Anyone with a small child who is into gaming will have come up against the same struggle. Finding a game that isn’t too hard yet is also enough of a challenge to keep them entertained. Unsurprisingly Mojang, with the years of experience have managed to hit that sweet spot with Minecraft Dungeons. It’s just hard enough that they may ask you to help as well.
The game is very much Diablo. You fight off hordes and hordes of enemies straight out of the Minecraft universe all in the name of cleansing the land from the oppression of the Arch Illager. Skeletons, creepers and spiders are the main enemy type but before long shamen and summoner types appear to buff the enemy hordes. The simple yet addictive task of hacking your way through them is mostly done with a sword and bow.
Of course, being a homage to Diablo, there is a mountain of loot and loot drops to acquire, from better weapons and armour to familiars and crowd control attacks. If you look deep enough there is a challenging model hidden behind the child-friendly exterior. The enchanting and salvaging system is nicely simplified with enchants earned with every level up and salvage obtained with the press of a button. Luckily you get your enchantments back as well. lucky when your son has put all his enchantments into the armour that gives him a friendly bat but has just picked up a rarer version. It is all geared to be user friendly and addictive without being overly exploitative.
The only problems with Minecraft Dungeons come when Minecraft fans play it without knowing what to expect. It is simplistic, repetitive and the graphics aren’t anything special. If it was looked at on merits against Diablo 3 it would be a miserable runner up. But people would be missing the point. The difficulty is pitched just right for younger gamers with the ability to go back and play earlier levels with different objectives and different difficulties to help you level up for the later levels because when you get there there is a difficulty spike if you have been coasting up until then.
The later levels have mid-level bosses, more special enemy types and much more enemy buffing meaning that before long you can be surrounded and defeated. Luckily you have 3 lives to play with and there is an almost instant respawn. All these aspects are designed to make it as welcoming as possible to the younger players. The Minecraft graphical style and some good explosion effects round off the presentation well and the addition of drop-in multiplayer when your children need help is also useful. It has been designed from the ground up to be a gateway game to more complicated versions as already I can see my son dealing with inventory management and avoiding enemies until their skills recharge.
If you are coming to this as an older gamer, there just isn’t enough to make you want to play to the end. The higher difficulties are hard enough but the enemies don’t get drastically more difficult just more numerous and varied and once you’ve seen the enchantments and all the weapon types you will quickly crave more than the game can give you. If you are younger and this is your first dungeon crawler RPG you will think it is amazing.
The cheaper price point and inclusion on Microsoft Gamepass shows Mojang want to get this in front of as many people as possible and that makes you feel like the game is a bit sparse in levels. With DLC coming in the summer this should be addressed but at the moment you could do all levels on the default difficulty in a few hours. Naturally what has been mentioned earlier means there is plenty of scope for replayability and there are always better weapons and loot to be found. While it is keeping the youngster in my house entertained, it may prove too simplistic for any gamer over 10 despite the solid systems that are hidden beneath the surface.