hack. slash. loot. lather. rinse. repeat.
May 26, 2020 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Minecraft Dungeons [YouTube][Launch Trailer] “Minecraft Dungeons, out May 26 on Xbox One, PS4, Switch, and PC (where I’ve been playing it), takes Minecraft’s characters and blocky aesthetic and maps it onto an isometric dungeon crawler where you mash cooldown abilities while running through mob-infested forests, swamps, and volcanic caves. The story sees you save a village from malevolent forces, but really the goal is to kill lots of stuff, get stronger loot, and then kill even more stuff.” [via: Kotaku]

• Minecraft Dungeons is simple, Diablo-inspired fun for the family [Polygon]
“Playing a Diablo-style hack-n-slash game with up to three small children sounds like a nightmare scenario, with players squabbling over equipment, support, and leveling. The genius of Minecraft Dungeons is that each of these potential fights have been neatly edited out of the game, or at least mitigated to such an extent than it’s a joy to play, even with children of various ages. Granted, I’ve only played (and re-played) through the content currently available in the PC beta — which isn’t expansive — but it’s more than enough to get me onboard for the final game when it releases on May 26. The game’s design, meant to make the game playable by children of just about any age without being boring for adults weaned on more complex games, takes care of most of the inter-family arguments before they happen. [...] There are so many decisions made in the game’s design that keep you working together, and not competing for resources or to create the most powerful character, that everyone naturally begins to work as a team instead of sniping about what’s fair, and what isn’t, about the game. This is an extreme rarity among multiplayer games for younger kids, as most parents will tell you.”
• A smashing good Diablo clone for any age [Ars Technica]
“Yet what's interesting here is that Mojang's design decisions, which revolve around adapting the genre to something that thematically fits the series' universe, totally worked. This is a unique offering for the well-trodden genre, which is a remarkable feat. And while it lacks the "endgame" punch of its inspirations, Minecraft Dungeons is easier to sell when described as follows: a beefier, more addictive take on the LEGO action series. [...] Continuing the Diablo theme: every level is randomly generated according to a theme (swamp, castle, dungeon, etc), with pre-made chunks fitting together to build your above-ground and underground journeys. They're pretty much all action-oriented. Some of these pieces include requirements like "free five villagers from cages" or "get a key" to advance, but these are designed to direct your heroes into combat, not to strain your brain. Up to four heroes can play in co-op, either on the same screen or connected online. Unfortunately, as of launch, cross-play is not enabled—apparently not even between players on Xbox One consoles and Windows 10, which is a break from Microsoft's usual Xbox Play Anywhere pledge.”
• Hours of fun for locked-down families [The Guardian]
“When the idea to make a Minecraft spinoff was first batted around at Mojang Studios, a dungeon crawler game must have been one of the first suggestions. From Gauntlet to Diablo, this genre has always featured dank subterranean lairs, treasure chests and warrior skeletons – all beloved Minecraft components. The signature blocky visuals also work well, ensuring that Minecraft Dungeons will look familiar to fans as they hurtle through dioramas of hack-and-slash fun that rearrange themselves each time you play. The plot is paper thin: a vengeful loner discovers a treasure that turns him into a powerful mage and duly begins a reign of terror over the Minecraft kingdom. The game can be played alone, but it is most enjoyable to play its co-op mode, which can be enjoyed on a console or online. In this mode players work together to bring down waves of skeletons, slime monsters, and giant spiders, reviving fallen allies as they go. With four players taking part, each equipped with magical weapons, the screen is soon awash with arrows, explosions, lightning bolts and freeze rays in a confusing but exciting light show. As Gauntlet veterans will recall, it’s the hidden rhythms of this genre that are really delightful; the anticipation of the next wave of enemies, the anarchy of battle, then the delicious gluttony of loot collection.”
• A worthy pick [Rock Paper Shotgun]
“I knew Minecraft Dungeons was going to be fun when I played a couple of hours of the beta build last month. I knew this because, well, it was fun. It was the kind of fun you can fathom within about twelve seconds of starting a game, and the kind you know will be dependable in its simplicity, even if it might not last forever. And hey, guess what? Minecraft Dungeons is really fun! It’s a charming, lively little looter-bruter, with all Minecraft’s aesthetic elements, but absolutely nothing in common with it beyond that. [...] The central conceit of the game, which defines its triumphs and limitations alike, is its lack of any character stats. Everything about your blocky little adventurer is defined by six bits of gear: your armour, your melee weapon and your bow, plus three slots for artefacts with timer-based active abilities. The only concession to classic RPG stattery is a stripped down XP system, where each level-up grants you a single enchantment point. Any armour, melee weapon or bow you pick up will have a handful of potential special powers (there are around 20 for each of the three item types), which can be activated, and then upgraded, by spending enchantment points on them. The better the item, the more slots it has for enchantable powers, and the greater selection of powers in each slot. And that’s it, essentially. That’s the whole technical core of the game, in one paragraph.”
posted by Fizz (33 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This reminds me of my Irish Folk band that looked like Gwar. Or those cakes that look like a shoe.

I love a good Diablo-like but kinda dislike Minecraft for lots of complicated reasons. So this will be a tough call for me. Maybe I’ll just wait for Tony Hawk’s pro trucking simulator :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:26 AM on May 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

Whoa! I’ll have to show this to my son. :-)
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 7:33 AM on May 26, 2020

No Mac version, aarghhh!!

Irish Folk band that looked like Gwar

Links pls
posted by gwint at 8:02 AM on May 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

That looks like fun. I've been trying to play Witcher 3 but it's just so heavy that I can't get into it. This might be what I want.
posted by octothorpe at 8:06 AM on May 26, 2020

A big advantage to the "Minecraft" visual style is that you don't have to have six hundred people working 6/16 to create visual assets like a traditional AAA title. But, yeah, the lack of a Mac client is kind of a non-starter here. It would be nice to have something to play with the fam that doesn't have a subscription or free-to-grind mechanic.

Though when cross-platform becomes possible, we could play on Switch, PS4 and PC as we have one of each and three players. Will keep it in mind, it seems like something we could chew into and have fun with.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:22 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm thinking this is a good fit for the family on the PS4. I'm considering buying it and instituting an "co-op only" rule.
posted by Harald74 at 8:53 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

At $20, this seems like a no-brainer if you enjoy the genre and theme.
posted by 3j0hn at 9:20 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

The comparisons to Diablo III, only with Minecraft and safe for kids is NOT a bad thing. It sounds kind of amazing. I don't think I'll be jumping into this just yet, but I'll watch for a sale further down the road. That being said, on the other of this spectrum, the latest Call of Duty: WWII is free on PS4 right now for PS Plus members. Get in on that if it's your jam.
posted by Fizz at 9:42 AM on May 26, 2020

I've been very skeptical of this game. There's no building, right? No block smashing or placing? FWIW the overall reviews are OK-to-good, not terrific (52nd percentile on OpenCritic). Maybe I should understand it as a kid-friendly Diablo clone rather than a Minecraft game.

The best Minecraft-turned-into-RPG I've seen so far is Dragon Quest Builders 2. That does have a building game, as well as a great RPG story and meaningful progression. The English translation is fantastic too.
posted by Nelson at 9:45 AM on May 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

So they made Baldur's Gate... blockier.
posted by metametamind at 10:02 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

My 10-year old has been impatient for this day for a month. Hilariously, I think he forgot this morning, but I'm pretty sure by dinnertime he's going to remember and freak out.
posted by feckless at 10:08 AM on May 26, 2020 [7 favorites]

There are a lot of interesting new things coming out of Minecraft since Microsoft bought the company, but I remain frustrated that the Mac is left out in the cold when it comes to the cross-platform effort they are making. My kid plays Minecraft, his friends play Minecraft, but many of them can't join his (java) server because Microsoft hasn't extended Bedrock compatibility to any non-console platform other than their own OS, and they don't let a Bedrock user log into the Java version to play there (at least one of his friends would love to, but his parents don't want to pay for the game a second time just to get access to another platform).

Are there technical challenges to doing so? Sure, of course. Would it be possible for Microsoft to create a universal codebase that runs on multiple operating systems and is compatible with consoles as well? Sure.

Do I actually WANT them to, if it means the death of the freedom you get with the Java version? I guess not... but the fact that they don't port even spinoffs like this to non-MS operating systems is annoying as heck. I know that Mac user ≠ gamer for an awful lot of people, and there are definite costs to keeping cross-platform compatibility working that make it financially silly if the user base on any given OS is too small... on the other hand, it's not like Microsoft has never lost money on purpose before just to lock people in to their platform.

They haven't killed off the Java version yet. I keep hoping that they don't, at least not without having a path for the existing servers out there to convert to whatever comes next.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:59 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

For Mac users: I've been experimenting with LAN game streaming. Steam works well. Parsec also works well. Performance can be poor over wifi but very much game-dependent. Forza for example is not really playable due to precise movements/timing required. But pretty much everything else is very playable. If your network wifi is good and both machines are close to the router it's actually excellent. I played Rayman Legends this way and couldn't really tell it wasn't live on my computer.

You can even run Steam client on a Raspberry Pi 3 or higher. Performance over wifi is bad, be warned, but I've heard wired/ethernet is very good.

Anyway that's how I play PC-only games on my MBP, because my PC in another room happens to be pretty powerful (high end for its time but showing its age a bit now).

There's a subreddit dedicated to this: r/cloudygamer which also discusses setting up cloud-based VMs with super GPUs and then stream over the internet back to you. I haven't done any of that; I just wanted to play Lego Ninjago on my TV.
posted by cape at 12:41 PM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Maybe I should understand it as a kid-friendly Diablo clone rather than a Minecraft game.

Yes, that's exactly what it is. It is a classic hack and slash dungeon crawler set in an amplified Minecraft world. Its been amusing this afternoon watching my kid, brought up on platformers and resource gathering games, be so excited about this.

Its a fun game. You should play it. (FYI it is free to play at launch if you have Game Pass)
posted by anastasiav at 12:47 PM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's Diablo in Minecraft. Um... Yay?
posted by blindkoala at 1:30 PM on May 26, 2020

Can you fight Nazis? That would redeem Minecraft to some extent.
posted by benzenedream at 1:37 PM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

I played it ahead of launch. It's pretty fun, but needs some tuning. There are some really hard difficulty spikes. I was reminded of TMNT 2 more than anything on that front. Too easy, too easy, too easy, WOAH WHAT I DIED, FROM WHAT?!

It's also kinda limited right now and cross platform multiplayer and more content is on the way. This game will only get better so don't be afraid to wait a couple months!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:56 PM on May 26, 2020

I take it that the "Buy the Alpha of Minecraft and get all future versions, add-ons, and expansions for free" thing kind of fell through, didn't it?
posted by miguelcervantes at 4:05 PM on May 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

I've only played Diabloid games single-player, and it always seemed like 1/3 of the game is looking at your loot and comparing stats and shuffling things around to find the best synergy between your gear and your abilities.

So I've always wondered how on earth these games work in multiplayer. Does everybody wait for each other to sort and equip loot?
posted by straight at 4:57 PM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Important note - there was a bad bug in the uninstaller that's already been fixed. But read this before uninstalling to make sure you're updated to a safe version.
posted by Candleman at 5:17 PM on May 26, 2020

Buy the Alpha of Minecraft and get all future versions, add-ons, and expansions for free" thing kind of fell through, didn't it?

No. I still get free Minecraft updates. This isn't the Minecraft core game. Its a game set in the same style.

Boy, a lot of you people are pretty grouchy.
posted by anastasiav at 6:11 PM on May 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

Yeah it's pretty crazy to expect that a completely new game that's only vaguely inspired by Minecraft's art style and IP would be free. Come on.

The part of Notch's original promise back in the alpha / pre-sale days I keep thinking about is his promise to open source the game should he ever stop developing it. It was never a legally binding promise, and I'm sure the sale of Mojang to Microsoft would have nullified it. But I still love the idea of it. One of the bizarre things about Minecraft is how robust the modding community is despite not only the lack of any modding support, but software that's deliberately obfuscated to making reading the code and modifying it way more difficult. The fans worked around that a long time ago. It's also why I still think of the Java version of Minecraft as the "real" Minecraft, even if Microsoft really hopes we all switch to Bedrock. The mod community is enormously robust and creative.
posted by Nelson at 8:26 PM on May 26, 2020

Training our children to be murder hobos from a very young age! I'm on board!
posted by Justinian at 9:48 PM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Mac users: Bootcamp your shit, play games in Windows. It's easy. Don't make excuses, just do it and enjoy games.

I got Dungeons set up yesterday so when my son comes over tomorrow we can play. He is 8 and has been looking forward to this for months. He has played some Torchlight II with me recently and he likes it, but it's still just slightly a bit much for his level of attention span. Dungeons should do nicely.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:55 AM on May 27, 2020

I forgot there is a Steam client for iOS too. So you can play PC games on your iPad. I'd get a BT controller for any kind of action game but I bet strategy-type games, some of these "story" games (Year Walk / Firewatch? I haven't played either but you know the genre) might be fine with touch controls.

Mac users: Bootcamp your shit, play games in Windows. It's easy. Don't make excuses, just do it and enjoy games.

I've got a tiny soldered-in SSD but clearing up some space and installing the games to external drive might work! I will have to try this.
posted by cape at 9:38 AM on May 27, 2020

Bootcamp really is the only realistic way to game on MacOS. Even games that have been ported to MacOS run much better on Windows-on-the-Mac. Civ 6, for instance, got 50% faster framerates under Bootcamp than native MacOS. It's pretty much always been this bad, too.

Shame that rebooting to play games is such a PITA. I gave up and switched back to Windows machines.
posted by Nelson at 10:39 AM on May 27, 2020

Played a few levels and it's a lot of fun. Nothing really groundbreaking but it's at the level I can deal with right now.
posted by octothorpe at 3:18 PM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

As a side note, noted Anime-inspired MMO Phantasy Star Online 2 released today in the US.
posted by persona at 3:33 PM on May 27, 2020

So I've always wondered how on earth these games work in multiplayer. Does everybody wait for each other to sort and equip loot?
Having played a couple hours couch co-op with my 8 year old, I can answer that yes, you sit and wait for each other to sort and equip loot, and yes that sucks as much as you might think.

We are enjoying it a lot otherwise. It is nice that you can scale down the difficulty on missions, for when we bring the 5 year old in.
posted by 3j0hn at 10:18 AM on May 28, 2020

Nerding out on your loot is half the fun! I played with my son (8) today and he scored an orange sword and bow, and I got orange armor and a diamond pickaxe!
posted by Fleebnork at 3:12 PM on May 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Minecraft Dungeons was a success! My son and I played again later in the evening when a friend of mine could join us for an online game. You definitely get better loot drops with co-op play. Each of us got multiple orange quality uniques. We did wipe a couple of times, but the game gives you 3 continues per level.

The game did bug as we finished a level and dumped us to main menu. I logged in and got my end of level loot chest but when my son logged in, he was back at camp with no loot chest.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:59 AM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Still playing this, it's a lot of fun. Sort of hits the sweet spot of not being too simple but not burdening me with having to learn a super complicated combat system or spend hours trying to optimize character traits.
posted by octothorpe at 10:13 AM on June 5, 2020

I've beaten the game but I'm still playing it (there are secret levels) and seeing what kind of unique gear I can get. It's a great casual dungeon crawler.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:18 AM on June 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

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