Minecraft Dungeon will be released early next week (May 26) for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch and PC. While the opinion embargo is now lifted, Jeff Cork is still working hard through this light action / RPG in order to deliver our opinion. If you cannot wait for this final analysis, I also spent several hours with this cooperative adventure, and although I am not ready to ask the controller, I do not know how long this loot version will keep me interested.
At first glance, it’s easy to cancel Dungeons as Diablo for Minecraft fans, and some of these comparisons are justified. Up to four players team up to explore a variety of dungeons as they pass through hordes of monsters and collect loot that makes their heroes stronger. The main loop remains inviting, but its loot implementation is a bit complicated.
All of your skills and abilities are tied to your gear, which provides a unique spin on the traditional action class / RPG system. I appreciate the flexibility it offers because I was able to taste several different abilities by simply swapping my weapons and artifacts. One piece of equipment I acquired early was a horn that repelled enemies and slowed them down for a few seconds. It has been incredibly useful when dealing with swarms, and I really like using it to repel enemies from the cliffs.
The loot system is also flexible enough that you can create interesting versions. At one point, I became an imposing tank that sent the damage back to my enemies. Another time, I experienced a support class that slowed down enemies while I healed my friends. You can even equip an assortment of equipment that allows you to summon pets and other aids, allowing you to lead a small army into battle. Unfortunately, when it comes to character archetypes, you’re at the mercy of random drops. At one point, I acquired a really nice bow and a few artifacts that boosted my ranged attacks, so it would have been smart to play like a rogue. However, I wanted to play as a close combat tank, and unfortunately I was not getting the right gear to support this style of play.
You gain enchantment tokens as you level up, which are used to power your favorite equipment. Unfortunately, the only way to get these tokens is to destroy the equipment they power. This means that you have to commit to each piece of equipment; without destroying your previous enchanted gear, you probably won’t have enough tokens to see what promising new gear is really capable of. There were several times when I wanted to power on new equipment and test its limits, but I hesitated because I was not ready to destroy my existing equipment to retrieve their tokens.
Despite some awkward elements in the loot system, Dungeons is otherwise an incredibly accessible game. I enjoyed feeding my hero during those first hours. The fundamentals of the dungeons are easy to understand and its different difficulty settings made it easy to find a challenge with which I was comfortable. I had the most fun going through dungeons with a few friends, but playing solo is also a good time. Dungeons maintains Minecraft’s unique visual style, but it also adds some subtle visual effects that really do appear and lend an appropriate amount of chaos to larger battles. I have never been a big fan of the Minecraft visual style, but the Dungeons aesthetic doesn’t stop me.
Without fully exploring the endgame options, I’m not sure how (or if) one of the biggest problems in Minecraft Dungeons will be solved. I’m hoping Mojang will add more random elements to the dungeons after defeating the final boss, and I’d love to see a way to activate or customize some of my favorite gear. Overall, Minecraft Dungeons takes bold swings and offers a different action / RPG flavor. If you’re in the mood for something casual and new, Dungeon’s may be a good choice, but it won’t be for everyone.
While you wait for the full review, read our article on game development here.