Minecraft Dungeons

"Minecraft Dungeons" is a fun, streamlined dungeon crawler that doesn’t capitalize on what makes ‘Minecraft’ special. 

"Minecraft Dungeons” is pretty good, at least I’m pretty sure that it’s pretty good.

The spinoff from the blockbuster masterpiece that is “Minecraft” takes the blocky series in a new direction that, while it stands on its own as a fun, easy-to-play action game, misses the magic from the original open-world exploration and crafting game.

Where “Minecraft” focused on creativity, allowing players to build and shape their worlds in amazing ways, “Minecraft Dungeons” has no mining and no crafting though it does have pretty much every iconic enemy — like zombies, skeletons, creepers and the Endermen — from the original game to clobber.

“Minecraft Dungeons” is much more in line with dungeon crawler games like “Diablo” and, well, “Diablo II” and “Diablo III.” Played from a top-down perspective, you’re pointing and clicking to battle your way through a dungeon full of monsters to collect loot, gain experience and level up.

The “Diablo” series is one of my favorite video games series and has consumed hundreds and hundreds of hours of time since I first played the grim “Diablo” in 1997. I love the adventure and player growth, finding interesting and effective combinations of abilities to beat increasingly tough minions of Hell.

As a dungeon crawler, “Minecraft Dungeons” is largely a success.

The combat is engaging, the abilities you gain through artifacts are powerful and it trickles out a satisfying churn of new loot and equipment. Where “Diablo” asks players to carefully consider their builds, spending hours accumulating just the right bits of gear and weapons to maximize your damage, “Minecraft Dungeons” has a refreshingly brisk pace of new gear.

As you level up, you gain enchantment points to spend on upgrading gear. It initially bothered me that you have to salvage the gear to get your enchantment points back — barring you from really doing the gear comparisons that would eat up so much time and effort in the “Diablo” series — but I eventually came to appreciate the system as it encourages you to keep moving and try new things.

Like “Diablo,” you can select different difficulties for each level. Higher difficulties will spawn significantly more tougher enemies in each level, but the rewards are better. I liked seeing that the higher difficulties can be pretty crushing, which pushed me to continue gearing up.

Still, it’s hard to overlook the lack of the signature “Minecraft” elements. There’s no crafting to be found anywhere in “Minecraft Dungeons” and the levels cannot be altered in anyway, including from creeper explosions that would have blown craters in “Minecraft” creations.

And to be honest, I’m not sure how those elements could be implemented in this without sacrificing the core gameplay, but it is still jarring to be playing a “Minecraft” game without mining or crafting.

Setting aside the missing crafting elements, the “Minecraft” world is a great fit for the dungeon crawler genre and is far more inviting than the bloody and mature “Diablo” series and I could see this being an easy game to pick up and play with more casual gamers or even hardcore gamers looking for an easy, fun experience.

Matt Buxton is a freelance writer and gamer. He can be reached at matt.a.buxton@gmail.com.

If You Play

Game: Minecraft Dungeons

Rating: Three out of five stars

Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4

Price: $19.99 (Free Xbox One and PC via Xbox Games Pass subscription)

Release Date: May 26, 2020