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Minecraft Dungeons

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Xbox Games Studios
Developer: Mojang
Release Date: May 26, 2020

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PC Review - 'Minecraft Dungeons'

by Adam Pavlacka on May 27, 2020 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Fight your way through an all-new action-adventure game, inspired by classic dungeon crawlers and set in the Minecraft universe!

The idea of a dungeon crawler set in the universe of Minecraft sounded like a brilliant idea when I first heard of it. After all, you've got the blocky charm of Minecraft mixed with a classic genre that is easy to learn. Unfortunately, instead of a fully developed title, Minecraft Dungeons feels more like a first pass at a Diablo clone, with a Minecraft skin slapped on the top.

At first glance, Minecraft Dungeons seems to have all the basic elements of a solid dungeon crawler. There are randomized maps in each dungeon. You're on a quest to get better loot, so your character can become more powerful and beat the baddies. You have the flexibility to replay dungeons as needed in order to farm for better items. There is a multiplayer option and an overarching story tying it together. When you start digging below the surface, it quickly becomes apparent that the game is a bit shallow.


To be clear, I'm not using "shallow" as a replacement for "short." Minecraft Dungeons is a budget game with a MSRP of $20, so being on the shorter side isn't a negative. Rather, it is the lack of polish around the features that makes Minecraft Dungeons stumble.

Given that Minecraft Dungeons may be an introduction to the dungeon crawler genre for many players, having a more detailed tutorial would've been a plus. There are some basic pop-ups, but directions are minimal. I had to discover some gameplay mechanics through trial and error, like the fact that you can get enchantment points by destroying an item. If the game isn't giving you the information you need to know to play effectively, that's a miss.

The story that connects the game levels is told via voice-over. There is no in-game lore. No items to click on. No people to talk to. No signs to read. While some streamlining is to be expected, the dungeon crawler genre and the original Minecraft reward exploration. Yes, Minecraft Dungeons rewards you with chests of loot, but not having anyone in the game to talk to makes the game world feel bare — especially since you are supposedly freeing the villagers from an evil tyrant.

Gameplay is focused on combat, which breaks down to melee or ranged attacks. Both of these are weapon-focused, so don't think you'll have the option of playing a mage or another specialized class. Everyone gets the same base, and everyone gets access to the same gear. Customization comes from which gear you choose to use.

 


Gear can be of various rarity levels, with higher rarity gear offering more stat modifiers, along with more enchantment slots. While you can compare the level of different pieces of gear, there is no easy way to directly compare two or more at the modifier level. You just have to click through them all. The game doesn't even have an option to auto-sort by level or rarity. Given that acquiring gear is such a core part of the gameplay loop, the lack of focus is disappointing.

A similar lack of focus is seen with the two vendor options. You can buy randomized items, but there is no shop interface per se. You can hand over money and get something in return. Yes, even purchasing from a vendor is no different from opening a random chest within a dungeon.

Combat is straightforward enough: Click to attack. Maneuver to avoid the mobs. Use one of your three skills. Repeat until the baddies are dead. While it works with the keyboard and mouse, it is obvious that Minecraft Dungeons is tuned for playing with a controller. This becomes obvious as soon as you start any of the boss fights. Enemies in Minecraft Dungeons have an excellent player lock-on, so if you're fighting an enemy with some strength, you'll need to be nimble on your feet. When playing with a mouse, you also need to click on the enemy to fire a ranged attack. When playing with a controller, you just need to have the enemy highlighted when you tap the fire button.

Swapping back and forth between the two on the PC quickly made it obvious that using the controller was the better option. This is a case where the keyboard and mouse combo is actually a handicap.

 


One area where Minecraft Dungeons excels is in the variety of lands. The dungeons may be randomly created, but the tile sets are bright, colorful, and creative. They're also locked into place. You do not have the ability to rotate the camera, so you only get one perspective on the action. I would have loved to be able to inspect the world in a bit more detail by zooming in or turning it for a different perspective.

It also feels like a missed opportunity to not have any crafting in the game, especially given the history of its namesake.

If you strip away the Minecraft theming from Minecraft Dungeons, what you're left with is a very basic dungeon crawler. It is playable and it is feature complete, but it feels undercooked. This isn't a streamlined and optimized version of Diablo or Path of Exile. Rather, it is an extremely basic version of those two games.

There is a lot of potential in Minecraft Dungeons (and there is already DLC being advertised for it), but in its current state, it feels like a first draft. If you already have a Game Pass subscription, check it out for some easy achievements, but if you're looking to scratch that dungeon crawler itch, there are better options out there right now.

Score: 6.0/10

Minecraft Dungeons was reviewed on a Windows 10 PC with an Intel Core i7/9700K CPU, 16 GB of RAM, and a Nvidia GeForce RTS 2080 Super GPU. We also checked out the Xbox One version, and while Minecraft Dungeons is a cross-buy title, there seems to be no cross-save.



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