What is it? A fun dungeon crawler set in the Minecraft universe
Expect to pay $20 / £16
Developer Mojang Studios
Publisher Mojang Studios
Reviewed on i5-2500K, 8GB RAM, GTX 670
Link Official Site
I'm blasting mobs with my firework arrows which explode into a cloud of colourful sparks on impact, dual-wielding sickles that freeze enemies, and harvesting the souls of the fallen to power my shooty-shooty laser cube that obliterates everything in my path. Throughout this whole spectacle, the llama I've summoned keeps charging head-first into mobs in a throw of spitting rage. It's ridiculous and I'm enjoying every second.
Minecraft Dungeons is set in the same universe as it's sandbox predecessor, but there's no crafting or building. It's a dungeon crawler that challenges you to furiously hack-and-slash your way through hordes of enemies with multiple fun enchantments and items. It offers four-player local or online co-op, so your friends can get in on its blocky brawls too.
The story is lightweight: The main villain is the evil Arch-Illager who finds a powerful artifact called The Orb of Dominance and seeks revenge on those who shunned him. The Arch-Illager has gathered an army of familiar Minecraft foes to take over the world and your party must stop him. Occasionally you'll be tasked with freeing captured villagers as a challenge within a level, but the story is mostly just a reason for mindless brawling.
The world of Minecraft Dungeons has been given a glorious glow up from its sandbox counterpart. There are a handful of different biomes for you to choose from, including woodland, mine, swamp, temple, and canyon areas, each with their own loot drops and enemy types. One of my favourites is Fiery Forge, where glowing red lava cascades into the lower layers of the level. It looks amazing against the blue-infused iron walls of the forge. It looks like Minecraft with a raytracing mod, catapulting the blocky world to new graphical heights.
It looks even better during the bombastic combat. You'll be dodging exploding creepers, sidestepping incoming arrows fired by skeletons, and rolling away from potions lobbed by wizards that unleash a haze of purple poisonous smoke. Throw enchanted weapons and powerful artefacts into the mix and battles are a frantic mess of colour and explosions. It's bonkers.
Each level is procedurally generated but will always have a mix of hack-and-slash mobs, mini-bosses, and a big boss at the end. You're given map markers at the edge of the screen to show where your goal is, a bottomless healing potion with a thirty-second cooldown, and three lives. With this generous toolset, Mojang has definitely focused on fun rather than challenge.
Strategizing and theory crafting are great, but charging in headfirst and mindlessly hacking and slashing through a monster-filled cavern has its own charm. You can adjust the difficulty with a threat slider on the mission menu which makes mobs beefier and more difficult to defeat. I mostly kept to the recommended difficulty level, but on occasion, when I felt confident in my character build, I would put the threat slider up just to get more powerful weapon drops.
Loot to Boot
Unlike the classes and skills you would find in Diablo and other action RPGs, your character's abilities come solely from the gear you choose. You have room for a melee weapon, ranged weapon, and piece of armour, and every item can be upgraded with enchantment points. Although you'll find the same item multiple times, each one is unique because of the enchantment options it comes with. Finding loot with different enchantments and spending points to activate those abilities is a big part of the game.
Enchantment points are only gained when you level up, but you can salvage old weapons to get points back and use them on a new weapon. This helpful recycling system gives you the freedom to try out new weapons and abilities without the sense that you've wasted progress.
Minecraft Dungeons tips: Our full starter guide
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Minecraft Dungeons builds: Healing, soul farming, and more
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Alongside weapons are artifacts that give you ability bonuses like fire arrows and passive healing. The fun of it is finding artifacts and enchantments with overlapping abilities to create unreasonable synergies. I'm using a collection of items that collectively harvests all the ghostly souls of my fallen enemies to use as a resource to power my artifacts.
A handy feature is the ability to switch out and salvage items on the go, shifting your build to effectively deal with whatever threat you're up against. With the right selection of enchantments, weapons, and artifacts, you could build a pretty powerful character. My Soul Eater build is great for large mobs with lots of tasty souls, but against a one-versus-one boss battle, it's useless. My go-to items for bosses are artifacts and enchanted weapons that rejuvenate my health quickly, letting me bounce back after some brutal blows. There's enough variation in the loot to create some fun builds.
I've played a lot of Minecraft Dungeons solo, but its chaos is best experienced with a group of friends—four blocky killing machines are always better than one. Players can easily drop in and out of each other's play sessions, and Mojang has made it so that all the loot you find in multiplayer is yours to keep, meaning everyone gets their own fair share of the goods. The ease of playing with friends and its breezy nature makes Minecraft Dungeons a perfect co-op pursuit. Its shenanigans feel more in keeping with the Lego games than ARPGs like Diablo.
Minecraft Dungeons is the perfect introduction to dungeon crawlers for beginners and a breezy adventure for veterans. It doesn't have anything in particular that makes it stand out, but it's a fun, streamlined take on the dungeon crawl genre. There's little complexity—no intricate systems to delve into or epic battle plans to be mapped out, so if you prefer an ARPG to have more depth, then you might be disappointed. But it's also likely that Mojang is planning to expand the world of Minecraft Dungeons. With a mysterious upcoming 'Island Realms' option on the overworld map and a curious empty portal, it seems there's more to come.