I’m not a huge fan of Minecraft‘s sandbox approach to videogames. But Minecraft Dungeons, a dungeon crawler that adopts the game’s iconic blocky art style? I’m there.
The adventure of Minecraft Dungeons takes place across several locations. Each level has its own objective, but you can ignore your waypoint and explore freely if you wish. It often pays to do so too; anyone who’s ever played a dungeon crawler game before knows the best loot usually lays hidden off the beaten path.
As you play, you’ll come up against familiar Minecraft mobs – Illagers, Creepers, Evokers, Zombies and more. You’re equipped with a melee weapon and a long-range bow and arrow, so you have a choice whether you want to keep your distance or get up close and personal. Beware though; arrows are limited, so an over-reliance on them will soon see you running out. Along with your weapons you also have three slots in which to equip artifacts, offering you various ability boosts or powerful attacks.
“Even on its standard difficulty, Minecraft Dungeons is surprisingly fiendish at times”
There are numerous difficulties you can tackle each of Minecraft Dungeons’ levels on. You’ll have little control of this the first time you play, with the game automatically scaling to be near your character level. But after completing the game you’ll have more freedom to adjust. The higher the difficulty level, the better the loot. It’s the old risk versus reward mechanic, but the choice is entirely up to you.
Even on its standard difficulty, Minecraft Dungeons is surprisingly fiendish at times. Although it feels very much like ‘My First Diablo’ with its simplified mechanics, it’s not afraid to throw a challenge at you. While you’ll never find yourself completely overcome with enemies as you would in, say, a Diablo III Rift, you’ll frequently wander into areas where it’s easy to be overwhelmed. A mixture of exploding Creepers, spiders that’ll fix you in place with their webs and arrow-wielding skeletons can be lethal if you’re not careful. On later levels, when enemies such as Enderman and Evokers start appearing regularly, you’ll really want to watch your step.
“Minecraft Dungeons is accessible to even the most novice of players”
Of course, defeating any and all enemies is the crux of Minecraft Dungeons. Doing so will earn you XP, levelling up your character. Some enemies will also drop loot on defeat. Finding and equipping better loot is your key to becoming stronger. Along with a melee weapon and a bow, you also have an equippable armour slot. Each piece of equipment can be enchanted, adding one or two special abilities to it. Perhaps you’ll end up with a sword imbued with fire power, or maybe your armour will let you move a little quicker. Enchantments vary from item to item, but they offer a huge range of skills. A new enchantment token is earned each time you level up and, in a nifty move, any tokens you spend on an item are never truly lost. If you find a better weapon, you can break down your last one and you’ll be credited with the enchantments, allowing you to spend them on your new weapon.
That’s about as deep as Minecraft Dungeons ever gets. It lacks the deep character building and stat-driven nature of the likes of Diablo; your power level is determined by the three items you have equipped and little else. You’ll never get attached to a weapon in the same way you would elsewhere, and the idea of putting together a certain ‘build’ is nowhere to be found. That’s not a bad thing, though. It means Minecraft Dungeons is accessible to even the most novice of players. It’s perhaps a shame there’s no option to level up your existing gear, but it ensures that finding a new weapon or armour piece of a higher level than yours is always exciting; you never become complacent.
Running through Minecraft Dungeon‘s story – a loose narrative that sees you trailing the Arch-Illager – won’t take you much longer than five hours or so. It’s a short game, then, but the addition of multiple difficulty levels, the promise of better loot, and large maps to explore means there’s always reason to go back in. Exploring each of the game’s levels thoroughly to uncover all of the map will almost certainly double your playtime, however. And it’s surely the only way to play when you’re on the hunt for new gear.
The lack of depth when it comes to levelling up your character means that Minecraft Dungeons doesn’t have the longevity of more established dungeon crawlers, but it’s still a game that I’ll find myself going back to regularly. The ability to play in local or online co-op adds another bow to its string. Both work flawlessly, with you able to carry over your character whether playing online or offline. Online, gear and money seems to drop independently for each player, but potions and food items are shared; something to bear in mind if one player needs a health boost more than another.
“Minecraft Dungeons should be a must-buy for anyone who enjoys a good dungeon-crawling adventure”
We don’t always take a game’s price into account during the review process, but in the case of Minecraft Dungeons, I feel like it’s important. It’s exceptional value for money, with the base game costing only £16.74/$20. £25/$30 will get you the Hero Edition, which includes two DLC packs to be released at a later date. And of course, it’s available via Game Pass too. Even if you don’t feel like jumping back in when you’ve completed the main campaign, there’s more than enough in one play through to feel like you’ve got your money’s worth.
Young or old, whether you’re a fan of OG Minecraft or not, there’s a lot to love about Minecraft Dungeons. Exploring its vast levels is a delight, and coming across new loot is just as fulfilling here as it is in any loot-based game. Smooth controls and a range of abilities make it an absolute joy to play; even when you die, you’ll be eager to pick yourself back up and start again. Considering the game’s asking price, Minecraft Dungeons should be a must-buy for anyone who enjoys a good dungeon-crawling adventure.