Microsoft has held the Minecraft IP pretty close to its chest since purchasing Mojang in late 2014. A few side games have been produced, notably Telltale’s Minecraft: Story Mode adventure, but Mojang itself has continued to develop and expand the original game instead of bringing any new titles underneath the Minecraft umbrella. That changes with Minecraft Dungeons, a game that plays very differently than Minecraft, but which keeps its whimsy and ease of play.
The easiest way to explain Minecraft Dungeons is that it’s basically a Minecraft-themed Diablo. However, that doesn’t really do the game justice. Minecraft Dungeons manages to streamline the action RPG experience while still retaining enough to make for an entrancing hack and slash looter.
In the alpha, I got to view (and briefly play) the Desert Temple with a co-op team. Minecraft Dungeons keeps the story really simple, so the reason you’re at this temple is because there’s a necromancer there doing bad things with an enchanted staff and you need to stop them. There’s just enough of an outline there to give you a reason to kill a bunch of skeletons and other Minecraft baddies.
The focus in Minecraft Dungeons is co-op gameplay. It allows for four-player drop-in multiplayer, and even in the alpha, I saw that it was awesome. Above all else, Mojang wants this game to be fun, so there are few limitations. There are no classes; instead, your armor gives you bonuses towards specific weapons or abilities. You get a ranged and a melee weapon slot, and each has several types of weapons that can be equipped. The melee slot, for example, lets you equip swords, which are balanced in speed and power; hammers, which are slow but pack massive damage and knockback; scythes, which are fast; and others.
The fascinating thing about the equipment system is that it doesn’t lock you out of anything. When I found an item that was a much higher level than me, I could still use it. The devs stated that they didn’t see any reason why players should be locked out of something fun. Picking up an OP weapon or armor and then slamming enemies left and right is fun, so Mojang doesn’t feel like there should be arbitrary limits locking away that fun.
My team only saw the Desert Temple, but I got the impression that the levels would mostly share the same types of objectives. Here, we had to fight our way to the necromancer boss and defeat him to clear the level. A handle objective arrow will always keep you on track, so there’s no getting lost, which keeps the action going at a swift pace.
The team also stated their commitment to making sure that there would be no predatory microtransactions. That means there are no loot boxes in Minecraft Dungeons. Though I only got to spend 30 minutes with the game, it’s evident that the team behind Minecraft Dungeons has a clear direction they want to take it. It’s like Diablo with no pretense, and it works exceptionally well.
Minecraft Dungeon PC and Xbox players are confirmed to be able to crossplay, with other platforms as a possibility, so this game may be one of the most accessible multiplayer games coming up. We’ll get to see more of Minecraft Dungeon in the coming months and when it releases to the public in Q2 2020 on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.