Minecraft Dungeons Impressions: Light Dungeon Crawls Best Experienced With Others

Minecraft Dungeons releases soon to move the Minecraft franchise in a creative direction by sending players on a Diablo-style adventure full of loot, missions, and perilous dungeons to explore. It’s a big departure from the traditional Minecraft formula where you build as much as you can and try and survive the night until you’re ready to build again, and in many ways, it works well. It’s the perfect introduction to this type of game which might not satisfy those looking for more challenging dungeon crawls, but it feels like a worthwhile venture for anyone who’s interested and is made far better with companions.

Having only just gotten a review copy for Minecraft Dungeons recently, we aren’t at the point yet where we can confidently share a full review of the game. But after a few hours spent with it, it’s clear the dungeon crawler formula works in Minecraft Dungeons, even if its much lighter version of what players are used to.

The class system in Minecraft Dungeons, or the lack thereof, is the first design decision that’ll come as a letdown to some. The new Minecraft game adopts an everyone can be everything style and lets players’ avatars build their loadouts with whatever weapons, armors, and Artifacts they want without any restrictions placed on usage. This is a big boon to accessibility since you never feel locked into your decisions or required to continue down one path, but it also means that anyone can take over your role whenever they want. You may put on your robe and wizard hat and sling spells while healing teammates, but your friends can do that just as easily so long as they have the gear.

Once you figure out what kind of character you want to be and get into the thick of it with mobs like spiders and zombies and skeletons, Minecraft Dungeons moves along at a pretty brisk pace. The first level after the tutorial starts piling the mobs on in a fashion that’ll feel more familiar to those acquainted with the genre where you have to train enemies behind you and divide up responsibilities to target more problematic ones first. As is the case with any game of this style, the loot is somewhat underwhelming at the start, but it gradually gets better as players do themselves, and seeing a shiny “Unique” piece of gear pop out of a chest shows that the dopamine burst of finding loot translates perfectly to the Minecraft aesthetic.

As challenging as it may be in some parts, Minecraft Dungeons never really teeters on “difficult.” A difficulty slider moves increases the risk and the prospects of better loot, and the game adapts to how many players are taking part. Other difficulty options are present later on, but even if you’re playing by yourself, you can still manage the high end of the slider so long as you’ve got decent loot and space yourself out from enemies.

On the topic of playing with friends, it’s also important to know that playing with others as opposed to just yourself is quite the night-and-day experience. When playing solo, you start to notice how quiet things are. The soundtrack perfectly fits a Minecraft universe, but it’s not always the most invigorating one to listen to when you’re slaying waves of mobs. It picks up during more heated moments like boss fights, but it still sometimes feels at odds with the rest of the game. Sound effects for weapons and other combative actions pulled into Minecraft Dungeons have a similar effect. I’m not saying I want to be able to “feel” the skeleton’s bones crunching under a pickaxe, but the weapons like axes, swords, and daggers don’t feel different enough to make me choose one over the other based on anything more than pure stats and enchantments.

Once you start playing with friends, those quiet moments go away. Callouts and exclamations after finding loot fill the void felt when playing solo which isn’t a perfect solution to Minecraft Dungeons or any game, but it works here. Minecraft Dungeons has always been heavily geared towards multiplayer from the beginning, so it makes sense that this seems like the best way to play even if it’s a bummer for those who prefer to go at it by themselves.

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There’s still much more to be done in Minecraft Dungeons though, so hopefully things iron themselves out as we get better loot and face more difficult challenges. More experience is needed going both alone and with friends before passing a final verdict, but Minecraft Dungeons, for now, is definitely worth trying out considering how much of a diversion it is from traditional Minecraft and its low cost.

Minecraft Dungeons is being reviewed on a base Xbox One. A review code was provided by the publisher.