This is the first major spin-off for Minecraft, and one that takes the series in a direction that makes complete sense. This is a dungeon crawling title that features the aesthetic and heart of the main franchise. The core of the game takes place over nine levels, with many options for replayability.
The levels vary in structure, biome setting and difficulty. As you progress the difficulty will rise, and when you go back for additional playthroughs fresh options will be present. These in turn will provide even more loot to gather, and of course a higher level of challenge to them.
There’s a good amount of variation in what you’re doing during the levels. This includes collecting keys that will run away if you’re hit, dodging deadly traps and even battling huge bosses. The game features a number of iconic, and entirely new mobs for you to battle. If you’re not familiar with that term, it just means creatures within the game. Alongside facing off against more enemies as you continue to battle in higher difficulties, playing the maps will provide a slightly altered experience. That makes each play a little unique, despite the goals being the same each time.
I would have liked the main story to be a tad longer, but it does provide a good chunk of game time to it. I mean, the whole point of this genre is that replay factor, and I think it delivers on that. There’s also a bit of a neat story present, with some warm hearted values that you might expect from this series. You’ll witness these as you’re battling along, through some brief cinematic segments. It’s not too in-depth, but it gives you enough context into what you’re doing within each of the levels in regards to the missions available. Aside from working through the main missions, there are some minor surprises and a camp area.
The camp is your starting hub where you can buy a random weapon or armor piece from the gear merchant. There’s also a wandering trader in the camp to buy a random artifact from. Both of these options will provide level appropriate items and I’ll go over them more under the gameplay portion that follows. I thought in general that the structure of the main story was well done, and that it was fresh enough to continue playing well after it had initially concluded.
It’s also great to experience this alone with I largely did, or in a group with up to four players. You can enjoy this game entirely in four player local coop, or four player online coop. There is however no matchmaking present, and cross-play is a feature that’s been noted as being available some time post-launch. It’s got a seamless multiplayer setup to it, and it works very well in regards to being able to connect with others and play. There’s no real delay, and you can get helping your friends right away. That’s a great element to have present within the game.
This is presented in an angled top down perspective, which is isometric in nature. It brings over the aesthetic of Minecraft perfectly, while enhancing it in a number of ways. Each area is filled to the brim with detail, and combat is stacked full of interesting little particle effects. This was really cool to see, especially when you’re playing as a squad. All the little explosions and mayhem, it can be a wild time.
It’s really quite a gorgeous title, and I was more than impressed by what they provided in terms of the visuals. They even have little bits of flowing grass, or rustling trees in the backdrop and that helps add a further element of depth to it. You never know what little thing might be over yonder, and I think that help presents a fuller world as you explore. I think they generally captured the biomes well, while at the same time leaving out a number of them. I didn’t mind, and I suppose that leaves room for additional content down the road. To be fair, there are a ton of biomes within the greater world of Minecraft. The levels are fairly lengthy, and also complex in nature.
They are however setup in a largely linear fashion, with little opportunity to move outwards. At times, you can go off the beaten path and you may come across a hidden chest. If not, there will likely be additional hostile mobs for you to battle. There also might be some passive mobs thrown into the bunch. In general, what you eliminate will drop items at random. Sometimes you’ll get emeralds, maybe potions and other times food. Sometimes there won’t be anything, and it’s a completely random draw.
The best loot is typically from the loot pigs that are roaming around, chests or special enemies that you remove from play. The enemy mobs vary greatly, featuring both iconic and entirely fresh creatures. I think that was a good mix up, and helps this stand on its own to some degree.
It would also be neat to see those new mobs make it into the core game, especially some of the massive bosses that were present within this. Everything merges together very well, from the look of the mobs to the visuals of the world they find themselves within. As an adventurer you get to pick from a series of skins, and then make whatever sort of class you want. That is to say, you’re not pushed into any class in this game and make your own setup.
There are three gear slots, this includes the melee, ranged and armor spots. You’ll constantly be getting different variants, and better level tiered gear. You’re just always feeling rewarded, but not everything will be the upgrade you’re looking for. There are all kinds of different effects, such as the fire rate or say the style of the weapon. On top of that, you’re gaining an enchantment point with each level.
Some of the gear you gather allows you to have up to three enhancement trees to work up. Each enchantment option has three levels to it, and thus you can really power things up as you play along. When you break things down when it’s no longer useful, you get the enchantment points back which is great. Alongside gear, you have three artifact slots. These are strange and powerful abilities you can unleash while playing.
You might be able to shoot a firework arrow shot for a big explosion, spawn a friendly animal with a food source or even unleash with a cosmic cube. These are things that you’re constantly getting better versions of and being able to provide extra combat effectiveness with. The artifacts are interesting, true to Minecraft and generally a lot of fun. I liked how your gear in general changed how your character looks, and how the combat felt.
There were always new things to try, and I always wanted some better equipment. I mean, leveling up in the game will only take you so far. When playing along on each level you’ll get a selection of lives or you’ll have to restart, whereas coop you can keep reviving and also have lives on each level. For the most part this ran beautifully, at times it did seem to stutter and or pause. This was rare and brief, but present enough to note while this was being played on Xbox One X. A platform where visually it really does deliver on the visual quality.
Minecraft Dungeons is a great dungeon crawling experience offering lots of replayability, and many unique touches that stay true to the franchise. It does provide something that is entirely fresh to play, and a lot of fun. It’s really quite enjoyable whether you’re working through this alone, or with others for coop. It would have been nice to have had matchmaking present in this though.
The story was fairly well done, it could have been integrated further but for what was provided I thought it sufficed. I’m definitely keeping in mind that this is a dungeon crawler, and the narrative isn’t necessarily always a big part of these types of games. I would have liked it to be slightly longer in regards to the main mission, but I think you get a solid amount of level variation, and lots of time to spend on them. The replayability does work in the game’s favor, and I found the variation within the levels with each play to keep my interest.
That, and the massive quantity of new mobs I’d face when trying the game on a higher difficulty tier. Regardless the game looks great and plays very well. It presents hours of gameplay, and keeps the Minecraft aesthetic and themes present but in a fresh way. It’s great for all ages, and it does provide a good extra bit of difficulty to it for those that want that challenge. It definitely has some harder moments, and they feel rewarding for sure.
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Minecraft Dungeons Review on Xbox One X
Review Code Provided by Microsoft