It’s been six years since the last expansion for Diablo 3, a dungeon crawler that I put many hours into, all in order to acquire “better pants”.
For those who are new to the dungeon crawler/loot grinding genre of games, let me fill you in with a simple analogy. In most dungeon crawlers you start off with a “naked” character, a level 1 being of a certain class with no special gear. Eventually you’ll kill your first monster and it will likely drop a pair of pants. These pants are pretty cool, they look nice and they give you a +2% boost to your damage. Not too long after acquiring these pants, another monster will drop another pair of pants. But these pants… oh these are special. They grant you a +2% to your damage AND they make you walk faster. “Now we’re talking!”. Pretty soon, your inventory will be filled with all sorts of pants, all granting you different types of buffs and stats, but you can only wear one pair, so you’ll have to pick the best. Now replace “pants” with weapons, shield, chest plates, shoulder guards, rings… the list goes on. You kill monsters and get pants, which allow you to kill even tougher monsters to get even better pants. That is the dungeon crawler experience, and yes, while it sounds boring on paper, it’s a lot of fun, especially when you’re playing with friends.
Enter Minecraft Dungeons, an excellent entry level dungeon crawler brought to you by Mojang Studios, the developers behind Minecraft, and Double Eleven, the studio responsible for porting classic indie titles such as Limbo and Prison Architect to different consoles.
I think it’s important to tell you right out of the gates that Minecraft Dungeons is only a Minecraft game by visuals alone. How the game looks, the characters, monsters and music; that’s all Minecraft. The rest of the game feels more like a younger sibling of Blizzard’s Diablo. At the start of the game you get to pick a hero to take on the evil Arch-Illager (an evil Minecraft villager) armed with nothing more than a sword, and so your pant hunting journey begins.
Anyone who has played a dungeon crawler before will feel right at home, the typical game play loop is still there, with no changes. There’s an overworld with eight or so “biomes” each with their own distinct features. Once you select a world, the map you play on is randomly generated, along with the different types of monsters you’ll see along the way. There will be a basic objective you need to complete and a handy way-point marker to always point you in the right direction.
At the start of each level you’ll get the chance to choose your difficulty going into the level, which gives newcomers to play at a more relaxed pace and the veterans a chance to test their skills. Of course, with these sorts of games, the higher the difficulty, the better the rewards.
For those looking for a complete Diablo 4 shaped game to fill your empty void, you’ll be let slightly down. Minecraft Dungeons is a watered down version of the former. There’s no juggling different pools of health and mana nor do you have pianos worth of skills and cool-downs to manage. These are all kept very simple: you have a health bar, three skills, melee weapon, bow and armor. Those six things are the only things you have to manage, which makes this a great game for those looking to get into dungeon crawling. Everything is neatly displayed on screen and you can see everything at a glance when needed. Stats of items are displayed nice and simply too. Again, it’s very easy to tell what’s better or worse than what you already have.
If I haven’t made it clear already, this game is very accessible to anyone, regardless of experience. This is also aided by the fact that Minecraft Dungeons has couch co-op, which is rare these days in the video game world, but a very welcome one. You can play with up to three other people locally, which is great if you’re wanting to do some gaming with the kids or teach someone how to dungeon crawl. There’s also four-player online mode, so during this time of isolation you can still hunt down pants together without being in the same room. Unfortunately, there isn’t any cross-play available at the time of writing this review, however it has been mentioned that the team are currently working on Xbox and PC cross-play.
Overall, Minecraft Dungeons was an enjoyable experience for someone who has put hundreds of hours into other dungeon crawlers. It’s certainly no Diablo or Divinity Original Sin, but it was a nice change to play a game where I’m not constantly crunching numbers and trying to maximize the best stats on my character. The best part though, is that the game is available on Xbox Game Pass!