Minecraft Dungeons Review

29 September, 2022

Minecraft Dungeons Review

I remember being astonished when I first saw Minecraft Dungeons gameplay. I now know that Minecraft Dungeons is essentially Diablo, but with Minecraft skins. It doesn't have the same mechanical depths that Diablo and is more cautious with its formula than it is with bold, Minecraft-inspired ideas. However, it still has all the fun combat and loot it needs and is accessible to anyone.

It's hard to believe that Minecraft's deliberately low-res art style can look so good, but Minecraft Dungeons is one of the most beautiful Minecraft worlds I've ever seen. Mojang's blocky zombies and creepy icons from the Diablo series are replaced with Mojang's savage iconography and hellish inspirations. It's set in familiar locations such as swamps, mountains, and villages filled with vibrant and beautiful color. Everything looks amazing, even in the darkest caverns and deepest dungeons. I was especially struck by the subtle lighting effects. For example, heat from lava warps bends the light behind them, and on one level, a lightning storm flashes outside, destroying a castle. The colored light reflects through stained-glass windows onto the floors and walls below. It's beautiful.

An autumn-themed village that was pillaged by the Arch Illager is one of my favourite levels. Its yellow and orange leaves bob in the breeze and its harvested wheat bundles and jack-o'lanterns were left behind in the ruin of the town. My brain went back to the beginning of fall, where it was receptive to the rustling leaves and the whispering winds. I feel like I could just savor the moment and not care.

The graphical performance of Minecraft Dungeons is excellent on a GeForce GTX1080-powered gaming computer. All graphical settings were automatically set to the highest default setting when I started it up. I also set the framerate to 120 (my monitor has an 144Hz refresh rate), which caused no problems and didn't cause any hesitation. I could probably go higher. It's a very low-impact game. Even when the screen is filled with projectiles, mobs, and magic, there were no performance issues. A Minecraft world built from low-fidelity blocks is a great way to have a world that's not too complicated.

The story is very simple and serves only to connect the dungeon crawling levels. The Arch Illager is the main villain. He stole an Orb of Power and uses it to do general evil. You will spend the next six to eight hours hunting him down and defeating his minions, until finally you confront him in his castle. This is it. Don't expect to do much more than that with Minecraft: Story Mode.

Good Family Fun

Although this is not a Diablo game in the traditional sense, the gameplay is as good as any other. You will be fighting enemies, finding treasures of different rarities, fighting bosses, and finally collecting a chest after you win. An interesting twist is that leveling up gives you an enchantment points, which you can use to add different powers and abilities to your items. My current suit of armor includes an enchantment that allows melee attacks to cause magical thorn damage for any enemy within close range. There are a number of enchantments that can be applied to items, some with two slots. My latest bow, for instance, emits a fan of five shots with each shot. This pairs well with the second type of enchantment, which allows a certain percentage of arrows to pass through an enemy and into another, causing damage to both. Although it doesn't have a lot of depth, it's fun to play with and can be used to create powerful weapons.

You receive two weapons, a close-range melee weapon or a long-range weapon. The Hunter's Armor is my favorite for a range-based character build. It gives you bonuses to your arrow abilities. However, there are other armors that can be used to suit a tank playstyle or a fast "assassin", or a soul-collector who relies heavily on soul-infused artifact use. Three artifacts can be added to your character that have different offensive and defensive effects. This is enough to increase your combat abilities without making things more complicated. You can also call on wolves, llamas and other creatures with artifacts. They can be a huge help when you are being rushed by low-level enemies like zombies or need to get backup. Combat feels right in Fisher-Price's My First Dungeon Crawler style: it's not too complicated but still allows you to confront enemies at close range or face-to-face.

When I first started playing Minecraft Dungeons, I thought the normal difficulty was a little too easy. I was able, at first, to hack and slash my ways through the first few levels. But as I progressed in difficulty, it became more difficult. The second half of the campaign was more challenging. I had to be careful about my artifact and potions usage and approach battles with thought. The difficulty was just right for a first game. For the final boss, it was actually a little more difficult than I expected.

Co-Op Options

You have only three chances to win each level. If you lose three times, you're out. It can be frustrating when you lose to the final boss and must go through the entire level again to defeat the boss. Even though it can be frustrating, losing to a boss doesn't affect your equipment or stats. You still have progress, even if you lose.

Gimme the Loot

The loot system isn't trying anything new and it doesn't have to. Trade in your cash at home camp to a blacksmith (for equipment) or a traveling merchant (for artifacts). There's still excitement when you pull a Unique level item. The loot is completely random and you can salvage it to get gems. One thing I loved about the salvage system was that if you salvage an item with enchantment points, you get those points back without any penalty.

The loot system surprised me because it didn't have a crafting system. This is something I don't normally demand, except that it is a spin-off from a game that was built entirely around this concept and still includes the word "craft" as the name. There is a crafting table in your base camp. I clicked it wildly when I first saw it, expecting a crafting dialog to appear. It doesn't allow for mining or more-than-normal breaking of things in Minecraft Dungeons. The source material references are therefore largely superficial. This doesn't mean that setting up a dungeon crawler within Minecraft is impossible. It's charming and fun.