Minecraft Dungeons Review
Minecraft is basically the biggest game on Earth at this point. Hundreds of millions of people have played it in one form or another, and there’s no sign of the franchise slowing down anytime soon. So it’s only natural that Mojang would want to expand that empire into other genres. Thus, Minecraft Dungeons. All of the frantic fun of a Diablo-style ARPG, with none of the complex barriers to entry. Yet, how well does Minecraft hop the fence into action RPG territory? Aside from a few hitches, the transition is a smooth one.
The Arch Illager has stolen a glowing purple plot device, and it’s up to you to save the world from his new-found powers. This entails chasing his trail through a gauntlet of dungeons, each one keyed to a different biome. While everything looks gorgeous, the puzzles are a straight-forward affair. It’s just an army of monsters between you and your goals. There’s no head-scratchers to contend with, but you’ll surely have fun along the way. My own quest was bolstered by the core gameplay loop being so satisfying. It’s a real blast wiping these creatures out, no matter the methods you chose to employ. There aren’t that many tools to choose from, but the ones available are well-crafted.
A Simple Yet Satisfying Grind
Your weapons are standard fair, for the most part. Swords, spears, pick-axes, daggers, and bows all do a fine job smashing mobs into bits. There’s no magic system to speak of, beyond the skills built into the weapons and relics you pick up. Every weapon and armor piece can be upgraded, but your progress in this is hampered by your difficulty setting. This isn’t a problem for your first run, thankfully. It’s only successive trips across the map that become an issue. But that’s a problem for later! Enjoy this first sojourn. Relish each arrow as it zips across the screen, each lightning bolt triggered, each firework shot off. There’s no shopping to do that isn’t also gambling, which makes things simple, at least. Even without real stores to visit, you’ll still be blessed with showers of loot after each dungeon. Sure, most of it is garbage, but that’s the thrill of the hunt, right? Just so long as you don’t run out of lives. Oh, and also you have limited lives for each dungeon run.
On the one hand, you respawn right where you died after each life is lost. Conversely, if you lose all those lives, you have to do the whole dungeon again. At least you retain your experience and gear though, so that’s something. Unfortunately, you’ve got only potion with a long cooldown, along with whatever recovery relics you discover. For these reasons, I became intimately familiar with my bow. It’s much better to keep these goons at a healthy distance. Of course, melee weapons do much more damage, so you’ve got to get in there at some point. Combat as a whole is a dizzy dance, careening around the arena, hemorrhaging arrows, and waiting for that potion to pop. It’s best to go in with a crew, if you can manage. I plowed through standard difficulty by myself, but this is wholly infeasible once you switch to Adventurer Mode.
Don’t Forget That Bow of Yours
You might feel like I skipped over the story, but I assure you no such thing occurred. Once the initial set of cutscenes are finished, the game is all dungeons, all the time. This is perfect for keeping the pace nice and brisk, but story-hungry players will come away unsatisfied. I feel that narrative is an obstacle to any successful ARPG, but your mileage may vary. Since there’s so little story to chew on, the aesthetic presentation is extra important. Here, Dungeons delivers in spades. The graphics are this delicate blend of blocky shapes and beautiful lighting effects. The sound feels rich and organic. Relic effects and weapon strikes all pack a crystal-clear punch, keeping you hooked in the loop for hours at a time. The game may be simple, but the systems in place are implemented with real finesse.
As a recovering Diablo junkie, I can speak with some authority on action RPGs. To that end, the story isn’t all that important to me. Neither are the graphics, although they definitely help. No, the big ticket is the gameplay loop. How much fun is the combat/cleanup/custom cycle? How much build variety is there, how much freedom do you have? Dungeons can keep you hooked with some efficiency, though the loop gets a little stale. There’s no magic, but you do have relics. Weapon upgrades start sparse and stay that way for a while, but all of them are a blast to deploy. Your successive runs through the game will be a nasty grind, but that first trip is great one. In many ways the game is perfect for that wider audience. Kids can employ their infinite free time to max out their characters, or just jump in without feeling overwhelmed. ARPG veterans won’t be too bored, and you can always crank the levels up if you are. Minecraft Dungeons isn’t the finest ARPG I’ve ever picked up, but it’s a terrific first step in your journey. Minecraft fans and action RPG junkies alike would do well to give this one a good look.
***A PC game code was provided by the publisher***
Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.
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- Gameplay is approachable yet intense
- Looks and feels terrific
- Pacing stays brisk from the start
- Levels feel interchangeable
- Story is very minimalist
- Single player incomplete by comparison