Minecraft Dungeons looked to really change things up, trailers show Diablo looking combat with Minecraft story and visuals which can only be a great recipe!
This review is not only the opinion from me, but also my nine-year-old son. Obviously, being a new Minecraft game and already spending hours together on the original Minecraft, to say we were both eager to get playing was probably an understatement!
Issues arose straight away, but this was due to Xbox Live having multiplayer issues on the night, we couldn’t connect to each other so we had to resort to playing on one console and this is where I found a positive straight away! Minecraft Dungeons features split-screen co-op for up to four players making it a great couch co-op! The camera can be frustrating as it is fixed in one position and can’t be moved, so it will just zoom out if you and your partner move far apart.
Minecraft Dungeons has had a fair bit of criticism recently from early reviewers and while I can what some are saying, I don’t feel all the negatives are justified! There is a solid fun multiplayer experience here, it is a grind to get the higher class weaponry, but it is worth the effort with some of the weapons and artefacts that can be acquired.
What I think everyone needs to remember is Minecraft Dungeons is releasing at a stupidly low price if you buy the standard edition and not the Hero Edition, but even then it’s only £25. The game is also included with Gamepass on both Xbox One and PC, so any Gamepass members get the game on launch day free with their subscription!
It has been mentioned the game is short and yes, I have to agree the story is but it’s only as short as you make it, one playthrough of all the levels will be around 3-4 hours, but then it’s up to you if you want to go back through and play levels again but on a harder difficulty to try and acquire some of MD’s unique and higher classed gear. The first few levels are fairly easy, but as you rank up the difficulty increase can certainly be felt!
The fun is really in the multiplayer, I would say the combat resembles Diablo but is much toned down and stripped back making it very basic when compared, this is why I think it would suit a younger gamer as a first go at a decent dungeon crawler. Over the course of the evening, we had a great time on the levels that are available and went from start to finish in around 4 hours with a couple of harder levels thrown in, it wasn’t a drag and time absolutely flew by. The only change I would like to see on the multiplayer is through the UI when accessing the inventory; only one player can change their equipment at a time when on split-screen which is annoying if you constantly get new gear, the other issue here is the game doesn’t pause while in the inventory making it very easy to be attacked and not even know about it aside from the vibration on the controller.
The next day, my son obviously wanted to get better gear and play again, this time however there would be an argument with my other two as they wanted a go as well. So, after setting everyone up on the same console I left them to it and waited for the arguing to start, much to mine and my partners surprise we heard nothing apart from teamwork! Trust me, between these three this doesn’t happen often and most parents will understand!
This could be down to MD’s set up in the way the game drops loot, there is no arguing due to the fact loot is assigned to a set person, so no fighting over it. Hearing them play like that together was fantastic; they were planning who did what and helping each other with the gear and upgrades, if it was aimed at a younger audience they really did a great job as the setup is perfect.
Making players play levels over to acquire better loot means the loot needs to be good enough to want to and luckily it is, there is a great variety in the different types all with different enchantments and levels. The amount of loot that is dropped is also pretty spot on and you can expect a fairly decent bit of gear from every level you play. Playing the levels at a higher difficulty increases the chance of the better loot, but it is a far harder challenge.
There are different ways to acquire loot, taking down enemies sometimes drops it, some chests occasionally hide it inside and then there is the Blacksmith and wandering trader back at camp, these allow a random piece of gear to be purchased, don’t always expect anything good from them though, there is a good chance it’s a waste of your precious emeralds.
Maps are well designed and chests are hidden around usually where you would least expect them, looking at the map and seeing a long path to a dead-end in most other games would reveal a secret of some sort, but in MD’s, often it is just a dead-end full of enemies! There are also secret areas in the levels that can be found and accessed usually with something good at the end.
The map can be put up at any time and will show a ghost map that allows you to play with the map on-screen, if you do get close to a chest it will show on the map, so you can’t really miss them.
Enemies are what you would expect in a Minecraft game, all the favourites are here: Arrow firing skeletons, Creepers, Zombies, Iron Golems, and Endermans to name just a few! Levels have main bosses, and with the difficulty high enough, they are more than a challenge; especially if you are playing alone. The main boss isn’t always right at the end either, so if you do manage to defeat it, then die after, the level won’t be complete; there can always be a few more smaller enemies around the corner near the exit.
Movement around the maps is very fluid, but it is very easy to get trapped if you make the wrong move or run into a pack of enemies, so planning ahead does help; certain enemies like the Creeper can be lethal in a crowd if you are stuck, so it’s essential to watch what enemies are coming and try to take them out before the explosion! There is the option to front roll as a bit of an evade, but this will make the character slightly slower to move until it’s recharged, so dodging needs to be used wisely.
TNT can be picked up, but carrying it will stop the use of the bows or crossbows, so it’s hard to hold onto for long periods of time, a front roll can still be performed while carrying TNT though, making it easier to get close for melee so you don’t need the long-range attack as much. The TNT will show a radius that it will hit when thrown, so it’s just a matter of waiting till it blows up to see how many in the group you manage to take down.
Close range combat isn’t always the best option, so luckily there is bows and crossbows to keep some distance to the more explosive enemies around! Aiming is by holding the right trigger and moving the left stick to face the required target, once in the right direction the target will get a red outline. Especially helpful against Creepers!
There is a good selection of bows and crossbows and as you get some of the rarer ones the stats increase as does some of the bows unique abilities. This is where the customisation element comes into it and as with the original Minecraft, items can be enchanted. Enchantment points are earned as you complete levels and take out certain bosses, using wisely can make some very powerful gear!
Each weapon has a level and with this has up to three different enchantments depending on how good the weapon is, some weapons will only allow one enchantment whereas others will allow three different ones. The enchantments make a big difference to the power of the weapon adding things like lightning or fire damage to enemies causing a certain amount of damage per second, each enchantment can then be upgraded up three times adding more damage per second for that enchantment.
Armour can also be enchanted and different armour will have its own specialities like archer armour giving a better-ranged attack percentage as well as more arrows per bundle. The armour is a sort of class selection with some making your character quicker to move while others more tank-like being able to take more damage but move slower.
Lastly is the different artifacts, these are assigned to the X, Y and B button and need souls to launch a powerful attack or defensive ability. The Harvester, for example, will cause a massive explosion wiping out enemies crowded around your character and clearing a path if you were trapped anywhere, anything that is too powerful to be taken down the first time with this will get pushed back a fair amount giving some space, the defensive side of things come from Totems, some will shield and give protection from incoming attacks whereas some will regenerate health just when you need it most. The controls are very simple and hard to get in any way mixed up while doing multiple things at once.
Each enemy taken down will release XP and Souls, the souls are used to fill a soul bar, once full the soul bar can be used to the equipped artifact for attack or defensive purposes. Gaining XP and levelling the character up will provide the much-needed soul gems to equip enchantments and upgrades to them.
Levels while in short supply are really well designed and look fantastic in the Minecraft art style. The performance on both Xbox One X and PC was flawless, no slowdown even when the action on-screen got a little hectic. The PC version running 3440×1440 at maximum settings was giving around 130 – 140 fps so looked fantastic as did the Xbox One X version.
The difficulty is spot on, playing through the levels first time is just enough of a challenge and you only get three lives on each level, once the lives are gone it’s back to base camp to select a level again! This is another advantage of playing with others as you both have to die to lose a life, plus there is the ability to revive so you have a better chance against the harder opponents. Keep an eye out for food to regen health if you don’t have a potion ready.
Island Realms found on the map is coming soon so hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long for new content, in the meantime split-screen will be used a lot as we build up our characters and equipment ready to tackle whatever is added to the game in the future!
Sound effects were what I expected, plenty of Minecraft noises from all the classic characters, Minecraft Dungeons is a perfect replica of Minecraft in every way just a different way to play. The background music was also very good and perfect for Minecraft and reactive to the action onscreen.
The story is very basic and plays out through the levels, the main villain in the story is the Arch Illager and after stealing the Orb Of Power he uses it to perform his evil plan. You and how many other friends will need to chase him down until finally facing and defeating him. The story isn’t fantastic and is over fast but there are some cutscenes to playthrough and watch that tell it enough to be interesting although I imagine most will just want to get on and acquire some unique loot!
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Minecraft Dungeons Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 8/10
Minecraft Dungeons is going to get a fair amount of stick because of a lack of content and while I admit there aren’t many levels to play through there is still plenty to do after the story is completed. There is plenty of loot to be found all with different enchantments and powers, as is the progression system for the character. Level design is great and the visuals are what we would expect from a Minecraft game!