Minecraft Dungeons is a pretty awesome ARPG that's accessible to all kinds of players but has a surprising amount of depth, particularly in the endgame "Apocalypse" difficulty tier.
Over the past couple of weeks, I've been grinding my way up to 100 percent completion, and currently sit at level 110, trying out different builds. There's a lot to love about the base game, with truly infectious combat mechanics, great art and levels, and fun boss battles.
Microsoft is already looking ahead with the upcoming Jungle Awakens and Creeping Winter DLCs, the first slated to hit in July. Microsoft also noted that it's planning to update the game with free content as well, with new features everyone will receive.
Now armed with over 40 hours of gameplay knowledge and experience, I thought I'd offer some feedback on what I see as the game's biggest areas in need of improvement.
No cross-play, no cross-save
This is the most glaringly obvious one, and also one Microsoft has confirmed it's working towards including. Thanks to the nature of UWP APIs, you can access Xbox to PC crossplay using a glitch, but for the most part cross-play and cross-save is currently unavailable.
Given Microsoft's general efforts in this area, particularly as it pertains to Minecraft, it's a bit of a miss that this wasn't in for launch. Hopefully, we'll nab it sooner rather than later.
The scarcity of loot can be frustrating
My experience with this may be due, in part, to playing primarily solo. With more players comes more mobs, more difficulty, and thus more rewards. Microsoft wants you to play with your friends, and it's a lot more fun to do so anyway. However, it can be a kick in the teeth if you're playing on maximum difficulty, and spend an hour inside a particularly large Creepy Crypt generation, only to not find a single Unique. Sometimes bosses don't drop any loot, except maybe some Emeralds, which just feels kind of wrong.
Inventory management can be a pain
Without persistent tidying, over time your inventory can become awash with random junk items that you most likely will not want or need. Coming in from Diablo III's D-pad log-based inventory system, Minecraft Dungeons feels rather archaic. Moving through pages of items just to scrap them can be a chore, and the game doesn't have any sorting order for its category pages. There could be a lot of improvement in this area.
Some levels just aren't random enough
The best levels in Minecraft Dungeons are the ones that are randomized. Every level in the game follows a familiar path of specific areas and setpieces as you move towards the end, but they often feature procedurally-generated areas that go off the beaten path. However, only a few levels in the game really push this concept.
The Creepy Crypt is by far the most "randomized" dungeon in the game, spawning a maze of dark hallways crammed with chests and a variety of events. It's odd how much more randomized this dungeon is than almost any of the others. For me, having a unique layout every time makes the Crypt the most engaging level, but repeating that same level over and over gets old quickly. I really hope Microsoft considers the Crypt's procedural design as a standard-bearer for future levels.
Pet and totem artifacts are far too weak
Necromancer and Witch Doctor players from Diablo III might've found intrigue with some of Minecraft Dungeons pet-oriented artifacts, namely the wolf, the Iron Golem, and the llama-summoning items. Sadly, even with a build designed entirely around ally healing and defense, pet artifact abilities still feel far too weak. Wolves just tend to run in and die, llamas get stuck shooting blindly into walls and corners, with broken pathing mechanics, and the Iron Golem is such a large target that he dies rapidly from absorbing practically all the damage on the field. Pets could be fixed with a Unique that boosts their defense or makes them immune to arrows, but the AI pathing also needs improvement so that llamas can actually, you know, hit their targets.
That leads me on to totem artifacts, which can heal or defend units within an area of effect. I tried to use them to keep my wolves alive while testing out pet-oriented builds, but their heals are so pathetically slow and weak, even at the highest tier, and the fact they heal in an area of effect means wolves (and players) just step out of them before they've done anything. You rarely stand still for any length of time in a game like this. The totems should put a buff on players within the initial area of effect, and then travel with them after they move.
Soul-generation mechanics are clunky
I complained about Soul-generation aspects in my review, given the way they work. Some magic-oriented abilities in the game require "Souls" to use, which are harvested from dead mobs when you have a Soul-based item equipped. Each soul fills up a gauge beneath your artifacts bar, and the amount it fills up depends on what items you're using. If you're using lots of Soul-oriented equipment, for example, each soul can grant you a fairly large boost in the gauge, allowing you to unleash some of the most devastating powers in the game, including the Corrupted Beacon and the Harvester explosion. The problem lies within how all of this works.
The Soul Dancer Robe and the Eternal Knife give you the biggest boost to Souls-oriented gameplay, with the Knife granting you a chance (roughly 10 percent) on-hit to gain a small number of souls, as opposed to on-death. The Soul Dancer Robe also boosts the damage you deal with those abilities, which can result in truly monstrous power. The big, big downside is that when there are no mobs around to harvest souls from, you become effectively useless.
I genuinely think that if you have the Harvester or a specific Unique equipped that your Soul-gauge should regenerate passively, to prevent situations where you're forced into melee combat with a Redstone Golem or some other particularly nasty melee-oriented enchanted mob. Running out of Souls when you come face to face with an enchanted, arrow-deflecting Vindicator feels a bit unfair, particularly since other archetypical builds don't get stuck by any particular situation.
Hard to play with under-leveled or over-leveled friends
Given the way Minecraft Dungeons' death mechanics work, it can be a bit tough to play with friends in certain situations. When joining a party with an under-leveled friend, they can die very easily, which can wipe out your lives quickly. You only get three tries per level before you get sent back to camp, and keeping an under-leveled friend alive through to completion can be incredibly rough. On the flip side, bringing in a high-level friend into your low-level game makes everything brain dead easy, of course, which isn't particularly fun.
Typically, in a game like this, you might make separate characters to play with different groups of friends, but I feel like in 2020 there must be a better way, like level syncing or downscaling, similar to what World of Warcraft recently implemented.
Needs some form of endgame "Rift"-style content
This is similar to my comments about not enough "randomized" maps, but Minecraft Dungeons needs some procedural, challenging content similar to Diablo III's Nephalem Rifts. Rifts are essentially randomized dungeons built on a tileset principle, similar to the Creepy Crypt in Minecraft Dungeons, albeit far more challenging, with massive swarms of mobs designed to test player's builds and synergies to their limits. Towards the end of a Rift, a boss spawns to end the challenge. If killed, you'll get a key granting access to even more difficult Rifts, with even more powerful rewards.
A system like this is desperately needed to give players who have collected all of Minecraft Dungeons' Uniques something to do in the post-game, perhaps with leaderboards and other season-based rewards. Implementing something as complex as this may take a while, but ultimately I think a system similar to this is what will keep players coming back. And hey, Dungeons' broken Nether Portal in the camp might be a pretty convenient way to access that sort of content ...
More ways to spend emeralds
Speaking of rewards, right now there isn't a huge amount you can do with Emeralds in Minecraft Dungeons, except pour them into the Blacksmith for a relatively low chance to get a unique item. It would be cool if you could spend Emeralds on pets, skins, or other cosmetics, or perhaps the ability to respec an item.
Communication tools in-game aren't great
Minecraft Dungeons has a nifty communication wheel which lets you send general messages to your group, such as "Come here" and "I need arrows," but it could really do with some additional, more nuanced communication tools, or even reaction emotions. This could all also be solved by simply including a chat log, which Minecraft Dungeons strangely omits right now.
It's early days yet
Considering the game only launched this week, it's probably a little early to be complaining about it, but as someone who has been maxed out for a few days now, I feel like a lot of these issues are the ones that will become most apparent as more people get through the game.
Minecraft Dungeons is an excellent take on the genre and the perfect sort of spin-off style game of the legendary franchise that started it all. While it is light in scope compared to similar games of the genre, it is only $20 to play, and even cheaper if you grab it through Xbox Game Pass. The potential for expansion is rather massive too, particularly when you look at ARPGs like Path of Exile, which has evolved into much larger, much more complex game since its early days.
What do you think about Minecraft Dungeons? Hit the comments, let us know.
Smash and loot
Minecraft meets Diablo
Minecraft Dungeons is an action RPG set in the blocky worlds of Minecraft! Team up with three friends and get your dungeon crawl on for rewards and adventure.
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