Minecraft Dungeons Preview

“Minecraft mixed with Diablo” seems like a typical idea out of a marketing department meeting, but the more I play this curious spin-off the more I agree that it hits all the right keys. It’s a strange combination, no doubt. a Minecraft made by Mojang, a dungeon crawler, a procedurally generated game but with a story, a pretty hardcore button crusher, and a happy and quiet space in which to hang out with friends. It can be as hard as you want, or an entertaining cooperative game to play with your children for a while.

It’s also surprisingly pretty, something I would never have expected to say from a Minecraft, with a soundtrack that brightens up the hub area like a warm breeze. Here you can visit the vendors, get together with your friends or try different sets of magic weapons and armor with straw dolls. That set will be the key to the longevity of Minecraft Dungeons, I suspect; you have a melee weapon, bow, and armor, items that can be enchanted with powerful bonus effects, as well as three artifacts that act as customizable class items.

When I tried Minecraft Dungeons at Gamescom last year I was left in the middle of the action, with a default gear set and no room to customize things. He had a wolf that hurt, but he wasn’t sure why. Now, after playing the recent PC closed beta for several hours, it’s easy to see how your character growth and customization plays a big role in the overall experience, and as part of that fun comes after you’ve been through its ten areas through first time. What starts out as an arsenal of simple swords and shields turns into a display of magic-infused fireworks and weapons, producing effects like explosions, lightning, and lava as you find better loot and more powerful enchantments.

Each area of ​​Minecraft Dungeons is a semi-procedurally generated level with its own biome and a gimmick. In the beta you could play in an autumn area, with a big town and roads to explore, for example. After playing that, I watched an online demo hosted by Mojang Executive Producer David Nisshagen who showed me a narrow mining area, riddled with bottlenecks and wheelbarrows that moved quickly on rails and inflicted damage if you crossed their path. Complete all the areas once and you will unlock its Adventure Mode – “a kind of New Game Plus”, Nisshagen tells me – where you can increase the difficulty to ridiculous levels, and come back to discover more secrets and loot.

Internal testing and the closed beta have shown that people, for now, are responding to this replayability, according to Nisshagen. It is something that benefits from the semi-procedural nature of the levels, and the inclusion in some of dungeons and hidden procedural temples where to find rare objects. Some of them, he explains, require half an hour to be fully explored, before surfacing again to get on with your business. The objective of the adventure, in general, is to defeat the Arch-Illager, an evil illager who has found an object of great power and who uses it for vile purposes. Its story is explained in a fun cinematic for the game, as well as, surprisingly, in an entire novel about Minecraft Dungeons.

Minecraft had already fooled around the story before Telltale took over Minecraft: Story Mode, but it’s the first time Mojang has done something like this herself. Each Minecraft Dungeons level begins with the brief conversation of a mysterious narrator who explains the scene, while the camera moves through the level from above.

“How do we do this? Do we have any videogame narrative experts? No, we don’t,” Nisshagen acknowledges. “Everyone is good at what they do, which is systemic stuff, building an emerging gameplay. So it’s been a challenge, figuring out how to explain the story in a way that doesn’t require reading a lot, or having too much text, or whatever too complicated. The objective here of the narrative is to identify the antagonists – the enemies that you will conquer – but also the path, that you will do while. “

That said, Mojang is aware that there are fans who are enthusiastic about the official Minecraft canon, so she is being careful in how she approaches the history of her world and connections to main Minecraft. “We are still taking, I wouldn’t say small steps, but we continue to learn,” continues Nisshagen. “And that has led us to a lot of interesting questions, like if this all happened before or after Minecraft. And I was thinking do we have to worry about that? Yeah, we have to worry about that. We should have it all tied up, one reason why this happens “. Dungeons isn’t designed as a prequel to Minecraft, he concludes, but there will be things in it for people to discover and make the connections for themselves.

Minecraft Dungeons recently delayed its release until May, and its cross-platform cross-play features will be delayed a bit longer (“a few months,” according to Nisshagen). In both cases it is due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the need to ensure that staff could work safely from home. “We don’t want to put stress on the teams right now,” Nisshagen explains. He is, he tells me, in the basement of his house, working on a table he just bought. “We could probably have reached the previous release date, but it would have been uncomfortable, both for the team and for the players, as we could not guarantee that we would have a good and fun game. By taking this extra time we can have a better product and a happier team, who can be proud of their work. “

With Dungeons almost finished, Nisshagen will lead his team in Mojang to work on post-launch content, along with teams at British studio Double Eleven, which is doing the console ports, and QA staff in Poland and England. , while still talking to the Microsoft folks in Redmond and Japan. In a way, working with such distant teams is still about the same, but Nisshagen misses his colleagues at the office, and having moments of rest when they think about whether it would be cool to do such a thing. “It’s slightly less fun,” he acknowledges, “but we’re certainly doing a lot better than I expected, or feared.”