Long before Minecraft Dungeons was revealed, Mojang has been content to rest on its humble laurels as the developer of a pop culture phenomenon. To date, Minecraft has sold over 175 million copies, is available on every platform imaginable, and boasts a veritable merchandise empire. Not since Pokemon has a video game IP so thoroughly permeated mainstream consciousness. It wouldn’t be until 2017 and the skyrocketing Fortnite player count that this feat would be matched.
What’s more remarkable is that, for the last decade, Mojang has risen to the heights of video game fame on the back of a single title. Minecraft has been more than enough to sustain a staggering amount of success, even without the help of sequels or spinoffs. True, there was the Minecraft: Story Mode adventure game, but that wasn’t developed by Mojang, and we all know about the grim fate of Telltale Games.
All this is to say that, given Mojang’s penchant for status quo, the announcement of Minecraft Dungeons came as quite the surprise. At Minecon 2018, Mojang teased a new dungeon crawling action-RPG game set in their recognisable universe with a Minecraft Dungeons trailer. Recently, Mojang executive producer David Nisshagen and game director Måns Olson sat down with us at X019 to talk about the blocky new dungeon crawler.
Minecraft Dungeons release date
Mojang previously gave Minecraft Dungeons a 2019 release date when it was announced last September, but we now have a more specific launch date. The Minecraft Dungeons release date is April, 2020.
Minecraft Dungeons co-op
Minecraft Dungeons features drop-in/drop-out four-player co-op play. According to Minecraft Dungeons executive producer David Nisshagen, the difficulty will change on the fly to match the number of players. The game is still playable solo, so you don’t necessarily need to party up to progress.
That said, Mojang’s co-op game inspirations are obvious. The team made their admiration of some of the best-known titles in the genre clear in an interview we had with the company at E3 2019. Minecraft Dungeons owes plenty to Diablo and Left 4 Dead to name a couple which, when combined with Mojang’s already masterful formula, is quite the heady concoction.
At Minecon 2019, we got a new look at Minecraft Dungeons and more details on co-op play, with new spell effects and artifacts.
Minecraft Dungeons Story
In the cinematic Minecraft Dungeons trailer revealed at Minecon 2019 and shown above – we see a lost and outcast villager gain control of a special power and become the supreme Arch-Illager. Driven by vengeance, the Arch-Illager releases a tirade of evil across the land and it’s your job to defeat him.
David Nisshagen says about the story, “We do provide a couple of things compared to Minecraft that we think are helpful. Like, we have – it’s not a deep and complex narrative but we have a narrative. We have an antagonist. You’re a hero and you’re supposed to defeat a big, bad enemy. To do that, we set you on a direction.”
Minecraft Dungeons abilities and gameplay
In Minecraft Dungeons, you aren’t tied to a specific class for the entire game. Instead, your powers and abilities are tied to the gear you wear. Equipping a bow turns you into an archer, for example, and grabbing some heavy armor turns you into more of a tank.
From the gameplay reveal trailer the only abilities we could see were a lighting beam attack and dome defense shield, but in a recent interview with David Nisshagen, he refers to the items in Minecraft Dungeons, specifically balancing items and allowing over powered items to stay just that, he says “many of the design decisions we tend to like – well, this is incredibly overpowered. Let’s keep it because it’s fun, rather than trying to contain and like, balance it out. ” This is because of Dungeon’s system for item combinations, “the sort of combination of artifacts and enchantments and that you can we adapt to a new situation” says Nisshagen, “it tends to lead to these overpowered bursts where you feel so powerful you feel like you’re broke the game.”
Nisshagen also speaks about the accessibility of Minecraft Dungeons compared to other dungeon crawlers, Nisshagen says, “Getting into them can be quite tricky, so we’ve done everything we can to make sure that we’re in this same space, but that getting into it is super easy.” he goes on to say that this approach doesn’t deter from the depth of gameplay, “We’re also very much trying to balance that with not losing out on the depth,” he says, adding, “I think there is plenty of depth in the game, in how you combine your gear, how you enchant your gear, [and] finding secrets.”
Minecraft Dungeons crafting
In an unexpected twist for a game set in the Minecraft universe, Dungeons features neither mining nor crafting. According to Nisshagen, it was decided that traditional Minecraft gameplay was too slow for the faster-paced action Mojang was aiming for with Dungeons. Instead, the team has implemented a new enchantment system – similar to the one in the base game – that can augment gear in fun ways. The hope is to provide players with some flexibility in their gear loadout beyond random loot drops.
Nisshagen described the system to Game Informer: “Think of it like this: a sword drops. The sword has a couple of different enchantments options. You pick one of them and enchant it with that. The next sword drops. It has the same look and feel and combat animations and all of that stuff, but it has different randomised enchantments attached to it. One of them can be super powerful for area of effect attacks. The other could poison the enemy over time. Even if it’s the same base item, they have vastly different properties on them.”
This type of randomisation will enhance Minecraft Dungeon’s replayability and calls to mind other loot-focused games like Fallout or Diablo.
Minecraft Dungeons setting and procedural generation
Right now, it’s a bit unclear what structure Minecraft Dungeons will have, but Nisshagen hinted at a hub area with more linear levels that can be revisited after they have been cleared. These levels will be procedurally-generated, with many biomes from the universe among the possible Minecraft seeds. Adventurers will also do battle with traditional Minecraft baddies, such as spiders and skeletons.
What we do know is this isn’t going to look like your typical game of Minecraft. This is as a result of its engine: while the vanilla craft-a-thon is powered with Java and later Bedrock, Minecraft Dungeons is made in Unreal Engine. From our time with the game at E3 2019, it’s clear that this has enabled Mojang to seriously jack up its lighting effects and weapon tech.
Is Minecraft Dungeons part of a multiverse?
In an interview with IGN in September, just days before Minecon 2018, Mojang CCO Jens Bergensten said Dungeons represents one facet of a Minecraft multiverse, as does Minecraft: Story Mode – which is disappearing for good, even if you own it. This is a decidedly vague statement, but it does point to the potential of more Minecraft products in the future.
And there we are, that’s everything we know about Minecraft Dungeons so far. It’s exciting to see Mojang expand their seminal universe that’s defined by experimentation beyond the open-world formula we’re all familiar with, even if it’s taken a decade to get to this point. You can now sign up for the Minecraft Dungeons closed beta on the official website.
We’re eager to learn more about Minecraft Dungeons – hopefully sooner rather than later – and, when we do, you know exactly where to come.