Minecraft Dungeons Hands-on: a shameless Diablo clone, and better for it

Enlarge / Gather friends, kill mobs, collect loot.

LOS ANGELES—The years between Diablo 2 and Diablo III were ripe with isometric dungeon action clones, all trying to feed players’ next-gen thirst for click-and-loot adventures. Those days are long gone, but now that I’ve played Minecraft DungeonsI wish I could go back in time and drop Mojang’s very solid Diablo-like a game in that late 2000s scrum.

There’s really no way around it: it’s Diablo through a Minecraft prism. The 20-strong team behind this Windows 10, Xbox One, Switch, and PS4 game admit it, calling Blizzard’s legendary series “inspiring, sure.” But after dropping the name of other modern cooperative games like Vermintide and left for deadMojang developers at E3 2019 made a point to Ars Technica: “We want to make sure it’s Minecraft.”

No class – and that’s class

Stop me if you heard that Diablo-as a front sales pitch. Players control a warrior viewed from a top-down isometric perspective, then click a mouse or move a joystick to explore procedurally generated dungeons. Defeat waves of enemies, face traps, solve simple puzzles, and pick up tons of loot along the way. Play solo or team up with up to three other friends; the more players, the higher the difficulty.

The biggest differentiation of this new game compared to Diabloin terms of mechanics, is a lack of predefined classes, just like in the base Minecraft Game. Each character of Minecraft Dungeons can equip any weapon, spell, and ability, then load it into one of five active ability slots. Two of them are dedicated to “main” weapons, divided into melee options (left mouse button or A) and ranged weapons (right mouse button or RT).

The other three abilities can be, well, whatever you want.

Perhaps your dream trio of abilities is this: a pet dog that bites enemies’ ankles; a wide-beam laser that damages everything in its wake that fills the screen; and a “temporarily wave your melee weapon faster” buff in the form of a “styling mushroom”. Go for it.

This build as described is already a sort of rogue-necromancer-wizard fusion. To achieve it, you just need to find each skill in the form of an object to pick up in a dungeon, then equip it. These abilities usually have an activation cooldown, with some magic abilities requiring an additional “souls” energy meter (which you refill by killing “mobs” in the game).

Additionally, the game includes a new “Enchantment Point” (EP) currency that replaces other loot games on “Upgrade”. Instead of investing level points in things like skill trees or RPG-like character stats, Minecraft Dungeons allows you to dump EP into your equipable weapons and armor (not “items”, though). A look at the inventory screen shows a diamond-shaped interface under each piece of gear, with one, two, or three diamonds. Each of them is subdivided into three or four possible buffs. Once you have EP to spend, choose your favorite buff from each of these diamonds, then spend 1-2 EP to equip it and more EP to increase its power.

The buffs we saw in a hands-on demo revolved around melee and projectile weapon attachments. One of these buffs increased the percentage chance that a melee hit results in a critical hit; another added the increased likelihood that a strike would send chain lightning to all nearby enemies. It’s all pretty Diablo-like stuff, but MARYLANDRotation cuts through some of the usual skill tree glitz to get players into crazier alternate combat styles faster.

If you find a new weapon or item that catches your eye and want to dump EP into its potential bonuses, you can reclaim your spent EP by deleting the old gear. This seems like the only way to get your old EP back, which might require some heartbreaking goodbyes to old gear, but if the in-game loot is as plentiful and interesting as it is in a standard Diablo-like a game, this grief shouldn’t last long.

Not a block for block Minecraft copy

One thing missing from this game’s list Minecraft-style possibilities are destructible environments. Sometimes destroying an urn or opening a treasure chest reveals a box of TNT, which automatically hovers above players’ heads and becomes a wide-radius single-use attack (temporarily taking over your button ranged weapon until you throw it). If you get multiple boxes of TNT at once, they all hover above your head in a silly looking pile, all tossing simultaneously for the whole kaboom.

Unfortunately, these do not blow any holes in walls or floors to reveal new Minecraft Dungeons worlds (although there may be Zelda-style “blow up walls to discover secrets” areas; we don’t know for sure yet). The game also doesn’t appear to include a pickaxe or shovel for clearing paths or collecting resources. The aesthetics and charm of the game can revolve around Minecraftbut Mojang has clearly drawn a line on how similar this new game is to the original.

Another twist you might associate with Minecraft is a beginner-friendly approach. Each dungeon starts with a clearly stated objective (in our demo we had to find and kill a necromancer boss) while a ubiquitous on-screen pointer points you in the direction to find the main objective. A quick press of a menu button brings up a semi-transparent map, if you want to explore every nook and cranny, but Mojang emphasizes a procedural approach to map generation that clearly emphasizes paths. main and optional. If you’ve ever been frustrated taking five wrong turns in an oversized car Diablo card, you might very well like it.

But it’s not all kid glove stuff. Whenever an emergent objective appears during a dungeon crawl (find a key, solve a puzzle), the indicator stops working. You must dig around to find everything you need before your main path is cleared again. And in case you have to grab a key, it’s its own hilarious twist: the key is a living thing with eyes, a mouth, and legs. If you get hit while holding it, the key pops out of your backpack and starts moving away (or can be picked up by other baddies).

This fun and action-packed take on the old Key Search Diablo gimmick may hint at other such twists to be revealed later. (There’s already at least one blatant copycat of wacky stuff seen in other series: the “goblin loot” of yore Golden axe arcade games is here like a blocky pig running away and squealing with a giant treasure chest on its back.)

Purple pain, purple pain

Let's enter this dungeon.
Enlarge / Let’s enter this dungeon.

All of this is complemented by a “dark colored” approach to dungeon design that bathes the series’ blocky surroundings and characters with dramatic lights, shadows, and particle effects. The E3 demo’s “desert dungeon” was complete with pyramid-style chambers, a few water-soaked oases, and even a tantalizing peek through a stairwell at a detailed, tree-filled path. monsters one floor below.

We clearly have more questions about Minecraft Dungeonmore comprehensive design. The random dungeon design, variety of items and weapons, exact impact of armor on your character build, and how to min-max a four-player squad remains to be seen when the game launches in ” spring 2020″. But the beat-to-beat combat and movement already feels responsive and fluid. At the end of my playable demo, I swung a pair of scythes through a wave of vines, then backed off a few charged arrows before calling a cute, yapping pup. He chased away a distant enemy, which bought me time to activate my laser-emitting beacon and rain down purple-white pain on an approaching creepy Enderman.

It’s the kind of solid system that already makes me want to get into this game with younger people, Minecraft– love my family members. I can’t wait to use Minecraft Dungeons to bridge our gaming generation gap.