It’s been years since I played a Minecraft game on any console. I was lucky enough to attend the first-ever MineCon as a member of the press in 2011 but since then, I’ve followed what the team at Mojang has done but I didn’t spend any time playing the game. But as a fan of Diablo, the concept behind Minecraft Dungeons sounded really intriguing. Unfortunately, this is a game that starts off with a lot of promise but left me frustrated and disappointed.
This is your standard Action-RPG affair. Instead of building or playing a character based on a particular class, you’re simply fighting through waves of enemies and wandering through different environments collecting the best gear and following a pretty bare-bones story. Your character will don some sort of armor and hold a close-combat and ranged weapon. This is where some of the creativity comes into play. Early on, you’re getting a lot of gear and you can really go all out decking your character in any number of different combinations.
Every weapon and armor have their perks and as you level up, you’ll earn enchantments that you can add to those items to improve their passive abilities. You can find the same weapon and it will deal the same amount of damage but their abilities will differ greatly. You’ll have to make some choices early on but the game’s difficulty doesn’t punish you…yet.
Additionally, there are also some spells, called artifacts, that will also help you along the way. Some help you move faster or help to replenish your health and they too will improve as you progress. This further expands on the creative options for your player’s build.
Most improvements end up feeling random. There is no way to pick or buy the armor or weapons that best suit your play style. While there is the ability to spend the currency you collect to get weapons and artifacts, they are completely random and rarely give you something better than what you need.
In these types of games, I love being an archer, able to attack from afar. But in Minecraft Dungeons, it’s not possible to play a particular class from start to finish. You’ll have to mix it up with both close and long-range attacks. What’s more frustrating to this is that you have a finite number of arrows and getting additional ones is completely up to chance.
The game itself is pretty straightforward. Like other dungeon-based action-RPGs, you’re traveling from point-a to point-b disposing of countless numbers of enemies. The default difficulty doesn’t really offer many secrets or branching points. After beating the game the first time, some secret levels can be found but you’ll probably miss out on them if you don’t feel compelled to play the game a second or third time.
Also, game’s difficulty goes from consistent to frustrating as you get closer to the end. The first six or seven missions gradually get more challenging. You might die once or twice but you should be able to finish the stage without losing all your lives. However, when I got to the last stage, I was actually under-leveled. So, I then had to play through the final few missions multiple times to level up before I could finish the game.
What’s worse, that last mission is super frustrating. The narrow paths make it easy to get swarmed by enemies. If you don’t have the right weapons (or in my case, enough arrows), you’re going to die again and again. It was disappointing to experience this sudden jump in difficulty on the default setting. I would expect this kind of increase on a second or third playthrough but not here.
Because of the random loot drops, while I was trying to increase my character’s level to better tackle the final boss, I wasn’t getting the gear I wanted/needed. In order to win, I had to completely adjust my play style. It didn’t help that the best weapon I had was the slow claymore. Yes, it’s powerful, but not quick enough for me to handle the mix of close-range enemies that were in my way.
Separate from the difficult jump, it was odd at how little Minecraft there is in this game. I was expecting the ability to craft my own weapons with the stuff I found. I was also hoping to explore the world a bit more. There is nothing close to this. Yes, it’s Minecraft in its aesthetics but nothing more.
If you do get through the game on default difficulty, there is the option to play the game two more times with increased difficulty. The difficulty ramps up a fair amount and there are a few secrets to be found but I wasn’t compelled to go back and keep playing.
I really wanted to enjoy Minecraft Dungeons more, especially after its strong start. But, as I neared the end, I just wanted to defeat the boss so I wouldn’t have to play anymore. Yes, I went back to quickly try the Adventure difficulty, but I was still getting weaker loot and I wasn’t really having any fun. Maybe there is a bit more depth if you play it with others, but the solo experience pretty much ends once you beat the game the first time.