Minecraft Dungeons Is Too Simple For Most

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Minecraft Dungeons Is Too Simple For Most

Minecraft Dungeons is pretty straightforward. So straightforward that you could probably say it’s the simplest – and shallowest – dungeon crawler around.

Minecraft Dungeons is the first foray for the blocky, voxel universe into dungeon crawling. You’re a basic Minecraft character, running around ten different worlds smashing boxy wizards, skeletons, creepers and other Minecraft enemies. There’s a little bit of a plot running throughout, but the main motivation here is to smash up enemies for loot, gain levels, and keep doing that until big numbers get bigger.

The whole game can be played in solo or co-op, and levels scale with the amount of players in-game. In solo play, you get three lives to complete each of the game’s 10 main story levels. In co-op, you’re reliant on being revived by heroes if you fall. Either way, once you’re dead, or run out of lives, you’ll have to restart the mission again.

The co-op play is missing some crucial features, though. For one, there’s no matchmaking. Cross-play isn’t enabled either, which is a massive shame. Gear dropped can’t be shared with other players. Players can’t steal each others’ gear, at least, but loot drops for every single level are fixed. This means while you’re free to play as a survival melee character, a ranged specialist or the game’s equivalent of a caster, you’re really stuck to whatever loot gets dropped. Your equipment doesn’t scale as you level, and you can’t spend your in-game currency on upgrades.

So it’s hard to really invest into any synergy between your items or enchantments, because you’ll end up just discarding them in an hour for something with a bigger number.

When you’ve run through all of the main missions, you’ll unlock a second difficulty level, adventure. When you complete the missions once more after that, you’ll unlock Apocalypse, which ramps up the difficulty and rewards once again. There’s some secret dungeons to find throughout the world, but there’s not really an endgame as such. Beat the end boss on the final difficulty, and you’re done.

The levels do look nice, and they echo the Minecraft aesthetic well. But that’s about as far as the Minecraft comparisons go. There’s no world generation or destruction like you might expect from a Minecraft game. You can’t build anything back at base camp. It’s really just Baby’s First Diablo wearing a Minecraft skin.

And that’s principally fine. The controls handle well enough, and all the attack animations and effects look nice. You can change your outfit and build on the fly, completely or partially. Different weapons and items have their own attack timers and cooldowns, and there’s plenty of variety with all the potential loadouts.

But anyone hoping for a meaty dungeon crawler with a good amount of randomisation for the endgame is going to be pretty disappointed. The whole game – which is all 10 levels replayed three times on increasing difficulty levels – will only take about 10 to 12 hours, depending on luck and whether you’re grinding solo or in co-op. It’s easier in co-op, just because all the ranged mobs have more people to target, but it’s not a challenging game by any means.

For me, as someone who grew up getting a shiver as soon as I heard the Butcher roar in the original Diablo, there’s not much incentive to replay Minecraft Dungeons over and over. The content isn’t there. The mechanics are the same as every other dungeon crawler. The world doesn’t have that depth or interactivity or interesting storylines you can find in other games. Minecraft Dungeons is competent enough, save for some bugs and geometry quirks, but it’s also missing systems and features and options for doing the basic things that you’d expect from something releasing in 2020.

But I care about all of those things because I know they exist. I know they exist because I’ve played other ARPGs. If I’m six or seven years old, and the most I know about video games is all that my parents have let me play since I was old enough to hold a controller without destroying it, I’m not going to have years or decades of experience and expectation. So for a kid, maybe five, six, seven or eight year old playing Minecraft day in and day out, Minecraft Dungeons could be what they’re looking for.

And even if it’s not, it could at least be something their parents are looking for – another inoffensive, charming, blocky game without blood or any themes that might spawn awkward questions at the dinner table. So that’s not to be ignored.

Still, there’s some lacking systems and strange design choices. There’s nothing to do with the in-game money you earn, other than buying randomised items or weapons from the merchants. You can’t buy supplies or spare arrows before heading out on a mission, which can lead to some weird situations if you’ve doubled down on an archer build and you’re starting a mission with 20 arrows. Being able to disassemble equipment into arrows or at least other randomised weapons would have made sense – it’s Minecraft, after all. Creating things is what the series is all about.

But you don’t get any of that in Minecraft Dungeons. It’s the bare basics of a dungeon crawler. It’s competent, but lacking ambition. It’s mechanically satisfying, but in the same way that eating a chip can give you a short, sweet hit of adrenaline. It lasts for the briefest of moments, so you grab a second chip, and then a third, and a fourth, until you stop yourself or the bag runs out.

Minecraft Dungeons‘ bag of tricks looks and sounds like Minecraft, but once you’ve seen its first trick, you’ve seen all it has to offer. For kids and parents looking for something inoffensive and light-hearted to play together, that might be fine. But kids are a hell of lot smarter than what most give them credit for. And adults? There’s a couple of hours of fun here, but you’ll find more sustenance elsewhere.


Minecraft Dungeons is out now on PC (through the Microsoft Store), PS4, Xbox One and Switch.

Comments

  • I feel that games like Minecraft Dungeons are just like the random docos you see on Netflix.

    you would never go out of your way to play/watch them, but since they’re part of a subscription you’ll give them a go. So they do more to promote the service than the actual game/show itself.

  • Having never played a dungeon crawler before this looked like a light enough game to jump into. I’m enjoying it with my son (aged 7) and it’s great for some co op. Only 10 levels does seem a bit short though. I wonder if he can handle the higher difficulties.

    • I played a couple of levels with my almost 7 year old on the weekend, and i he loved getting new gear and wanted to keep exploring all the different paths. He also recognises all the enemies and thinks its hilarious to steal all the arrows so i can’t have any. I am not interested in playing myself but we will definitely play through it all together as he was really enjoying it.

  • “Too Simple For Most” is a bit presumptuous.

    Sure, it’s a stripped back casual game that was never going to compete with Path of Exile or Diablo, but most of the other reviews I’ve read suggest that character builds are surprisingly flexible, combat is simple but relatively satisfying, and that the amount of content is about what you’d expect for the price point.

    There has to be a place in computer games for some light, colourful brain candy without dismissing this style of game as “just for kids”.

    Not all of us want to min/max highly specialised character builds while chaining spell combos speed running gritty, sepia-toned open-world regions crammed with corpses hanging from lamp posts. Some of us just want to chill and watch colourful things explode – I do more than enough thinking in my day job, by the end of the day I often just want to blow off a bit of mental energy and relax.

    Casual games are a huge market indeed, if you include mobiles, they are “most” of the computer game market.

    • Totally, and I’ve tried to make that distinction. It’s a game in a similar spot to a lot of mobile titles: most of the people who create content, or make coverage around games, aren’t going to be the target audience for Minecraft Dungeons.

      I don’t think that means it deserves a complete pass – the game was made by former Rockstar developers with a long track record, so this isn’t their first rodeo or anything. But you could also still have that super chill, casual ARPG experience with maybe a couple more systems or concessions.

      Anyway, setting expectations here is the important bit. Most people seem to get who the game is for and under what circumstances, and that’s the main objective.

  • It’s dull, uninspired, trading off the reputation of the parent game, no personality and as boring as my day job. Like already said if it wasn’t offered with game pass I’d be right royally ticked off if I’d bought it at full whack.

    • Absolutely this.

      I tried it with game pass and found it exceedingly underwhelming, so I uninstalled and moved along. Can’t imagine how much different my reaction might have been if I’d actually paid for it outright.

      • I paid for the full version that includes future DLC and in my first hour or two, i was also dissapointed.

        That was because i had expectations for what a dungeon crawler RPG is like.

        As soon as i dropped the expectations and took it for what it is, i fell in love with the simplicity of it. Sure, there is a lot to be desired but i think leaving expectations behind is key to enjoying the game.

  • Considering my price point was ‘download it as part of Xbox Game Pass’, I’d say my time spent with it has definitely been worth it. Otherwise, I’m genuinely enjoying it so far and I’m looking forward to seeing how they can expand the experience over time. I get the feeling, like Minecraft itself, that they will be working on this for some time to come.

  • It’s my 10 year old sons first dungeon crawler. He’d shown no interest in the genre before. He downloaded it through GamePass. He greatly enjoyed it, and finished the campaign in a week. Maybe he wants to play something more complex now, maybe not. But he loved it, so that’s a plus in my bookm

  • I don’t think the game is aimed at as.

    The vast majority of the Minecraft userbase is children. That’s who this game is aimed at.

  • is it just me, or is this just a bunch of adults complaining that they’re bored by a game that’s clearly aimed at kids? I’m sure there’ll be a bunch of DLC coming out eventually, but not everyone wants to sink 100+ hours into a dungeon crawler, especially 10 year olds, or other casual gamers. But if it’s a good vanilla dungeon crawler aimed at introducing kids and casuals to the genre? AMAZING. MORE OF THAT PLEASE.

    I wish people would stop having this entitled opinion that everything is for them always.

  • I liked what I saw, and I enjoy what I’ve played.

    I’ve grown up playing Diablo 2 for several hundred hours, hell I was even top on HC ladder before. Comparing the two seems pretty wrong to me.

    To me Minecraft Dungeons doesn’t try to be a min/max arpg where grinding the perfect gear is supposed to be something you do. It’s more about finding different combinations and to have fun playing around with them.

    With different enchantments being available for almost every piece of gear and the randomization of them makes it more appealing to me. How Diablo II did it with their rares, and something that, imo, Diablo 3 failed to do.

  • I like Penny Arcade’s take: it’s a game that doesn’t take for granted the long history of the evolution of ARPGs that inform design and choices of modern games. It is a game for beginners of the genre, particularly, younger players.

  • I think the simplicity is what makes it complex. Its so simple that anyone can really pick it up and have fun, but at the same time it becomes complex because the enchantments and artifacts have little requirements or setbacks.
    This allows for you to use a lot of things in conjunction which, in my opinion, allows for complex strategies.
    Say I have a sword that I enchanted to heal me every few hits, this, along with my armor that increases my attack speed, allows me to easily take on hordes of enemies that would normally take me out quickly.
    Another example is a bow that fires 3 arrows at once. Cool, right? Then I add the ricochet enchantment, and the enchantment that gives it a chance to fire five arrows in all directions upon impact makes a super bow.

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