Crossovers have often been hit or miss – for every Marvel vs Capcom, there are several Aliens vs Predator lurking in the background. But if you know what you’re doing, sparks are bound to fly when you mix two very successful properties. Such is the case for Mojang Studios’ latest Minecraft Dungeons, which takes the underlying gameplay mechanics of the action-roleplaying dungeon crawler genre made famous by the likes of Diablo, and layers the Minecraft aesthetic over it.
Granted, this does not even come close to the depth and complexity of its inspiration, or any true innovation based off its foundation, but you cannot really argue with the idea of fun when it comes down to it.
Building off a paper-thin plot, Minecraft Dungeons casts players as the chosen ones to bring down the Arch Illager. Having gotten his hands on an Orb of Power, he has begun his reign of terror with monstrous minions.
Heroes are needed, and you will come in for the next seven to nine hours to restore order. It is as straightforward as it gets, there are no wild twists or revelations lying in wait. It makes Minecraft Dungeons accessible but at the same time, predictable as well.
Having previewed the game previously, we know that classes are not a part of Minecraft Dungeons. Instead, players can choose from a large variety of pre-made skins. The customisation aspect has no impact from a gameplay perspective, it all exists to make you look cool and feel cool. Considering the age group that Minecraft Dungeons is looking at primarily, this is an understandable tradeoff.
The streamlining of gameplay mechanics extend to the Minecraft Dungeons experience as a whole as well. Each level involves the fighting of enemies, searching for loot and treasures, and vanquishing the end boss, and the formula does not change up no matter where you are in the game.
However, Minecraft Dungeons does make a tweak in terms of the strengthening of characters. Rather than a traditional skill tree, each level you gain grants an enchantment point that can be used to augment your different items. You can enchant your armour to deal thorn damage to melee attacks, or allow your weapons to leech health from your foes.
Each item has a pretty wide selection of enchantments to choose from, with some items also possessing multiple slots for enchanting. While Minecraft Dungeons certainly lacks the min-maxing nature of its more illustrious cousins, this aspect adds some much-needed depth that allows players to experiment and freshens up an otherwise familiar experience.
In regards to equipment, Minecraft Dungeons grants players two main instruments of hurt. A close-range melee weapon as well as a ranged weapon. Expect to see the standard assortment of weapons to arm yourself with, and these can be made more effective through different armour bonuses.
In addition, your character can equip up to three artifacts that grant both offensive and defensive effects. This ensures that battles are always something you can look forward to while testing out different builds. It changes how you approach an encounter without making things overly complicated.
Thankfully, the loot in Minecraft Dungeons can be found everywhere. Levels are made to be explored, and that curiosity will always be rewarded with money, chests, or even potential secret maps leading to hidden levels. Defeating the hordes will definitely drop you some loot as well.
Not all loot is useful, of course. You can salvage them for gems, and enchanted items will return the enchantment points back as well. Cash earned can be used to get new equipment from a blacksmith, or new artefacts from a travelling merchant. Although items are randomised, the chance of obtaining a unique item still remains.
Unfortunately, there is no do-it-yourself component in Minecraft Dungeons. Crafting is missing from the game and while it is not a dealbreaker, considering the source materials the game is drawing, it definitely feels like a big miss to not have some form of crafting in this dungeon crawler.
While the initial stages of Minecraft Dungeons can be a tad simple, the deeper players get into the game, the more the challenge ratchets up. The enemies you will face will offer more of a fight, and how well your artefacts, weapons, and equipment combine will determine your success.
Once you have bested the game, more difficulty options will then be unlocked. If you are searching for a quicker way to level up, or just better loot, be prepared for the challenge. Even if you utilise all three lives of the level, at least Minecraft Dungeons does not punish you further by negating your progress. Even in a loss, you are gaining.
If all else fails, call in a friend or two. Minecraft Dungeons is certainly more fun to play with friends. With support of up to four players in online multiplayer and couch co-op, the mayhem just feels better with someone along for the ride.
Everything is obviously packaged in a Minecraft-like look, and it really pops off the screen. Minecraft Dungeons looks really awesome, and it is the most beautiful world made of blocks you will ever see. Vivid colours and amazing lighting effects blend together to deliver a memorable and kid-friendly dungeon crawler like no other.
The music and sound effects in Minecraft Dungeons are stellar as well. It retains some semblance of the music from Minecraft, but the soundtrack has undergone some tweaks to make it more appropriate for the more action-orientated nature of this game. As the drama ramps up towards the end, so does the music, it really puts you in the mood to destroy some blocks.
Minecraft Dungeons does not try to iterate on a tried-and-tested formula. It takes the fun of dungeon crawling and colours everything with the ubiquity of Minecraft. The game is extremely accessible due to its safe nature, without going into the complications of elements like crafting. There is plenty to do in Minecraft Dungeons, with loads of loot, secrets, and different difficulties to choose from. While its more accessible nature might not jive well with veterans, it will certainly work for the main audience that has been building with blocks for years.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Simple, straightforward, and unapologetically Minecraft, Minecraft Dungeons is a pretty good dungeon-crawling action-roleplaying game that does not dig deep into its inspirations.
Gameplay - 7/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8/10