Why you should play Minecraft Dungeons in 2021
I can't get enough of Minecraft Dungeons right now.
Minecraft Dungeons is becoming a bit of a sleeper hit, thanks to its infectious combat and robust post-launch support. I played the game a fair bit at launch, but like many, I found that the endgame systems were a bit thin on the ground. There wasn't much to do in the base Minecraft Dungeons except re-run existing missions for slightly more powerful versions of gear you already had. Thankfully, developers Double Eleven and Mojang have changed up the formula a fair bit with the game's most recent update, Minecraft Dungeons: Flames of the Nether. All of that accumulated gear can now be used as currency to open portals to a wide range of procedurally-generated realms, containing all sorts of fresh goodies within.
Here's why I have fallen in love all over again with Minecraft Dungeons on Xbox Game Pass and why you should consider giving it a go, too.
Ancient Hunts raise the stakes
Perhaps the most important change Minecraft Dungeons has received since launch is that of the new Ancient Hunts system, which adds another dimension to the endgame experience. On top of that, Minecraft Dungeons has also added a whopping 25 levels of additional difficulty Minecraft Dungeons "Apocalypse Plus" tiers, which come with increased dangers and increased rewards. Naturally, you can run these Ancient Hunts on Apocalypse difficulty tiers, too. Still, do so at your own peril — Ancient Hunts raise the stakes in tangible ways.
Ancient Hunts take the player through Nether Portals from the Minecraft base game, powered by all of that accumulated gear players have stored up in their inventories since the game launched back in 2020. By submitting enchanted gear to the portal, as well as personal enchantment points gained from leveling up, you can activate various randomized experiences. These areas can be warped versions of existing biomes, but there are also a couple of areas unique to Ancient Hunts, including an abandoned prison and a haunted mansion. Though really, Ancient Hunts are all about the gear.
Ancient Hunt areas are filled with hidden areas throughout the map that seem to generate based on the items you submit to the portal. These areas can contain chest rooms full of gold bars, which can be spent at a Piglin vendor outside the portal or boss rooms. The bosses are variants of existing mobs with random dangerous affixes.
We're still exploring all the different possibilities that can spawn out of a Hunt, but it's not uncommon to get utterly devastating combinations. One Hunt I did recently pitted me against three enchanted Geomancers with eighteen support Iceologer frost-wizards with boosted defenses, arrow immunity, and damage reflection. Needless to say, the challenge was quite palpable. But so too were the rewards.
Rewards from Ancient Hunts represent the most potent gear in the game. They're pulled from the existing pool of Minecraft Dungeons armor and Minecraft Dungeons weapons, but with an added "Guilded" free enchant, bringing the number of enchantments to four.
For those hitting Apocalypse difficulties in the teens and higher, perfecting builds with these added enchants is presents an additional layer of risk and reward,
A ballooning spread of biomes
Another aspect of Minecraft Dungeons that makes it refreshing to return to is the depth and variety that has been injected into the game.
The first two DLCs were Jungle Awakens and Creeping Winter, which added a bunch of extra levels, items, and artifact mechanics to the game. Since then, we've also had the Howling Peaks DLC and the new Nether DLC, which piles on even more variety.
Howling Peaks takes place in a mountainous biome, complete with some mild wind-based puzzles and some maddening wind-based traps which blow you off cliffs to your doom. Still, this area has some of the most enchanting music in the entire game, equal parts haunting and majestic (and sounds all the more impressive from one of our picks for best Xbox One headset, just saying).
Thus far, the Nether represents some of the most creative design work in the game, showcasing the new Nether biomes introduced in Minecraft's own big Nether Update from 2020. These areas are swarming with aggressive Piglin who want nothing more than to murder you in violent ways. Thankfully, they drop tons of pork chops to keep your health topped off, at least.
Some of the new gear from these areas makes for intriguing build possibilities too. With buffs to Souls-oriented artifact magic gameplay, companion pet summons, and a whole host of new mechanics, the creative possibilities for unique builds are pretty endless. As long as you have enough enchantment points for them, that is. I'm currently working towards a build that is just tons of bees. While wearing the bee armor, Summoning bees summons extra bees for a swarm of deadly, angry, stinging bees.
An intriguing future
Minecraft Dungeons' season pass art seems to hint at future DLCs for the franchise's underwater biomes and The End dimension, which will more than likely include the legendary Ender Dragon boss fight. From there, it's interesting to wonder where the game could go. Certainly, things like cross-save progression between the game's various platforms would be a welcome addition, as well as any additional systems to make the endgame feel refreshed and dynamic. It ultimately begs the question over whether or not Microsoft wants to continue Minecraft Dungeons long into the future as a "platform," or move on to a bigger and bolder sequel instead, similarly to how Blizzard is handling the transition from Diablo III to Diablo IV. Only time will tell.
While we wait to find out what the future will bring to Minecraft Dungeons, I'm finding myself addicted to ascending the Apocalypse ranks, perfecting my builds, and discovering what vile enemy combinations the game's devious random number generator can throw at me. Minecraft Dungeons has been a great companion for quick 20 minute bursts or long-form sessions of satisfying grind and reward — the very core of what video game means to me. And I'm incredibly grateful. Cheers, Mojang, Double Eleven. 🍻
Minecraft Dungeons is a Diablo-like set in the blocky world of Minecraft. Join up to four friends and slay hordes of enemies for juicy loot in this on-going experience that keeps on giving.
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!