this genre through the power of the Minecraft universe. The learning curve is gentle, but there’s also lots to offer for more seasoned players.
- Easy to pick up and play
- Loot is bountiful and simple to manage
- Fast-paced action
- Graphics and lighting are smooth and engaging
- Seamless co-op experience
- Dynamic gameplay that doesn’t get old
- Awesome soundtrack
- Low price, free for Gamepass users
- Not cross-platform at launch, but should be
- Storyline is dull and linear
- Limited character-level customization
- Difficulty scaling is inconsistent
All in all, for 20$ USD, this game is hands down worth the time and investment. The amount of content that it offers is bang on for the price and it’s a no-brainer for anyone with a gamepass subscription! For 30$, you can pick up the Hero Edition which adds unique skins, a chicken pet, cape item and two future DLC’s when they become available. Find it wherever games are sold digitally.
What did you think of this review? Let us know in the comments below!