Minecraft has always been a playground for the imagination, allowing the user to create almost anything they can think of. While there may be some fun to be had in such an experience, Minecraft Dungeons takes a different approach. A unique story was tailor made for this entry, which is experienced from an isometric, top-down view that resembles Diablo. I am not a particularly imaginative person, so the original Minecraft, while admittedly fun, does not keep me engaged. The progression that I experienced in Dungeons however, has had me coming back for more almost on a daily basis. It is a bold opinion, and not a very popular one at that, but Minecraft dungeons surpasses the original Minecraft in the level of enjoyment I have had with either game.
The story is a little cut and dry; the Arch Illager (this world’s big baddy) is attempting to conquer the world, laying waste to the villagers’ homes in the process. He does this with the help of his newly found powers channeled through the Orb of Dominance. Those who do not bow before him are considered his enemies as he commands a large army of Illager followers. Your mission is to dethrone this tyrant and bring peace back to the villages affected by his rule. You can take on the appearance of a variety of different Minecraft humans (yes, including Steve) when you start on your journey as the hero of the game. The story is rather basic in terms of creativity. Bad guy does bad things, good guy stops bad guy. There’s no real moral ambiguity. Honestly, with the creative nature of the original game, it is alarming to see a very unoriginal plot. However, what the game lacks in creativity, it gains in sheer fun.
It is an action RPG dungeon crawler that has captivated me since its release. The goal is to accrue loot to gradually increase your power level with every new item. Your power equals the average level of all your gear combined, and it can be open season for anyone looking to become overpowered. With the main gear consisting of a sword, armor, and a bow, each piece can be enchanted to make it more powerful. To enchant your gear, enchantment points are required which are only given to you every time you level up. The points are refundable however, if you’re willing to salvage the item, effectively destroying it to retain enchantment points and a small amount of emeralds. The combination of different enchantments on each piece of gear, and the base stats of each weapon culminates in a very dynamic level of control with how you progress your character. Pair that with the different artifacts you can equip and it makes for some rather overpowered builds. And that is where the fun resides. The potential to create characters with incredible powers to take on the ever-increasing difficulty of the game creates a challenge and motivation to continue the core gameplay loop.
And then we get to level design. It is important to note that unlike the original Minecraft, there are no destructible environments in this game. Levels do seem to be procedurally generated however, at least to a certain extent. If you’re jumping into Dungeons looking for more of that original Minecraft gameplay, you will be sorely disappointed. I approached it from an informed standpoint, knowing full well that this was not going to be a conventional Minecraft experience, and I believe I was better off for it. So be warned, if you’re looking for more traditional Minecraft, you would be better suited toward Lego Worlds, or Dragon Quest Builders. If you want a Diablo-like game with a charming aesthetic and a fun loot system, you’ve come to the right place.
Multiplayer is a little weird to me though. There is no way to share items between players, and while this didn’t affect me much because I had played almost entirely in single player, this may turn some players off. The only thing you can do with gear you are not using is to salvage it for emeralds. This ensures that players don’t get too powerful too quickly as there is no way to “boost” your friends. Loot is dished out to you and you just have to roll with the punches and use what you get. Not a huge deal for me, but I can see it being a point of frustration for some other players.
The music is also rather uninspiring. There is not a single tune that I can even remember, and I was listening for it. I found the sound effects to be pleasing, however. There was no better sound than to rip open a chest and find emeralds that made a satisfying “cling” as they jumped into my wallet. Enemies have their typical sound effects when you hit or kill them that somewhat bridges the gap between regular old Minecraft and this new game. A little thing I found to be a funny addition was an oinking sound any enemy would make (not just pigs) when you got a pork chop drop. Overall, it was charming and enjoyable to listen to, but I just wish the music had some hits that I could actually remember.
For those unacquainted to Minecraft, the visuals may be off-putting. If you do not like blocky graphics that gave the original some character, you won’t like the blocky graphics here. It is literally the same graphical style, block for block, except now seen from a zoomed-out aerial view. I thought it to be charming, and just as it had done for the original Minecraft, it gives Dungeons character and sets it apart from other dungeon crawlers.
The game really encourages multiple playthroughs. It’s not simply a one and done kind of game, although you can play it as such if you so choose. No, this game hits a full stride after you beat it, opening up a whole new difficulty level. There seems to be a ramping difficulty that continuously beats you down if you’re not ready for it. It is important to get better loot, and the specific loot drops for any given level are highlighted at the level selection screen. You must rinse and repeat the gameplay to acquire the best loot in the game, and the more elusive the loot is, the more likely it is to be game breaking and awesome. It’s interesting to see this kind of depth in an otherwise simplistic and user-friendly game.
Minecraft Dungeons is a unique spin on what made the original Minecraft so great, however it lacks the freedom to destroy the blocks around you, and is abysmal in the musical department. It has taken both Mine and Craft out of the meaning of the title. There is no mining, there is no crafting. Despite these flaws, I think there is a lot to enjoy with this new entry into the Minecraft universe. I think this will be a big hit with the younger adventurers out there. Minecraft is really popular with that young audience and I think many of those same kids would love to play this game. That is not to say there isn’t anything here for an older audience. It is approachable to anyone, and I think that is what makes this experience incredible.
Replay Value: 5/5
Total: 18/25 or 72/100