Minecraft Dungeon - Short on Blocks (Game Review)
Publisher: Xbox Games Studios
Developer: Mojang Studios, Double Eleven
Platform: PS4, XB1, PC, Switch
Genre: Isometric Dungeon Crawler
Did anyone ask for another Minecraft game? Maybe a Minecraft sequel instead of a dungeon crawler much akin to Diable or Dungeon Siege if you're into that thing. As the title suggests, this is an isometric co-op based RPG or action game or whatever in the blanks because am drawing a blank page here.
Besides the difficulty of finding a perfect way to identify this game, MD isn't all that bad of a game. It's just lacking in more substance, depth and nuance that you find in most games these days. It was perfectly made for its market but felt like there was lot more to tap into.
But for a Microsoft release this underwhelming, is it worth the hours I've put into?
The story begins with our so-called heroes based on your choice of creation on a quest to vanquish the scourge of an illager named the Archi-illager. Who has found unfathomably evil powers with the purpose of subjecting all the village people who done him wrong to their doom.
The game has a simple story from A-C. But the way it was told in a whimsical, quaint fashion makes it worth exploring into just for the experience alone.
There are no voice dialogues, just a bunch of character hums and grunts. The only one who speaks is the narrator, she speaks enough to get the player clear context of what is going on.
It's a good story told for setting up the premise of the entire game mostly and it doesn't feel like it needed to do more. But it also ends with a cliffhanger ending, which given how ambivalent I was about the plot, didn't seem much of an issue to me either.
You start off by picking a character from different skins available and that's it. Off you go to your journey. Fighting off most of the enemies like asset flipped from OG Minecraft(I kid, few of them actually are). Collecting loot like weapons, enchanting them, using artifact items, and having llamas protect you. Yep, that's mostly it
It plays out like a formulaic dungeon crawler where you trek through selected levels from your base of operations, levels which are also procedurally generated. Kill baddies and collect loots. While it seems easy to just go through the levels without any form of curiosity about hidden levels. Which are actual dungeons(or secret levels as they call it) that you can find traversing each levels. You can even choose different difficulty levels on each of these levels provided you've unlocked them in the first place.
Main mechanics works like this, you click on enemies for melee attacks and aim for arrow attacks with the right click, hold for charged attacks. You have a dodge button which helps you avoid from being surrounded or projectile damage. Health potion that refills in time. Lastly, you can use only 3 artifact items with each distinctive abilities.
Weapons like melee and ranged can be obtained from the merchant in camps or gathered as loot during the levels. And, yes they have rarities. Each every weapon have different forms of enchantments, which costs you power points each earned from power ranks. Once used, they are forever embedded in each of these weapons(unless you scrap them which returns you the points spent while also destroying the item).
The level designs are great and broad in scope with chests, hidden items and hidden levels to find. Not only that, but they're procedurally generated as well. So restarting the same level, the experience will be different but only in layout. Each presents different kinds of enemies and booby traps to act as standard deviation within playthrough.
Before you venture off, you're in the camp site which has practice dummies and vendors that give you random loot provided you have currency to spend. It's RNG based which kind of seems very absent of a store economy presence.
The best way to describe what this game mostly does is "bare-bones". There are aspects here that could be reaped for better gameplay experience but at such a rudimentary stage, you're left pondering whether it's worth investing your time into or not.
It took me 12hrs to finish this game, not entirely but enough to understand what it has going for. Managed to speed up the process thanks to co-op play. Higher difficulties features better loot rewards but it's recommended that even if you're at higher level, you play it with friends as different variety of enemy A.I find ways to circumvent you. And yes, some levels have boss battles. They're pretty intense and can result in you dying a lot if you're not careful.
There are upcoming DLCs that will arrive in the game, of which ask of you to fork over more cash. Problem is, this game for me hasn't earned that right even if it's selling for 1/3 of normal AAA price. Better games in the indie scene have done far better. Even if there was something enjoyable to extract even in its more basic form.
If you want to play with friends locally or online, it's possible here with upto 4 players in session. Unfortunately if you don't have friends and you recently just bought a new system with this being one of the first games you've played, you won't be able to play with anyone via matchmaking because there is no online matchmaking.
While yes, it was made for condensed experience with fellow known players, it feels a little hollow. Especially considering you can't even trade weapons in this fashion.
But I had fun with what I got so far. You can revive friendlies provided you don't die from barrage of enemy attacks, taking you 4 seconds.
MD has great visual presentation, with its blocky and colorful aesthetics, it pulls off a great visual design with charming textures and effects above and all. No surprises since it is another favorable use of the UE4 engine. Not only that, but this game needs small computational resources to run, meaning that you could run this past 120FPS with my current config of RX 570 and Ryzen 5 1600.
The sound design is borrowed from Minecraft but tuned well for modern releases which is why at times it feels different listening to it. The music though is as same with soothing guitar solos accompanied by plucky strings while at climactic battle sequences, raises the bar to something more battle oriented.
Technical wise, this game mostly ran fine. No bugs or crashes, it's well optimized.
This is a more pruned up Microsoft release much like their other games within the last few months. I'd say they're doing really good this year, but this title is smudged somewhere between interesting and off-putting. It lacks content, it doesn't have much to offer. No sense of economy or trading. You have no character progression either. While I believe the latter was removed for the purpose of this particular game, you can't help but fill in the necessary gaps.
Even then, this was actually a fun romp into Minecraft based dungeon game. That actually has few dungeons actually. Even with its favorable price range, you're better off looking elsewhere like Path of Exiles or Grim Dawn. At least it reminds me of Torchlight.