Spelunking for Loot
Let's be honest, there's plenty of Minecraft imitators out there. People try to emulate the tried-and-true voxel building formula with minimal success. Minecraft always comes out on top. It's about time that Minecraft gets its turn at being the imitator. With Minecraft Dungeons, Mojang takes a shot at the ARPG genre. Specifically, Dungeons plays a lot like Diablo 3, but still retains the charm and casual fun of the Minecraft series.
Minecraft Dungeons is an ARPG developed by the recently renamed Mojang Studios. In Minecraft Dungeons, players take the role of an adventurer and save the world from the evil Arch-Illager. The Arch-Illager has spawned hordes of evil zombies, creepers, and of course illagers too. With him are dozens of villager prisoners, so it's your job to stop all of this hullabaloo and maybe get some awesome loot while doing it.
Talking Loot in Minecraft Dungeons
Most games of this type begin with class selection. In Minecraft Dungeons, players don't have classes. Instead, you choose a skin for your character and gain loot as you traverse an offering of levels and dungeons. Because you don't choose the class you play, your archetype will be fulfilled by these items you pick up. Minecraft Dungeons starts by giving you a few basic items, but as you play you'll likely find what suits you best.
Enemies themselves don't drop loot. You won't get dozens of pieces of gear dropping from every creeper and illager you slay; rather, you'll find treasure chests hidden around the maps and, with enough luck, you'll get an item that's useful to you. Items range from pickaxes, swords, and woodcutting axes to stuff completely new to the franchise, like gauntlets and even a giant hammer. I liked the different weapons, overall. Mojang has made every weapon feel unique, the iconic pickaxe included. If you favor fast attacks with smaller power, go with dual scythes. Or, if you want power, go for the aforementioned hammer. It's slower, but you're more likely to get an instant kill.
In addition to melee, you'll also always have access to ranged weapons. There are several different bows and crossbows in Minecraft Dungeons, which don't feel as exciting to use as melee but are nonetheless extremely useful for picking off pesky enemies before jumping into a large group. Some have explosive effects, while others curve around and always hit the enemy you're aiming at. The most useful to me were ones that you can charge for extra damage.
Armor is also another essential piece of your gear, which, like weapons, have different modifiers. For example, one armor type increases ranged damage, so if you find that shooting from afar is your preferred way to play, you can use that instead. Like other ARPGs, weapons and armor vary in rarity. "Unique" acts as legendaries and are the most powerful. They look distinct and add some extra power. Both armor and weapons also have enchantments, which will really determine your archetype, even if there aren't any actual classes in Minecraft Dungeons.
There are up to three enchantment slots on armor and weapons in Minecraft Dungeons, and there's a wide array of abilities to choose from; although, for each slot, you have three randomly determined choices of enchantment for each. One of my favorites was for melee weapons, which caused shockwaves after each combo. Another enchantment I prefer is extra damage to undead since there are droves of these enemies in Minecraft Dungeons. Armor and ranged weapons have their own unique enchantments as well, and they range from healing abilities to increases in damage and mobility.
There's a decent variety of enchantments, but this system does fall flat in a lot of areas. On each level-up, you gain a point to enchant gear. Once you've chosen the power you want on one of your slots, there's no going back. You can't refund the points without salvaging the gear. This hinders the ability for players to experiment with different powers in Minecraft Dungeons. And should you choose the wrong enchantment by accident, you're out of luck. You'll either have to put up with it or delete the piece of gear and hope for something similar to drop. It would be beneficial for players to have the ability to go to a vendor in their camp and refund the points and retain the gear; alternatively, for a higher price of emeralds (the in-game currency), you should be able to change the pool of enchantments you can choose from.
There is one other component to loot that is unaddressed: artifacts. Players have three slots for artifacts, which are your active abilities in Minecraft Dungeons, whereas enchantments are passive effects. These are really fun items that mix up gameplay and has the greatest effect on the role you want to play. My favorite artifacts run on souls - when you kill enemies, you can absorb their souls, and you can spend souls to use cast spells. Others allow you to heal yourself and party members, allow you to zoom in and out of combat, and some even summon animal companions to aid you in battle. While you can't enchant artifacts, they are definitely fun to use, although like armor and weapons, the overall amount of these items is lacking.
Hacking and Slashing in Minecraft Dungeons
Loot is an integral part of any ARPG, but it's useless unless there's plenty of enemies to use it on. In Minecraft Dungeons, expect to take on dozens of enemies at once, but true to the franchise's name, it's definitely a casual experience. Minecraft Dungeons begins incredibly easy. No matter the loot you have, around half of your first campaign playthrough is mind-numbingly easy. One slash of your weapon or a strike from your bow will bring most common enemies down instantly. Later on, however, I was actually surprised at the challenge Minecraft Dungeons offered.
Minecraft Dungeons features three different difficulty modes, with the next unlocking after you complete all of the game's levels. Within each mode are different tiers that give better loot and has more challenging enemies. You can ramp up the difficulty tier as you gain more loot. Again, around midway through my first run, I noticed some increase in difficulty. By the end of my run through the campaign, the last two levels or so posed some challenge. You'll get surrounded by more enemies, and they also increase in power. You might encounter more enchanted enemies, which are like rare mobs from Diablo. They have modifiers that can, for example, reflect your arrows.
After delving into the last difficulty mode, I noticed I have to cognizant of my actions rather than recklessly throwing myself into the fray. Liberal use of my healing potions and choosing the right enchantments for my preferred solo playstyle is key to survival. It's not anywhere near the same level as Diablo's Torment modes, but it's enough challenge that Minecraft Dungeons' gameplay is fun at higher difficulties.
One thing that remains annoying no matter the difficulty are the one-note boss fights. Bosses are just there to soak up damage. There's little that's compelling about them. You just attack, they soak up damage, and that's about it. You might have to avoid a few mobs here and there or a few large attacks, but these fights usually comprise you shooting arrows at them until they stop to do a big attack, hit them a few times with melee, rinse and repeat.
Minecraft Dungeon's... Dungeons
True to the name, there's plenty of dungeons to explore in this title. These dungeons typically take the form of sprawling outside areas. You have Creeper Woods, which is a dark and spooky area with old stone carvings in the shape of creeper heads. There's also, you guessed it, a lot of creepers there. My favorite area was the Fiery Forge, which takes place within a lava-filled mountain with workshops and machines of war.
Regardless of my preference, Minecraft Dungeons is a beautiful game. You can expect to see the same texture pack as vanilla Minecraft, but the way the terrain is displayed and the extra details added into the levels make it stand out. I love the heat that ripples off of the lava. In a dungeon called the Desert Temple, the ambiance and lighting are used expertly to craft a mysterious, Egyptian-like dungeon full of traps and splendor.
Unfortunately, the level variety itself isn't great. There are only 11 total areas to explore, and while Minecraft Dungeons features procedural generation, you do feel like you've been to the same locations before. Perhaps with more areas, this effect wouldn't be as evident. Diablo 3, for example, has dozens of different places to explore. They're massive complexes with a lot of different random events and enemies. Minecraft Dungeons just feels repetitive after a while. Seeing the same old loot time and time again exacerbates this effect.
Minecraft Dungeons Review | Final Thoughts
If I had to explain Minecraft Dungeons in as few words as possible, I would say "Diablo-lite." There's not as much depth to the mechanics, fewer levels to explore and much less loot. Moreover, there's virtually no story to experience here as well. The staying power of this game will also greatly depend on the quality and quantity of the upcoming DLC. There doesn't seem to be a great reason to go back and play for hundreds of hours like you could with other games of the genre. Seasonal activities and quality of life changes can make this ARPG go from a good game to a great one. But, if you're looking for a change of pace and you do like Minecraft, I have no hesitation in saying you would enjoy some casual fun with Minecraft Dungeons.
TechRaptor reviewed Minecraft Dungeons on PC via the Microsoft Store with a copy provided by Microsoft. It is also available on the Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4.
- Gorgeous Voxel Levels
- Late Game Difficulty is Fun
- Determine Your Own Gameplay Role
- Weapons Feel Distinct From Each Other
- Loot Variety is Minimal
- Enchantment Mechanic Needs Reworks
- Boss Fights are Boring
- Questionable Replay Value