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Minecraft Dungeons: Everything we know about the action-RPG spin-off

Minecraft Dungeons
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Minecraft Dungeons may share the same blocky shaped world as its sandbox predecessor, but Mojang's new game is a completely different beast. The dungeon-crawler will throw almost everything we know about crafting and mining out the window and replace it with procedural dungeons, an isometric perspective, and RPG character building. It's a total rethink of the tried-and-tested Minecraft formula.

We've collected details about Minecraft Dungeons from all over the internet and have put them in one place. Previews, interviews, hands-on-impressions, and demos have given us a steady drip of new information around Minecraft Dungeons.

You'll find details below about Minecraft Dungeon's release date, how it differs from its sandbox counterpart, detailed information about gameplay, and more. We also have sections explaining the dungeon crawler's enchantment system, how artifacts work, and what worlds you'll be brawling in.

Here’s everything you need to know about Minecraft Dungeons.

What is the Minecraft Dungeons release date?

Minecraft Dungeons will be out on May 26th, 2020. It will cost around $20, or you can pay $30 for the base game plus a season pass for two pieces of DLC.

It was originally planned for an April release date but, as with many other games and events in 2020, has been pushed back thanks to the effects of COVID-19 coronavirus spread.

Fast facts on Minecraft Dungeons

Genre: Dungeon crawler. Think Diablo 3 or Path of Exile.
Multiplayer: Drop-in multiplayer for up to four players.
Crossplay: Likely PC and Xbox crossplay, but no guarantee for other platforms.
Mods: The team is “exploring” the possibility of player-created dungeons.
Loot boxes: No loot boxes. No microtransactions. In-game currency only.

What is Minecraft Dungeons, exactly? 

An isometric action-RPG set in Minecraft’s world, built by Mojang using Unreal Engine 4. It’s partly inspired by Diablo 3 and other “classic dungeon crawlers,” and has a heavy emphasis on loot and combat. You’ll explore procedurally generated branching levels with up to three friends, smacking mobs, solving simple puzzles (think buttons and levers), and gearing up your characters. You’ll fight above and below ground across multiple biomes. 

We've played Minecraft Dungeons

Chris recently got his hands on a preview beta for Minecraft Dungeons and was pretty into the levels he played. "The Minecraft Dungeons beta only has a handful of overworld levels and procedurally generated dungeons to hack and slash through, but I've played each of them multiple times and haven't gotten bored yet. A bit impatient for more types of loot, sure. Bored: no. It's good, frantic, frenetic fun."

Early on, Chris' main worry is that Dungeons will be too simple for veterans of similar RPGs. But if the loot holds up and the combat stays varied, Minecraft Dungeons could shape up to be pretty great.

Here's some Minecraft Dungeons gameplay from Minecon 2019

(Image credit: Mojang)

There's a lot to take in even in just this four minutes of gameplay from Minecon. Above all though, as mentioned by one of the presenters, Minecraft Dungeons should feel familiar to players. You'll recognize mobs like skeletons and zombies that behave how you would expect them to based on experience playing vanilla Minecraft. Gear has enchantments that will likely sound familiar as well. 

As for new elements: one player summons a llama companion that follows them around and helps attack enemies. They players also encounter a loot-giving mob called the "piggybank," a pig with a treasure chest on its back. Some enemies, as in standard Minecraft, generate with armor and weapons for an extra challenge.

What is Minecraft Dungeons' story?

The main villain in Minecraft Dungeons is the Arch-Illager who, much like The Grinch who stole Christmas, was bullied and disliked by other villagers until he finds a powerful artifact that gives him unfathomable power. He forces all the villagers who shunned him to follow his commands and begins a campaign of terror ransacking other villages across the land. Naturally you and your friends will set out to defeat him and his hordes of Illager minions. Remember, Minecraft is marketed for kids so we're dealing with a pretty simple story of good vs evil. Likely some slapstick humor for good effect.

Mojang says the story will be light touch, and the focus is very much on combat and character progression. “You have a chain of objectives you want to accomplish, [but] it’s not like we have a massive narrative that you go through,” Mojang’s David Nisshagen told IGN

Minecraft Dungeons has drop-in co-op locally and online

Players can leave or join a session at any time, and the difficulty will dynamically adjust based on your party size. 

In this developer video, game director Måns Olson says that he finds couch co-op one of the most fun ways to play Minecraft Dungeons because players are encouraged to stick together and cooperate.

Olson and senior designer Laura De Llorens also briefly explain how enchantments are one of the "long-term progression" systems for players.

What’s the combat like?

(Image credit: Mojang)

It’s a mix of melee and ranged combat against large groups of enemies from an isometric perspective. If you’ve played Diablo and its ilk, you know roughly what to expect—although it’s specifically designed to be accessible, so it might appear more simplistic than other PC action-RPGs.

As well as mashing mobs with swords, hammers and axes, you can pick them off at a distance with bows and crossbows. You’ll also find items called “artifacts” that give you special abilities, which you use at the cost of resources. For example, the E3 2019 gameplay trailer shows an item called a Corrupted Beacon, which fires a continuous beam that rips through enemies. It costs "souls" to use.

Mojang told Windows Central there will be 20 items per weapon type: 20 melee weapons, 20 ranged, and 20 artifacts. 

All items, including artifacts, can be customised via enchantments. These enchantments might add chain lightning to an attack or double the damage output of an artifact, for example.

Minecraft Dungeons will have no mining or building 

You won’t be building or mining at all in Dungeons. Mojang says that’s to keep you moving forward at a steady pace, throwing you from fight to fight without any distractions. 

How do you get new items? Will there be loot boxes, or microtransactions?

Mojang has promised that Dungeons won’t have any loot boxes or microtransactions; all your gear will be obtained in-game. You’ll find loot in chests or on fallen enemies, but you’ll also buy gear using emeralds you pick up during missions.

Similarly to Diablo, looting in multiplayer will work on an individual basis. When a chest is opened with loot inside, everyone in the party will get their own gear. Mission items, however, are a collective resource and items like food, TNT, and arrows will be given to whoever gets it first. 

Will there be classes?

No. Your character build is solely determined by the gear you wear and carry, as well as the enchantments on that gear. You can adjust your character build on the fly, swapping out items to adapt to the situation at hand.

Your armor is probably the most important piece of gear for determining your playstyle. It affects both the amount of punishment you can take and your movement speed, and certain armor types will confer other bonuses. Light armor makes you better with ranged weapons, for example, so it’s ideal for an archer build.

Minecraft Dungeons

(Image credit: Mojang)

How will enchantments work? 

Enchantments are randomised bonuses attached to items you pick up. To activate these bonuses, and make them more powerful, you have to invest experience points into them, which isn’t dissimilar to the base game. Enchantments differentiate between weapons that would otherwise be identical. 

You can create a pretty powerful character build with enchantments and Mojang encourages players to go all out with their ridiculous power. Executive producer David Nisshagen says that this might make Minecraft Dungeons a little unbalanced but the devs 'don't care because it's fun'. 

Be careful though, it's not only players who can use enchantments, but mobs can also replicate and use them to devastating effects. 

What mobs will you fight in Minecraft Dungeons?

It’s mostly the old guard from the sandbox game, but with a couple of new dastardly foes thrown in.

Alongside creepers, zombies, spiders and skeletons are Necromancers, who can spawn a swarm of enemies, and Wraiths, which set large areas of a level alight. You’ll also find ‘piggybank mobs’ that carry around lots of loot.

Endermen are more powerful than in Minecraft: Not only will they teleport away from your attacks, they’ll reduce your visibility, making it harder to deal with all the other enemies around you. 

You’ll find some nasty minibosses at the end of some levels. We don't know exactly what these will look like, or whether they're custom mobs, but we’re hoping the team has gotten creative.

Oh look, the Endermen are still here

Endermen in Minecraft Dungeons will be just a bit different from their regular Minecraft counterparts, we learned recently. Because of Dungeons' perspective, you won't have a crosshair to turn on our ungainly friends. Mojang had to translate their camera-shy behavior into something that would work in Dungeons' isometric view. These new Endermen will get angrier the closer you stand to them. Eventually they'll turn hostile once you've invaded their personal space enough. They'll still attack in familiar ways though: throwing punches with their long arms while teleporting around you.

How does Minecraft Dungeons’ procedural generation work?

Every level is procedurally-generated, to an extent. That includes the types of mobs that spawn, the layout of dungeons and the location of loot. However, because there’s an overall story—albeit it a light-touch one—expect some bits to be hand-crafted. You’ll be able to visit a hub-style area between missions, which won’t (we suspect) be procedurally-generated.

Minecraft Dungeons' procedural generated bits are partly designed by hand. In this development video, the team describes them as "Lego pieces" that are each individually made but recombined procedural to make each level feel new.

Each level has a fixed sequence of objectives with procedurally generated pathways in-between. If you were to replay a mission, the key goal would stay the same but the route to complete it would be randomised. 

Players can share their created worlds through Minecraft seeds in the original game, and the team is considering letting players share world seeds with their friends in Dungeons as well.

How will Minecraft Dungeons handle the end-game? 

Beating the story mode once will unlock additional difficulty modes. You’ll be able to tackle missions you’ve already completed, and the game will tell you how difficult it expects each one to be based on your party’s cumulative gear score. 

Minecraft Dungeons

(Image credit: Mojang)

Will Minecraft Dungeons support crossplay?

Cross-play will not be available when Minecraft Dungeons is released, but Mojang has said that it will be working on it post-launch. Expect crossplay between Xbox One and PC players, according to Windows Central. Crossplay with other platforms is something the team are exploring. 

Will Minecraft Dungeons have mod support? 

Unlike the weird and wonderful Minecraft mods you can play in its sandbox predecessor, the team hasn’t confirmed anything about having mods in Dungeons. Although they’re “exploring” the possibility of player-created dungeons. 

Minecraft Dungeons used to be more like Zelda than Diablo

In an interview with USGamer, game director Måns Olson said that Minecraft Dungeons began life as an RPG similar to Zelda and exclusive for the 3DS.

"If you look at inspirations now, it's closer in terms of gameplay to games like Diablo, Torchlight, and Gauntlet," Olson said. "And also the cooperative experience is pulling a lot from modern first-person shooter cooperative games like Left 4 Dead and [Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide]. So absolutely there's been things that have been either implemented and then changed, or designed on paper, but that never made it into the game."

Minecraft Dungeons will be on Xbox Game Pass 

In a beta preview, Mojang confirmed that Minecraft Dungeons would be included in Xbox Game Pass for PC. It will join the game pass on the same date as it's console and PC releases.