Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Minecraft Dungeons: Hero Edition (PS4, NSW, XB1, PC) Review

We move from one Xbox Game Studios title (published this past Friday) to another. It's the Minecraft series's take on the Diablo-style dungeon crawler with Minecraft Dungeons: Hero Edition. Here is the SPC review.

Dungeon Creeper-Crawling

It's no secret that Minecraft is a breakout hit. (Dare I say, it's a blockbuster?) Regardless, when a series breaks records left and right, it makes sense for the the developers to branch out. Interestingly enough, we haven't seen that as much with Minecraft. Instead, the series has further innovated on itself to fantastic results, but now, Minecraft takes on Diablo for a basic dungeon crawler that, while still a pleasure to play, might be too simple for its own good. This is Minecraft Dungeons.

Minecraft Dungeons tells a simple story about an outcast villager who stumbles upon a sacred orb that turns his heart and ambitions into pure evil. Now, the Arch-illager, this baddie is doing everything in his power to get revenge on those that made his own life miserable. As a custom-created hero (the creator creator is really nothing special whatsoever with very little actual customization), your goal is to venture forth into various dungeons under the Arch-illager's control and ultimately defeat the dastardly foe, undoing his damage to the kingdom. 

As is traditional with a dungeon crawler, Minecraft Dungeons isn't just about exploring procedurally generated themed areas, but it's also about getting outfitted with the best gear and loot your possibly can find. The better loot you acquire from defeated foes and from treasure chests, the greater the chances of success you will have for beating later levels on harder difficulties. Unfortunately, also as is traditional with a dungeon crawler, you're at the mercy of the RNG gods for as to how great of gear you get. You'll have better odds for better gear by playing on a level where your gear is below the recommended difficulty. Obviously, the challenge will be much higher, but the rewards will be much greater.

Minecraft Dungeons' "best" way of challenging its players is to overwhelm them with enemies.

Your hero in Minecraft Dungeons has a host of abilities available to them to assist them in overcoming the hordes of overwhelming forces that they will face. To begin, they have a roll maneuver for evading enemy attacks, as well as a potion that can be used to replenish their depleted health. This potion has a cool down period before it can be used again, so it's important to not go too hot and heavy into battle without an exit strategy.

Your hero also has a primary weapon, such as a sword, a spear, a pickaxe, ordinary axe, sickles, or whatnot, for melee damage, and they also have a secondary weapon for ranged attacks, generally given a position to a bow of some sort. Alongside the primary weapons, your hero can equip a piece of armor as well, in addition to three artifacts that bestow various effects. Some give off an aura of healing where anyone inside the temporary field will slowly regenerate health, while others provide an AI sidekick companion with its own health bar to help in the fight. 

Team up in a group of up to four online or off to delightfully dungeon crawl.

Unlike how games like this usually pan out, Minecraft Dungeons doesn't really reward extra strength from gaining experience levels. Instead, you gain strength and power from gear itself. Even the act of earning a level through experience doesn't wield traditional rewards. Instead, you earn Enchantment points that can be spent on earned gear to bestow them with better results and bonuses. For instance, a crossbow can have its arrows pierce through enemies if a certain number of Enchantment points are spent. Of course, the bonuses available through Enchantments are also based on RNG as well. As a plus, if you sell a weapon or piece of armor with Enchantments equipped to them, they will return your pool of points available, allowing you to spend them all over again instead of having to worry about "wasting" them.

Venturing through the harsh lands of Minecraft Dungeons is enjoyable enough. Levels can be a bit long in the tooth, but if you wish to just take the beaten path--a waypoint routinely keeps you on the right path if you wish to follow it to your intended destination--they aren't too terribly lengthy. That said, some of the DLC missions within the Hero Edition of Minecraft Dungeons, taking place in jungle and fjord environments, do make for occasionally time-consuming and tedious adventures that outwear their welcomes. That's even by just eschewing any exploration tendencies for treasure you might want to have.

This player is just show-"boating" now. Get it? 
(These jokes come free with the review, alright!?)

Minecraft Dungeons' gameplay isn't especially deep either. There isn't any sophisticated combat to speak of. It's merely run up to an enemy and smack them into submission while occasionally retreating to catch your breath and potentially heal up. The challenge from the game comes less from the combat and more from the game's penchant for overwhelming you with an endless barrage of enemies usually within narrow confines without much room or hope for escape. Fortunately, you do get several lives to work with, so one death won't result in a completely botched run.

Although there are less than a dozen levels in the story of Minecraft Dungeons, once the initial difficulty has been beaten, a new difficulty level opens up. It presents better gear to obtain, increased aggression from enemies, and even new enemy types popping up in new locations. After THAT difficulty has been cleared, then the Apocalypse difficulty opens up, which requires even better gear to survive the harder foes, but also rewards better gear and loot for the trouble.

One of my favorite locales in the limited selection of Minecraft Dungeons, the Desert Temple.

The argument about whether or not the gameplay loop of Minecraft Dungeons is satisfying enough to be worth that trouble is another story, however. By the end of my Adventure run--the second difficulty mode of the game--I was already having trouble wanting to continue playing the game. Seeing as how much grinding it would take to get good enough gear to even have a chance of getting anywhere close to surviving later levels particularly on the Apocalyptic difficulty didn't seem too enticing to me, personally. This notwithstanding, there is joy to be found in the simple gameplay and basic, blocky boundaries within Minecraft Dungeons' worlds, especially if you're able to play it with a group of friends, family members, or companions locally or online. There's certainly some fun here, but not enough for me to wholeheartedly recommend this otherwise inoffensively adorable dungeon crawler.

[SPC Says: C]

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