June 16, 2019
Tech

Minecraft Dungeons hands-on: A shameless Diablo clone—and better for it

Enlarge / Gather some friends, kill some mobs, get some loot.Mojang / Xbox Game Studios

LOS ANGELES—The years between Diablo II and Diablo III were ripe with isometric, dungeon-action clones, all trying to feed gamers' next-gen hunger for click-and-loot adventures. That era has long passed, but now that I've played Minecraft Dungeons, I wish I could go back in time and drop Mojang's very solid Diablo-like game into that late-'00s fray.

There's really no getting around it: this is Diablo through a Minecraft prism. The 20-person team behind this Windows 10, Xbox One, Switch, and PS4 game admits as much, calling Blizzard's legendary series "one source of inspiration, certainly." But after name-dropping other modern co-op games like Vermintide and Left 4 Dead, the Mojang developers at E3 2019 made one point emphatic to Ars Technica: "We want to make sure this is Minecraft."

No classes—and its classy

  • It sure looks like Diablo, and Mojang doesn't seem to mind. Mojang
  • We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Oh, there it is. The bridge.
  • No shortage of mobs to face in Minecraft Dungeons.
  • When you need to unlock a door in Minecraft Dungeons, you'll have to find and carry one of these cute, pesky suckers.
  • The living key blinks and squirms while you carry it, and it'll hop off your back whenever you take damage (and even hop on foes' backs instead).
  • The game's handsome engine looks great in real-time action.
  • Simple building blocks bathed in dramatic lighting.
  • The armies are coming.

Stop me if you've heard this Diablo-like sales pitch before. Players control a warrior as seen from an isometric, top-down perspective, then either click a mouse or move a joystick to explore procedurally generated dungeons. Defeat waves of enemies, contend with traps, solve simple puzzles, and pick up oodles of loot along the way. Play solo or team up with up to three other friends; the more players, the higher the difficulty.

This new game's biggest differentiation from Diablo, in terms of mechanics, is a lack of pre-defined classes, just like in the base Minecraft game. Every single character in Minecraft Dungeons can equip any weapon, spell, and ability, then load it into one of five active ability slots. Two of those are dedicated to "primary" 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, anything you want.

Maybe your dream-ability trio is the following: a companion dog that bites enemies' ankles; a wide-radius laser that damages everything in its screen-filling wake; and a "temporarily swing your melee weapon faster" buff in the form of a "deathcap mushroom." Go right ahead.

  • The bottom-left portion of this interface is dedicated to abilities. Put any applicable item into these three slots to give your character that special power, which typically recharges on a timer after every use (and typically has unlimited ammo, with certain exceptions). Mojang
  • The bottom-right of this image shows the "Enchantment Points" system. Spend those points on any of the slots in those diamonds to give an individual weapon or outfit some special perks. Scrap an older weapon or outfit to reclaim its EP value and pay that toward another sweet piece of gear. Mojang

That build as described is already a sort of rogue-necromancer-wizard fusion. To make it, you simply have to find each ability in the form of an item pick-up in a dungeon, then equip it. These abilities typically have an activation cooldown, with certain magic abilities requiring an additional "souls"-energy meter (which you refill by killing the game's "mobs").

Additionally, the game includes a new "enchantment point" (EP) currency that replaces other loot games' takes on "leveling up." Instead of investing level-up points on things like skill trees or RPG-like character stats, Minecraft Dungeons lets you dump EP into your equipable weapons and armor (not the "items," however). A peek at the inventory screen shows a diamond-shaped interface beneath each piece of gear, with one, two, or three diamonds. Each of these is subdivided into three or four possible buffs. Once you have EP to spend, pick your favorite buff within each of these diamonds, then spend 1-2 EP to equip it and further EP to increase its power.

The buffs we saw in a hands-on demo revolved around attachments to melee and projectile weapons. One of these buffs increased the percentage chance that a melee strike would result in a critical hit; another one added the increased likelihood that a strike would send a chained bolt of lightning to any nearby enemies. That's all pretty Diablo-like stuff, but MD's spin cuts through some of the usual skill-tree chaff to get players more quickly into crazier, alternative combat styles.

Should 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 scrapping older gear. This looks like it will be the only way to get your old EP back, which could require a few heartbreaking goodbyes to older pieces of gear—but if loot in the game is as plentiful and interesting as in a standard Diablo-like game, that heartbreak shouldn't last long.

Not a block-for-block Minecraft copy

One thing missing from this game's list of Minecraft-style possibilities is destructible environments. Sometimes, destroying an urn or opening a treasure chest will reveal a TNT box, which automatically hovers over players' heads and becomes a one-time-use, wide-radius attack (temporarily taking over your "ranged" weapon button until you throw it). If you Read More – Source

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