Having released last week, Minecraft Dungeons is the latest in the Minecraft universe to hit video game platforms from the consoles to the PC. Shunned, thrown out and left to wander alone, a now powerful Illiger is taking revenge on everyone in the land and if they won’t submit, they die. Picking up your weapon as the hero that you are, it’s up to you and possibly three others to slay monsters, gain experience points, and stop the evil rampaging through the lands.
One thing right from the get go that I appreciated was that you didn’t have to be a big or avid Minecraft fan to enjoy Minecraft Dungeons. Having only dabbled with it in version… 0.3? Sometime back in 2012 at any rate, there’s a lot of the lore and the currently in place elements that I wouldn’t be able to tell you where they came from. That said, the story gives you enough to follow along and enjoy yourself even if you’re not quite sure where certain things are coming from, or what an “Illiger” really is. Thankfully if you don’t know, you’re sure to have friends close by or the internet to find out!
Diving into the gameplay, Minecraft Dungeons is a pretty standard, if not at times lighter, Dungeon Crawler. It follows a lot of the laid out formulas to the point of even perhaps too much as it even followed the path of features that some of us could pass upon such as never ending final dungeons that are almost obnoxiously long while adding no real flavour for it.
Starting off with a brief tutorial to show you what all of the controls do, you’re soon left to your own devices with the new and shiny gear that you’ll be picking up as you go. Drops from monsters, chests, chests… on pigs? Question mark? Will come in two main categories. Your core equipment and your artifacts. Core equipment is pretty basic with your melee weapon, your ranged weapon and your armor. Each of these is pretty self explanatory however there is a nice variety of gear to be found in order to use with some of my preferred ones being found much later. That is either because of the challenge rating or because of my luck. I’m seriously unsure on that front.
Your weapons will be a major deciding factor on how you want to proceed with crashing into the hordes of enemies that will eventually be coming at you. It was a little slow at first but it ramps up nicely. Swords, twin daggers, axes, pick axes, glaives, claymores, maces all offer up different attack speeds, knockbacks and attack radius giving you an idea of how you should be moving. If things get a bit too dicey, you can dodge roll out of the way but being more of a one time use, it should be kept for emergencies. Thankfully to smooth this out you have artifacts and some of them even let you dodge. Much less summon llamas.
Coming in two flavors. Artifacts either need to cooldown after being used, like summoning aid or doding, while others like healing yourself and your allies (including summoned help) require gathering souls. Up to three of these can be equipped at a time and there’s no restrictions on what you want to try using with what. Summon a Wolf and a Llama? Done. Summon a wolf, keep a heal on hand for it and you (you do have a cooldown potion by default) and a giant possible beam of death? Also done. The choice of yours and with other things such as a firework for a large ranged area of effect attack? There are a ton of choices for strategy.
Unfortunately it’s not all sunshine and rainbows while fighting against the hordes of undead and the minions of the Arch Illeger. Overall the difficulty scales well enough and on most stages you can even make it harder in order to get more experience points and level up. Doing so means that you may have to play a bit smarter because the enemies are both tougher and stronger than you, but that part is alright. Where things really don’t work and where Minecraft Dungeons falls into that having followed the formula a bit too well is with it’s ranged enemies. They are simply at all times more powerful and generally in a large crowd taking you from Hero to Zero is about a second flat. Adding that you can’t infinitely dodge? It gets brutal especially in the last few stages which does start to suck the fun out of it.
In a way, this can fortunately be leveraged in that Minecraft Dungeons is not a really long game. At least not in the sense of your initial run through the campaign being 4-6 hours while maybe having redone a stage or two on a harder challenge rating for better loot and exp. Things like overly lengthening stages and the artificial increase in difficulty aren’t as bad as they otherwise could have been because of this. Where things do get better, but you do have to pay attention to the enemy archers, is that once you’re done the first difficulty, another unlocks and even the first stages may tell you that you’re below the power level required. Does that stop you? Nope! It just makes it more exciting to see if you can actually survive.