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

Mojang says that Minecraft Dungeons is meant to feel familiar to players who have enjoyed the original block-breaking sandbox. Despite that, Dungeons is a whole new beast, even if it shares a lot of familiar elements. You'll recognize zombies, creepers, and sheep, but throw almost everything you know about crafting and exploring out the window. Minecraft Dungeons is an action game with partly procedural dungeons, so the things you're doing in-game will be totally different. It’s a complete rethink of the tried-and-tested Minecraft formula. 

Hands-on with a slice of Minecraft Dungeons at E3 and dev interviews have given us a steady drip of new information around Minecraft Dungeons' release date, gameplay, and more. You don't have to wander around the internet to read all those tid-bits, because we’ve corralled them in one place.

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

What is the Minecraft Dungeons release date?

Minecraft Dungeons will be out in 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. 

Here's some new Minecraft Dungeons gameplay from Minecon 2019

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 the developer video above, 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?

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.

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. 

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.

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 the video above, the team describes them as "Lego pieces" that are each individually made but recombined procedural to make each level feel new.

The team is considering letting players share world seeds with their friends 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?

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? 

The team hasn’t confirmed anything either way, although they’re “exploring” the possibility of player-created dungeons. 

Minecraft Dungeons will be on Xbox Game Pass 

But Mojang haven't said whether it'll be included in Xbox Game Pass for PC, specifically. Some Xbox Game Pass games for the Xbox One aren't on the PC version, so we'll have to wait and see. But since this is a Microsoft-published game, odds are good. 

Samuel is a long-time PC Gamer freelancer who loves RPGs and making long lists of games he'll never have time to play. You can find him on the floor, struggling under the weight of his Steam backlog.