Never would I have anticipated seeing the iconic creeper, zombie and skeleton mobs transplanted into an enchanting dungeon crawler experience.
Co-developed by Mojang Studios and Double Eleven, Minecraft Dungeons in its flesh isn’t a particularly creative take on the classic dungeon crawler game genre, but rather an elegant one, making it very easy for younger players or the casual gamers to experience the genre. It lacks its own identity, by following the generic dungeon crawler formula quite closely. However everything that it has done, has been implemented with perfection.
The gameplay is about what you would expect from a family friendly action-adventure RPG. The combat doesn’t exactly keep you on the edge of your seat, and the boss fights, while they do pose some sort of threat, due to the large masses of enemy reinforcements that try to distract you while the boss deals the heavy hits, after spending a couple of minutes studying the boss and its attacks I was able to understand its pattern and thus figure out when to dodge and when to strike. I am fully aware however of the younger target audience age for this game and will thus not deduct too many points for this.
Moving on, progression in this game is rather linear in the sense that you level up by killing enemies, all of which have a small chance to drop loot, potions or emeralds. Your gear will slowly improve in quality and rarity as you play more, much like other dungeon crawlers. However, this game has a couple of other mechanics that make it stand out. Firstly, the addition of an enchanting system, wherein every time you level up, you receive an enchantment point that can be spent on armour or weapons. This point will give the selected gear a special talent, which could be anything from lightning strikes to fire trails. I respect this feature as it adds some colour to an otherwise black and white hack and slash game.
On top of this, high tier loot will also have special abilities of their own, making for some great synergies to be formed with the right gear.
The other feature is artifacts. You essentially have 3 equippable abilities that you can take with you into the dungeons. These prove to be quite useful in certain situations, and also change up the gameplay, which is nice. Some of these artifacts include; the corrupted beacon, the firework arrow, shock powder, and many more.
As for the missions themselves, I found them to be rather long, involving multiple objectives and a seemingly endless map. The fact that movement speed is quite slow also doesn’t help this cause, however there are various power ups that can fix this, as well as a good old fashion dodge roll button. There are also many hidden chests for you to discover, which resulted in me taking even more time to ensure that I’ve explored the entire map before I can progress. Overall, I found primarily the beginning missions to be a bit mediocre, although a few missions in, the difficulty picked up and I began to enjoy myself as the level design also became less and less linear.
The graphics in this game were nothing short of mind boggling. I cannot put into words how amazing a game made of cubes can look. I was astonished at the harmonious combination of bloom, ambient occlusion and shadows that make this game look so good. On top of this, all of the classic minecraft textures have been remade to some extent. Those extra little details contribute so much and really tie in the whole graphic experience. I’m well impressed with the environments as well. I love how ominous lava feels since its bright orange glow can be seen from afar. Trees and grass sway in the strong winds and TNT fills your screen with an intense red glow as it explodes, killing everything within range.
Needless to say, I am a big fan of the graphics and hope to see more simple, yet quality work like this in the future.
Controls + Optimization:
I have nothing in particular to say for the controls. They are well mapped and I didn’t find any keybind to be in an awkward position. You will however, be using your mouse most of the time since that is how you control your player and attack mobs. The keys are either to use your abilities or to view the map. Speaking of, I am impressed with the implementation of the bare bones, secondary map that you activate by pressing tab. I think it’s a neat idea since it lets you view a lot of the level without obstructing your gameplay, so you can have it open at all times which I found very useful.
As for the optimisation, much like Minecraft, this game isn’t particularly demanding, which means that low and mid tier systems will be able to hit a comfortable framerate at high and max graphics. I personally didn’t run into any hiccups or stuttering during gameplay and the load times were swift. Hence, this game is very well optimised and allows for even budget gamers to experience it at a high graphics without pushing their respective rigs too hard.
As mentioned previously, this game doesn’t exactly have its own identity. Iit instead takes mechanics from various games such as the Dota-like point and click feature, Diablo-esque dungeon mechanics and some elements from Minecraft and morphs it into one game which makes it special.
If you’re new to the dungeon crawler scene and don’t know where to start, I’d highly recommend Minecraft Dungeons for its casual, yet charming gameplay. It serves as a great segway into some of the other fantastic, more challenging dungeon crawler titles.
For younger audiences too, this is a thrilling, timeless adventurer that takes a lot of features from Minecraft, providing you with some sense of familiarity as you adventure into the unknown.
To conclude, if you’re an enthusiast gamer looking for a formidable challenge, then this game might be too easy for you. However for others who prefer less pacey games, that give the player a chance to explore the detailed landscapes while picking up plenty of loot on the way, this will certainly suffice.