A Family-Orientated Dungeon Crawler
Dungeon crawlers are one of those timeless video game genres that never seem to go out of fashion. From the early days on the PC with first-person efforts through to the unrivaled success of Diablo, the videogame industry has left no stone unturned in its quest for producing competent and driven crawlers.
Minecraft Dungeons then is an interesting game because it’s really not designed for adults. It’s a simple entry-level crawler that plays off the Minecraft IP to deliver something accessible to kids and acting as a playable title for the whole family. A couple of the later levels are quite tricky, but if you’re looking to get your kids involved in playing dungeon crawlers, Minecraft Dungeons is actually a really solid choice.
With the usual blocky graphics and faithfully recreated Minecraft sprites, Minecraft Dungeons transforms this IP into an isometric crawler, split across 10 different levels with increasing difficulty and number of enemies. The story is straight forward though and revolves around stopping the Arch-Illiger who has caused a black cloud of despair to hang over the world. Only one man (or woman) can stop him from turning everything to darkness and that’s you. From here, you set out on a mission to free villagers, enter temples and thwart the Arch-Illiger’s evil plan as you slash, shoot and trek through the perilous different worlds.
The story plays second fiddle to the gameplay which follows a very basic archetype seen in other crawlers of its kind. You’re given a basic weapon, a bow for ranged attacks and armour to help bolster your base stats or add extra perks to help you progress. The levels themselves are linear, with boxed in hallways and areas opening up to larger sections for more crowded encounters with enemies. Most of the action here revolves around holding down X for attacks or R2 for firing arrows. More supplies can be grabbed from different chests dotted around and alternate routes on levels (especially on the harder difficulties) can hold a fair amount of unique and rare gear that help make your character stronger.
All the usual enemy types are here, with creepers exploding on impact, witches and sorcerers conjuring up stat-buffs on different enemies and unique mini-bosses cropping up at random intervals. Every enemy has a very basic pattern which either involves rushing at you, holding back and hitting ranged attacks or a combination of both. There really isn’t a lot of variety here and even the boss fights don’t have that much imagination put into them, usually revolving around creating enemies to swarm you while hitting attacks from afar. Most can be defeated by ranged attacks with ease, although a limited supply of arrows can cause some problems at times.
These problems are quickly thwarted by playing with more than one player. Having completed most of these levels two or three times across the different difficulties and with different players, adding a second or third controller to the fray makes the game a lot easier despite the added number of enemies on-screen.
Multiplayer is where you’re likely to spend the most amount of time and although the option for online multiplayer is available, Minecraft Dungeons feels designed to be played as a couch co-op, especially if you get the little ones playing. My 7 and 9 year old kids managed to get through most of the early levels together without much issue, which will undoubtedly cause problems for adults playing alone looking for a challenging crawler.
With the exception of the penultimate chapter and the Apocalypse difficulty, Minecraft Dungeons is intentionally basic in its design and aside from the bizarre gear-enchantment options (more on that in a minute), Minecraft Dungeons is a fun family game that can easily be blitzed through in around 5 hours or so. If you intend to get everything and unlock all the trophies, a fair amount of time will be spent replaying these levels on harder difficulties and leveling up.
Trying to stay true to Minecraft’s basic concept of creating gear and enchanting them, Minecraft Dungeons includes a questionable leveling up system that feels tacked on and ill-thought out. Each level increase gives you an enchanting token to spend. These can then in-turn be used on either your main weapon, bow or armour.
The upgrades range from a circle of fire around you that does burn damage, poison arrows or even damage reduction buffs on your armour. In theory, this actually holds a fair amount of strategy as you weigh up the best way to spend your limited points and figure out what set-up is right for you. In practice, this fails to ever make it worth your time as higher levels breed better gear that far out-perform whatever you end up enchanting.
To be fair, around level 20+ when the leveling up becomes much more of a grind these do make sense but the chances of you finding bigger and better gear than what you currently have is too frequent to make this worth spending much time with. The idea is good in theory, and certainly stays true to how Minecraft plays, but it’s still a bit disappointing not to see character stat building here instead.
Aesthetically, the game stays true to the original Minecraft experience so expect plenty of familiar atmospheric musical scores and every level created with Minecraft blocks you’d find on the game. There are a few unique additions to each level ranging from traps in the desert temple to runaway minecarts in the Redstone Mines. These do help to add some variety to proceedings and visually the game does a wonderful job capturing that authentic Minecraft feel. The sound mixing is noticeably a little problematic, with sound effects a lot louder than the music and only accentuating the repetitive sounds for enemies.
Make no mistake about it, Minecraft Dungeons is not a game designed for experienced gamers looking for a challenge. It’s an entry-level dungeon crawler tailored for older kids looking to branch out from the blocky open-world nature of Minecraft. In that respect, the game is worth picking up and certainly holds enough of the aesthetic flair and charm from the Minecraft IP to feel like a natural spin-off. The gameplay is basic so kids should be able to pick this up quickly and aside from a disappointing leveling up system, Minecraft Dungeons is a fun co-op experience that knows who it’s targeting and executes on that perfectly.
Published: 30 May 2020 at 8:30am on
All of our videogame reviews are also featured on OpenCritic
Verdict - 7/10