“Minecraft meets Diablo” sounds like a pitch from Kyle in marketing, but the more I see of this oddball spin-off, the more it earns the right to namecheck its parts. It’s an odd combination, sure – a Mojang-made Minecraft game, a dungeon crawler, a procedurally-generated game with a story, a hardcore button-mashing light show, and a chill, cheerful space to noodle around with friends. It can be as tough as you want it, or a friendly couch co-op blast with your kids.
It’s also oddly beautiful, something I never really expected to say of a Minecraft game, with a soundtrack that wafts over its hub area like a warm breeze. From here, you can visit vendors, party up with friends, and test your loadout of magical weaponary and armour on unsuspecting hay dummies. That loadout will be key to Minecraft Dungeons’ longevity, I think. You get one melee weapon, a ranged bow and a suit of armour, all of which can be enchanted with powerful bonus effects, plus three artefacts which act as customisable class items.
When I played Minecraft Dungeons at Gamescom last year I was dropped into the midst of the action, with a loadout preset and no space to customise things properly. I had a wolf who dealt damage but I didn’t really know why. Now, with a few hours play in the recent closed PC beta, it’s easier to see how the growth and customisation of your character will play a big part of the overall experience – and where some of the fun will come once you’ve run through its 10 areas for the first time. What begins as an arsenal of simple swords and shields ends up becoming a fireworks display of magic-infused weaponary, with chain explosions, lightning and lava pool effects as you find better loot and pick ever-snazzier enchantments.