There is no particular reason for Minecraft Dungeons to be a Minecraft game. Its dungeon exploration gameplay could adapt to any fantasy setting, its enemies could be villains of any hack-and-slash monster. There is no mining or crafting. And yet the Minecraft theme makes a lot of sense: it’s a friendly aesthetic for a different genre, its enemies are instantly recognizable, and while you won’t be spending your time knocking down walls, there is a lot of character building involved. to master. .
Due to launch in the summer of 2020 for PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One, Minecraft Dungeons is a user-friendly RPG dungeon exploration game. Whether alone or with a group of friends, you walk through its procedurally generated hallways and caverns, sweeping up monsters and collecting loot. The more loot you get, the faster enemies drop, the bigger the enemies, the better the loot they drop.
As someone who spends their time playing Minecraft with Survival mode, Dungeons plays directly into the risk and reward of venturing into one of the main game’s caves, not knowing exactly how things are going to turn out. But it’s also a more structured experience – there’s a firm start and end to each level, with bosses and mini-bosses, keys to find, and traps to work around.
On your character page, you have slots for a close combat weapon, magic bow and arrows, as well as an artifact with various properties. One is a horn that knocks all enemies back a few steps, good for crowd control. But mostly I stayed with a sort of fixed anti-mob bubble, good to place in bottlenecks. There are also slots for traditional Minecraft armor types, with additional RPG-like levels and stat boosts attached. There is no class system in Minecraft Dungeons – just the ability to tailor your character using armor and weapons in whatever build you want.
You can roll around to avoid traps and enemies, summon a friendly pet to help you fight, and drink health potions (albeit on a cooldown). And you’ll need it, as Minecraft’s familiar zombies and spiders soon give way to new, beefier enemies with more diverse powers. There’s a floating pixie spitting AOE green light and wizards with magical laser beams. Even the keys you need to locate are alive.
My favorite moment was the realization that the key I had picked up had fled after being hit by an environmental trap – two blocks slamming me on either side. Probably annoyed that I didn’t roll over and missed the trap in time, the key had gone up and gone, and needed some backtracking to find it. I discovered it while weeping a few passages later.
A handy icon always shows you the vague route ahead, and there’s a simple map overlay you can leave open on your screen showing your location and other players’ locations so you don’t become too separated. Only once, when another player was onscreen with about 15 enemies spitting projectiles, performance slowed down.
I’m curious what there is to do with the in-game emerald currency, which satisfactorily spits out treasure chests and is abandoned by bigger crowds (there’s also a crowd of pigs with a chest in the treasure on the back, unfortunately you have to bring it down to catch its prize). The demo here at Gamescom was timed, so I never saw an end screen. And I’m interested to see what other areas and enemies lie ahead. The level I saw was based on a Desert Temple, although there are plenty of opportunities for other biomes to offer new types of challenges. There’s still about a year to go until the game launches, but it looks promising – and like Minecraft itself, there’s a lot to build on.