Minecraft Dungeons (Xbox One) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 19.08.2020

Review for Minecraft Dungeons on Xbox One

Microsoft has owned Minecraft for a long time now, and has made some considerable changes to its formula without losing the base appeal of the game. It was about time, here in 2020, that the developers in Mojang got to flex their creative muscles, and make something new; something that fits the Minecraft mythos, without using any of that original's gameplay loop. They landed on a dungeon crawling, looter RPG, so it's time to dive in and see what lies in the darkness!

There was little expectation of a stunning game when going in to this review. Minecraft has been doing the rounds for years and since Microsoft's buyout it's not done a huge amount of new things except for being adapted to every device available and gaining some, admittedly, great new features. It was with much trepidation that Dungeons was installed, and then once it opened up it was flabbergasting to see just how wrong that first impression had been. This adventure follows the story of the evil Illager as he tries to take revenge on those who made his life difficult, it's a simple premise but enough to drive the action. As a player you pick a hero and head off through various themed biome levels smashing some traditional and less traditional Minecraft wildlife.

Screenshot for Minecraft Dungeons on Xbox One

Naturally the focus is on smashing through levels with friends but those who don't want to play multiplayer will be glad to know that the single player mode is well balanced. The main adventure gameplay is from a top-down isometric camera that is fairly zoomed out, but provides nice sweeping views of the rather impressively deep and detailed block scenery. Attacking is a simple case of one button to melee which can be chained into a combo, right trigger to enter aim mode for a ranged weapon, and finally a set of special moves that let players fire fireballs, heal, buff, or debuff themselves and use powerful area attacks.

If you've played Diablo you know the deal. One thing that was immediately not cool was the default movement speed - it's quite slow and can be enhanced with items or with power ups found in the world. It's fair to say this may be to make the game more approachable by those who might struggle with speed or be overwhelmed by the various elements at a faster speed. One finicky control scheme is using the dodge to roll over gaps in lieu of jumping. This frequently led to death by throwing the character off cliffs or into water, when a much simpler jump could have been mapped to one of the unused buttons.

Screenshot for Minecraft Dungeons on Xbox One

Enemy variety is great, featuring many traditional enemies such as zombies and creepers, but this spices them up by varying their types, giving them different abilities, and generally buffing them up. Fighting is quite basic, with the aforementioned single attack button and ranged attacks, but it is not easy. Deceptively, the first level is easy, with just a small sprinkling of zombies to fight past, but after that point the user can pick from a variety of auto-generated dungeon biomes. These have huge variety, and each has a unique aesthetic and some unique enemies, as well as having its own quest relating to the Illager, and foiling his evil plans. These are all spectacularly rendered in a Minecraft style but with some shine and sparkle provided by the game's use of the Unreal engine instead of a proprietary game engine.

In other words, it looks like Minecraft, but shinie, and with non destructible environments. The environments never feel randomly generated, and must have a strict set of rules, with optional treasure quest paths, monster arenas, and destroyed forts or towns, every level provides an exciting back drop. The swamp level in particular has a dark, dank, and slimy aesthetic, backed by a dread-filled musical score, and some of the more scary enemies. It's all charming and very solid to play.

Screenshot for Minecraft Dungeons on Xbox One

Levelling up, and the more statistical elements of the loot-RPG sub-genre are simple. Levelling up allows players to buy new special moves, and expand their stats, but a lot of it is automated to make progression less time consuming. The same goes for equipping extra items, armour and weapons. Everything's stats are nicely marked as either downgrades or upgrades, various weapon abilities are locked to the equipped weapon which can be upgraded, but as with many of these games, it will likely be replaced the moment you pick up something better. Magic and abilities are mapped to a WarCraft-style bar that can be cycled through with the powers being assigned to slots automatically. It's satisfying, but ultimately a bit more depth would make the experience that much more absorbing. During normal gameplay it is also possible to pickup power ups that have effects like increased speed or fire arrows. These are insanely helpful when surrounded by larger groups of enemies!

Visually this is actually stunning. It's simple, yes, but the detail in the environments is staggering, with stunning lighting, and just a crazy amount of blocky 3D objects that give each environment a level of depth that the original pc game wishes it had. It's impressive to say the least, and each area has such variety in its objects that they are really interesting to explore, and it's genuinely thrilling to hop into a new level. Getting into a bit of the tech nitty-gritty here but bear with it! The normal Xbox One plays the game at a mostly stable 30FPS at 1080p. It's crisp and clear, but if you have an Xbox One X it plays at 60FPS, and a resolution just shy of 4K that is up-sampled to that resolution. For this reviewer, the clarity of image and solid frame rate of the X made this feel much tighter, responsive, and immersive. It's a fantastically well put together product, and it's all backed by a musical score that would make games like Medieval quake in their boots. The undertones of high fantasy and storybook fantasy, intertwined beautifully with compositions that feed the feeling of adventure, as well as giving an ambience to the stages befitting of their theme.

Screenshot for Minecraft Dungeons on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

It's easy to write this off as a 'baby's first dungeon-crawler,' but it's proven itself to be something more; something that transcends that viewpoint. It's a great exploration of the Minecraft universe, and shows what a developer is capable of outside of the creative block hellscape of the original survival format. It's fair to say that it's a real blast to play with responsive and chunky gameplay that is mostly unhampered by a couple of small flaws. Highly recommended to anyone who loves a bit of a bash, especially with friends!

Developer

Mojang

Publisher

Microsoft Game Studios

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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