Minecraft Dungeons review for Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4, Switch, PC
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Mojang Studios, Double Eleven
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

As much as I have enjoyed Diablo and Diablo-like games, and enjoyed Minecraft at various points in my life, the thought of combining the two never really occurred to me. But hey, someone thought of it, and now we?ve got the recent release of Minecraft Dungeons to prove it. Minecraft Dungeons is basically just that, the visual look of the blocky world of Minecraft built upon an Action-RPG foundation, complete with experience, leveling up, and loot in various qualities.

When it comes to Diablo clones, Minecraft Dungeons is pretty solid but comes up just short of being excellent. I dug the Minecraft aesthetic throughout, I think the designers were pretty imaginative in the locations, enemies, and boss encounters you?ll come across. I also really enjoyed the soundtrack, which sticks to that whole ambient, light music vibe that Minecraft has always had. However, once I hit the final difficulty in the game, I found my interest in the game starting to wane just a bit. 

Part of that comes from how empty the maps feel, and how rarely you?re awarded for exploring them. The maps are procedurally generated, but usually pretty large. They all have little corners and pathways to check out which is nice, but they tend to just lead to dead-ends with nothing else to see. Sometimes you?ll get a map that has a few little side-dungeons to explore, which is great, but for me, it rarely happened, despite playing through the campaign three times. There are a couple of secrets tucked away, leading to some additional stages, but once you?ve found those there is little else to explore. 

The only real incentive for exploring is killing more enemies, which will gain you experience at least, but getting meaningful loot to drop off of enemies is often like pulling teeth. A full level run, exploring every nook and cranny, will often only net you a handful of items. Even then, there?s a good chance those items will come at an item gear level that?s less than what you currently have equipped unless you?ve just bumped up to the next difficulty tier.

On the plus side, I think Minecraft Dungeons handles its difficulty settings really well, making the game pretty accessible for anyone. Ther are three overall campaign difficulties, giving you three full runs through the game if you?re looking to get the most out of it. However, there?s another tier of adjustable difficulties that you can adjust with each story mission. It?s basically a slider that will let you make the game harder for better loot and more experience, or if you?re having trouble with a particular stage, you can dial it back quite a bit, until you feel ready to tackle harder content. 

I also thought that Minecraft Dungeon?s weapon enchantment system was interesting, even it?s not quite as satisfying in comparison to a standard skill tree or class options. Basically, in lieu of picking a character class, all characters in Minecraft Dungeon start off the same, with the only difference being the character skin you chose at the beginning of the game. All of your customization will come from weapon enchantments tied to your melee weapon, armor, and ranged weapon. Each weapon will have an assortment of enchantments available, which you can then spend points on in order to increase the effectiveness of the enchantment. If you get tired of any particular build, you can just salvage a piece of gear, which will give you back all your points, allowing you to spend them on something new. 

My only other complaint, which might not affect everyone, is the lack of online multiplayer matchmaking. Right now you can only team up with the people from your friend list, or playing locally with others at home. For me, as someone that doesn?t have anyone on their friends list actively playing the game right now, my options have been pretty limited. Ideally, this is something that will get patched in at some point, but it wasn?t something I was aware of when I started playing and figured it?s worth knowing if you plan on checking the game out.

Despite some issues, it?s hard to suggest not playing Minecraft Dungeons, considering the low entry price on most platforms, and the fact that it?s free on Xbox One via Game Pass if you?re already subscribed. It?s a fun take on a traditional Action-RPG that utilizes the Minecraft charm really well and will make for a fun time, especially if you can get a friend or two to tag along with you. 

Note: Microsoft provided us with a Minecraft Dungeons Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: B