Minecraft Dungeons review: A fun, family-friendly romp

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Having never played the original Minecraft before, I came to try Minecraft Dungeons with an open mind. Now, I know that it’s one of the most popular titles around, and, heck, we even considered it as our Game of the Decade for the 2010s. I also know that it allows players to let their imagination run wild, creating new worlds you never thought possible in a video game. Sadly, I simply didn’t understand its appeal.

Perhaps Minecraft Dungeons would help me find out why the original has been able to hook so many players. After all, this spinoff, co-developed by Mojang and Double Eleven, promises an experience like no other — a full-fledged Minecraft action role-playing game (ARPG). Let’s dive right into it in our official review.

Note: This review is in progress and will be updated shortly.


Minecraft Dungeons – The story so far

It’s a tale as old as time. A nameless outcast shunned by the world, driven by a lust for recognition and power, is finally corrupted by those needs. The Arch-Illager, as he’s called, is Minecraft Dungeons‘ big bad and the source of all that plagues the land.

Now, it’s up to you — and your friends — to end his reign of terror. It’s simple, even threadbare, but it didn’t need to be so overly complicated either.

Progression modes

Putting an end to the Arch-Illager’s schemes would take you through various locations marked on the world map. The levels themselves have a difficulty progression that’s dependent on your power (aka. gear score, item level, or other RPG terms you’re familiar with).

There are two kinds:

  • The campaign difficulty which has “Default,” “Adventure,” and “Apocalypse” as the settings. You won’t be able to select the tougher one until you beat the Arch-Illager in the previous mode. Think of this as akin to Diablo II‘s “Normal,” “Nightmare,” and “Hell” modes.
  • The level difficulty, meanwhile, is based on your overall power and multiple thresholds can be selected. For instance, there’s Default I, II, III, up to VI. You can select higher difficulties as long as you’re within the minimum power level requirement.

Of course, the higher the difficulty, the better the rewards. With regard to the campaign, Apocalypse mode is where you’ll find some of the neatest items in Minecraft Dungeons. As for each level, tougher modes will net you gear with higher power.

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Levels and blocks

In terms of the levels you select, the ones in Minecraft Dungeons are quite distinct in their presentation and environments. One might have a ruined village where your mission is to rescue civilians. The next one takes place in a swamp where the goal is to obtain a potion from the Arch-Illager’s cohorts. Another leads you to a desert canyon where you have to activate pylons and then collect a key that runs away whenever you get hit.

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There are also a few secrets that are hidden throughout these levels, so you might want to watch out for them. Similarly, you’ll find countless mobs and even elite enemies that would block your path.

The levels are rendered in the same blocky visuals that many fans have grown to love. And, yes, slowly but surely, I understood why the original Minecraft was well-liked by many — it really did have a unique feel and charm to it, and I couldn’t help but enjoy my romps.

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Loot and enchantments

Minecraft Dungeons might be an ARPG in the vein of Diablo or Path of Exile, but character builds or customization will come in the form of the items you have equipped. There are two main types:

  • Equipment – These would be your melee weapon, ranged weapon, and armor piece, and they all have certain stats to take note of. For example, using a dagger as your main weapon will let you do quick slashing attacks, but they’ve got poor range. Conversely, a glaive will help you with AoE attacks and higher damage output, but your swings will be significantly slower.
  • Artifacts – You’re allowed to equip three of these at any given time, and you can think of them as your skills or spells. Examples include the Flaming Quiver (turns your ranged weapon’s projectiles into burning arrows), the Wind Horn (pushes enemies away and slows them down), the Fishing Rod (pulls enemies towards you while stunning them), and the Harvester (collects the souls of slain enemies and allows you to unleash a devastating attack based on the number of souls it has consumed).

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Customization and character builds don’t stop there because you’ve also got enchantments. Every equipment has a selection of enchantments that you can select, giving them unique buffs that can also be leveled up. Even the same kind of item can have a different set of enchantments.

Some enchantments are there to increase the weapon’s damage or the armor’s mitigation capabilities. Others, meanwhile, could create food items that can heal you, or send enemies flying into a rage to attack their allies. The idea is to mix and match accordingly to find the combinations and setups that suit your playstyle.

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To be continued

It’s too early to tell what lies ahead in Minecraft Dungeons. I’m about to finish the campaign on “Default” mode, but I still need to tackle the next two modes to have a complete understanding of what the endgame entails. I would, preferably, want to reach a point where my character is blasting his way through countless hordes while making the Arch-Illager’s monsters an insignificant — rather than an insurmountable — challenge.

For now, I can say that I am enjoying what Minecraft Dungeons provides. Having never played Minecraft before, and wishing to experience the charm and wonderment it provided to millions, I do hope that its ARPG spinoff continues to entertain me as I progress further. Fingers crossed, so stay tuned for our updated review.

Minecraft Dungeons review: The final verdict

Updated: I continued onwards with my journey in Minecraft Dungeons and, just as I was eager to delve deeper, the campaign just ended. Granted, it was just the Default difficulty, but knowing I’d simply replay existing levels became quite a disappointment. It’s the Diablo-style lather, rinse, and repeat until you’ve reached the endgame without necessarily expanding on the story.

The downside was that the endgame also left you wanting more, not just in terms of levels or bosses, but proper builds and synergies that every ARPG should have. It struck me as odd that Minecraft — touted as a game that let your imagination run free with near-infinite replayability — would have a spinoff that was very linear and lacking in anything else but a “redo all these steps” progression system.

On a positive note, for however short it may be, Minecraft Dungeons still provides a solid, family-friendly romp. Thanks to local and online co-op support, the game is guaranteed to provide great bonding time for parents and their kids.

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Minecraft Dungeons releases on May 26. You can purchase the game from the Microsoft Windows Store or subscribe to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass for PC.

Note: A review code for this title was provided by Microsoft.

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Even though the campaign might be short and the mechanics a tad bit shallow for an ARPG, Minecraft Dungeons still manages to dazzle at times with its unique charm. With online and local/couch co-op multiplayer, you can have a blast and enjoy your romps with this family-friendly offering.

Jason Rodriguez
About The Author
Jason Rodriguez is a guides writer. Most of his work can be found on PC Invasion (around 3,400+ published articles). He's also written for IGN, GameSpot, Polygon, TechRaptor, Gameskinny, and more. He's also one of only five games journalists from the Philippines. Just kidding. There are definitely more around, but he doesn't know anyone. Mabuhay!