V Rising

V Rising is a solid survival/crafting game with a vampire theme and mechanics. I can’t think of a good vampire pun to put here.

I like V Rising. I don’t think it’s a perfect game. But it cost $20, and I’ve played 60 hours of it. If that’s not an easy recommendation, I don’t know what is.

V Rising is a multiplayer survival/crafting game in the vein Valheim or Rust. Instead of following their lead and being in a first person or over the shoulder camera, V Rising has a top down camera much closer to something like Diablo.

And instead of being a human unlucky enough to wash up on some random island, you’re a vampire.

The vampire thing isn’t just a theme. Sure, there’s a blood meter that replaces your hunger bar. But who you drink blood from also heavily impacts gameplay. Drink blood from a worker, and you’ll harvest more resources. Drink blood from a nun, and you’ll restore health when casting spells. Drink blood from a warrior, and you can parry some incoming attacks.

Also, you burn real hard during the daytime.

The general gameplay loop of V Rising is straight forward. After you get through the game’s equivalent of tutorial, and have a simple base set up, you’ll venture out to farm materials to craft better gear. Once your gear is good enough, you can go fight stronger bosses or “V Blood Carriers.” Defeating a boss and harvesting V Blood unlocks additional spells, powers, and crafting recipes. Then you can craft better gear! But that might require expanding your base, which requires more resources. So you rinse and repeat.

Of course, when I say “harvest resources” I mean less in a “harvest crops” sort of way, and more in a “humans in the Matrix” sort of vibe. V-Rising’s combat is probably closest to Battlerite (not surprisingly, given that Stunlock made both games). If you’re not familiar with Battlerite, I’d say it feels like a slower-paced version of League of Legends. Also, damage, health and “level” is all completely dependent on the level of gear you have equipped.

I never really had that “Power Fantasy” moment that I get from games like Path of Exile. Instead, you’re limited to 3 skills from your weapon, 2 spells, and an ultimate skill. Even when you outlevel an enemy, unless the difference is absolutely massive, you can still get put into the dirt. The combat is at its best in the game’s boss fights against V-Blood Carriers. It’s at its most annoying against packs or random mobs.

I don’t have too much to say on the multiplayer, mostly because I feel like you can play the game however you want. My first 50 hours were with a few friends on a publicly-hosted PVE server. The next 10 where those same friends on a privately hosted PVP server, and now we’re not friends anymore. Jokes aside, the multiplayer works well, and many of the factors like resource scaling are configurable. If you want a comfy base building setup with some friends, you can just join or host a PVE server with 5x resources, and the ability to teleport. And if you’re masochistic, you can join a 0.5 resource PVP server. Changing the pace and flow is pretty much just a server config setting.

I don’t think the game’s perfect. There’s a whole system for binding and turning humans into vampire servants, but their utility is limited outside of equipping them with a bit of gear, and sending them out on timed missions to gather resources. While the weapons are fairly diverse, the clothing options are a completely linear path, with no build diversity other than “big number good.”

Arise reborn, my servant! Now go get me copper.

Still though, there’s a lot more thought than often goes into games like this. It’s not possible to build a base in such a way that blocks off other players from a critical resource. The number of bosses is fairly high, and despite many of them just being random humans, the actual fights feel meaningfully diverse.

I think V Rising’s greatest strength compared to a lot of the other crafting/survival games is how complete the game loop feels. In 60 hours, I think I only looked at a wiki or guide 2-3 times, and I never encountered any jank.

V Rising is $20 on Steam. It’s a pretty good time. If you’re looking for a solid survival game, or a base builder, I feel comfortable recommending it.

Ed Note: Screenshots are blatantly ripped from the Steam Store page, at time of publishing. The game’s UI doesn’t look like this anymore, though. I still think these are decent representations of what V Rising looks like, even if the lighting in the screenshots is a bit nicer.

MultiVersus

MultiVersus is fantastic. If you haven’t heard of it yet because you exclusively read Gametrodon and literally nothing else, thank you for your loyalty! You’ll be given a ranking position in the new regime. If you have already heard of MultiVersus (because you don’t live under a rock), and haven’t played it, or were on the fence about playing it, stick around and maybe I can convince you to try it.

MultiVersus is a platform fighter developed by Player First Games, and published by Warner Brothers. If you’re wondering why I’m mentioning the publisher, don’t worry. It’s relevant. But first let’s quickly talk about platform fighters as a genre. Platform fighters are, for better or worse, defined by Super Smash Brothers. If you’ve never played a platform fighter, there are few things that differentiate them from traditional fighting games.

Platform fighters, like traditional fighting games are 2D games where you use your character’s moves to hit your opponent. As someone who plays both traditionally fighters and platform fighters casually, there are two big differences. The first is that platform fighters are far more open, with mobility much closer to a platforming game. The second is the win condition. In most platform fighters, instead of each character having a set amount of HP, they have a percent value. When you get hit, your percent goes up. The higher your percent, the more knockback you take when you get hit by an attack. But no matter your percent, you don’t actually die until your opponent can knock you off the stage. Finally, platform fighters often have more characters on stage than just the traditional 1v1, and MultiVersus leans into this. The game’s primary game mode is actually 2v2, with many of the characters having abilities that buff or somehow interact with their allies.

Speaking of which. Characters!

The other thing a platform fighter needs to be good is good characters. That’s easy for Smash Bros, which might as well just be the Nintendo “Who’s Who” list for video games even if the list does have some washed up entries. (Seriously, I’m pretty sure Falco and Fox are more relevant as Smash Bros fighters than their series is. And there hasn’t been a new F-Zero game in a million years.)

This is great if you’re Nintendo, but if you have to invent your own characters, like Brawlhalla, or Rivals of Aether, or anyone else in the genre it can be rough. After all, it’s not like you can just go dig up a treasure chest of intellectual property from the 40 years.

Hey, remember how I mentioned this was being published by Warner Brothers, and said the publisher would be relevant later?

Turns out, Warner Brothers has the rights to a lot of stuff.

A lot of stuff.

MultiVersus currently has a seventeen-character roster, which isn’t huge, but let’s look at a few folks in that roster. You have Batman and Superman. You have Shaggy and Velma. You have Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, and Wonder Woman. You have Arya Stark, and Lebron James. You have Stephen and Garnet from Stephen Universe, and you have Jake the Dog and Finn the Human from Adventure Time.

If you can read that entire list without going “Wait what” or getting a least a little excited for a moment about the idea of Shaggy absolutely thrashing Batman in hand to hand combat, then please come to my apartment so I can give you your “Least Exposed to Pop Culture” gold medal. I grew up without TV, I still barely watch TV, and I know who these folks are.

Unlike Smash Brothers, though, these characters aren’t from a video game, so it raises the question “How well were they adapted?” Personally, I think they’ve done a pretty good job. Shaggy is this kinetic bruiser, dashing around the stage, doing that funky little leg zoom walk, and tossing sandwiches. Finn is an assassin, charging up these big swipes of his sword and leaping around. From the characters I’ve played, they’re all fun, with their own tricks and traps.

But this does bring up a point I want to cover: I haven’t played everyone, because MultiVersus is F2P, and that means you don’t actually get all the characters. It’s the League of Legends model, where there’s a free rotation of characters, but if you want to unlock a character permanently, you have to buy them with either in game gold, or the premium currency.

This isn’t a particularly evil implementation of F2P, but it does commit a lot of the traditional sins of the model. I don’t want to put too much energy into calling them out here, so instead I’ll give you a quick list of why I don’t like it much:

  1. Premium Currency can only be purchased in specific increments. This means you can only purchase say 1000/2000/3000 of it, but all the characters and skins cost different amounts. So you’ll always have some left over, and if you want to buy more stuff, you’ll have to buy more currency. It’s like the evil video game version of the XKCD nacho cycle.
  2. Skins are expensive, like 15-20 bucks a pop.
  3. There’s a battle pass/daily quest system, so you have that whole FOMO structure, and since a lot of your gold generation is linked to leveling up characters, it’s easy to tell the flow of gold will shut off pretty quickly.
  4. Perks are a gold sink for F2P players.

Oh, that’s right! We haven’t talked about Perks yet. Lets cover them quickly.

Each character in Multiversus has four perk slots, 1 unique one, and 3 generic ones. The unique ones are a non-issue for me. You unlock all unique perks for a character just by playing them. They tend to offer some sort of boost, or change to one of your character’s attacks, but since you can see your opponent’s perk choices before a game, they’re not a big deal.

The generic perks are where I have a problem, not because of what they do, but because of how you acquire them. They tend to offer small buffs to both you and your teammate. As an example, one gives you an additional third jump in the air after you connect a hit. If you and your teammate stack the same buff, you get a better version it. For example, the aforementioned jump perk when stacked just lets you and your teammate have a third jump always available.

But anyway, this isn’t the problem with perks. The problem is that there’s a limited pool of perks you unlock for each character. Then you have to spend gold to unlock the rest, and you have to unlock them on a character by character basis. It’s like a worse version of League of Legends’ old rune system.

The gameplay itself, though, is what carries MultiVersus. And while I might not be a big fighting game person, the friend I played most of my 30 hours with is. To paraphrase his thoughts, while the game is very focused around hitstun and combos, it doesn’t feel super toxic. There’s also a larger focus on mobility, and to quote him directly “The lack of the homogenization of the trinity (grab/shield/stun) and the presence of charged aerials is a significant shift from other platform fighters.”

Personally, I just think smacking folks around in the game feels fun, and even as someone who sucks at fighting, the matchmaking has yet to throw me into a game that I felt like I couldn’t possibly win.

Speaking of matchmaking, let’s talk about the other part of online play: netcode. MultiVersus has some issues, but overall the netcode is far better than, say, Smash Bros online. There are still situations where it feels like your inputs are dropped, but it’s fairly rare.

Overall, MultiVersus is an incredibly fun F2P platform fighter, with a strong (if small roster), and solid mechanics. While it doesn’t commit any special sins of being a F2P game, I feel like it would be better if you could just buy the whole game instead of being hit with the traditional spending traps. That said, I might not have tried it if it cost $40, and that would have been a shame, because I would have missed out on one of the very few games to even try to give Smash Bros a run for its money.

MultiVersus is free to play on PC, PS4/5, Xbox One, and Xbox S.

To preempt the question from the one person I know who will read this article: it’s not available for Switch, and it’s not clear if it will be. Just go grab it for PC. C’mon, it’ll be fun!

Perfect Heist 2

I like Perfect Heist 2. It’s a fantastic asymmetric deception game about robbing, or preventing the robbing of banks. So does that mean the game is as perfect as its name implies? No. It has a lot of problems. But it’s fun, and that’s really all that matters.

Writing the intro paragraph for this article is an exercise in deciding what watch list I want to get placed on. Do I make the joke about how the game is unrealistic because you get punished for killing civilians as a cop? Do I talk about how I love games that let me lie my way to victory? Do I talk about how my favorite thing in games like Project Winter is convincing someone to work with me, only to bludgeon them to death in an enclosed space once they’re out of earshot of the rest of the group and no one can hear their cries for help?

Do I just make all of them?

Oh right, I’m supposed to be writing about a game.

Perfect Heist 2 is a multiplayer deception game about robbing banks. Players join either the robbers or police, with the robbers trying to get as much money out of the bank as possible, while the police try to stop them. If the robbers successfully extract a certain amount of money and make a successful escape, the robber team wins. If time runs out, or all the robbers are killed, the cops win.

You’ll note that I didn’t say, “If the robbers kill all the cops, the robbers win.” It’s technically true, but is incredibly rare. This is because Perfect Heist 2 isn’t a game about running and gunning; it’s a game about being sneaky.

In addition to the human players in a game, there are also dozens of AI-controlled civilians. They generally just meander about, and don’t do very much, but they provide the cover for the robbers to infiltrate the bank. However, there are some things the AI won’t do. They won’t ever sprint, they won’t ever pick up money, and they open doors.

Perhaps most importantly though, they’ll never go into areas they aren’t supposed to be in. There are two general types of AI units: bank employees and civilians. Both types have different clothing patterns, and wearing the wrong outfit for the area you’re in is a great way to get shot in the head.

As a general rule of thumb, cops have more damage mitigation, and better guns, which means that if you, as a robber, get into a fair fight with a cop, you’re likely going to lose.

Secondly, unlike robbers, when a cop dies, they just respawn. There’s a shared a pool of lives for the cop team, and a recently respawned cop now knows where you are and what you look like. Cops can’t just go trigger happy though, because if a cop kills a civilian AI even by mistake, the cop instantly dies and can’t respawn.

Team balance also influences the general sneakiness of the game. The police can never have more players than the robbers, and usually have 2-3 fewer members. As a result, the teams consist of a larger number of players with no individual respawns and generally weaker stats (robbers) against a smaller number of players, with superior firepower and respawns, but a heavy penalty for misusing them (cops).

So let’s talk about how you actually steal money. Maps in Perfect Heist consist of the bank, the area surrounding the bank, and a few generic buildings around the bank that can’t be entered. The bank is the interesting part though, as it contains vaults, where a majority of the gold and cash needed to win is kept, along with jewelry, and secret documents, all of which can also be picked up for cash.

There are also ATMs, which can be hacked once to drop money. While the vaults need to be either blown open with charges, or unlocked with various specific classes, the other valuables can usually just be grabbed, albeit with some risks. For example, jewelry is usually in glass cases, and the sound of breaking glass is great way to broadcast where you are to every cop in a 3 mile radius.

TLDR: there are valuables littered all round the bank, and different classes have advantages for going after various types.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about classes. There are a lot of classes, both for the cops and robbers. Each class has starting weapons, a passive, and an activated ability.

In terms of actual playability, classes vary pretty heavily. Some are straightforward, like the Demo who can carry explosives without them being visible, or the Tech who can open all vaults after hacking three computers, and has a drone that can carry money bags. Some offer alternative playstyles, like the Crypto-Enthusiast, who can hack computers to install crypto miners, and generate passive cash, or the Fed Chairman who can quite literally print money.

Others are situational, like the Sniper. And some are just bad, like the Pickpocket, or Safecracker. It’s a pretty even split between those four groups. There’s enough variety to keep things fun, but some classes just don’t really function.

The same is pretty much true for the cops. Classes like Riot Control and Spy offer straightforward and always-useful mechanics. IT is situational: useful against classes that want to hack computers or ATMs, but doesn’t do much otherwise. Fed Chairman (no, not a typo, both cops and robbers can use this class) can increase the amount of money robbers need to steal in order to win and offers an alternate playstyle. And then there’s the Digital Forensics officer who…. can see how long ago a computer was hacked. It’s pretty pointless.

I do think the classes are part of the reason why I enjoy Perfect Heist 2, though. The different playstyles and options available mean that you’re not locked into a single strategy, and you can switch between rounds if it feels like something isn’t working. It adds a lot of replayability, and there’s also some interesting synergies (though these synergies tend to be more in favor of the robbers than the cops).

With all that covered, let’s talk about what I don’t like about the game. First, the game options menu is practically non-existent. Resizing your screen is advanced technology, so I hope you like playing in permanent fullscreen forever. Second, game balance. As a general rule, the game feels balanced. HOWEVER, the way team selection works means that you can get locked into having two teams of the same players go against each other over and over, with one team just crushing the other. Finally, the guns. The guns kind of suck. They feel slow and laggy. Aiming down sight is buggy and doesn’t always actually aim down sight, and shooting without aiming down the sight results in firing bullets somewhere within an 180 degree radius of where you were pointed.

These aren’t deal breakers. Honestly, if I could change anything about the game, it would be to fix some of the bugs, clarify wording for mechanics for a few abilities, and fix the options menu. If they did all of that, the game would be fantastic, as opposed to the ‘pretty good’ it currently is.

If this sounds fun, and the issues don’t sound like deal breakers, you can grab Perfect Heist 2 for $10 on Steam.

Elden Ring

The first thing George RR Martin finished writing in the last 10 years.

Elden Ring came out on February 25th. As I write this, it’s currently June 19th. I purchased the game upon its release. Since then, it’s been 119 days. For a large portion of time, this article has been sitting in my drafts post, with just the following text.

“I have not beaten Elden Ring.”

As of today though, I can finally update that text. Instead, it can now read:

“I have beaten Elden Ring.”

So now what?

There are three separate tacts I feel I could take with reviewing Elden Ring. I’m going to try to stuff them all into this article, but I’m going to start with the most straightforward one. Having finished the game do I recommend it? Do I like Elden Ring? Is it fun? To which my answers are “It depends, yes (but not as much as Bloodborne), and sometimes.” Let’s expand those answers a bit, but first, let’s talk about what Elden Ring is mechanically.

Mechanics

Much like its predecessors, Elden Ring is an over the shoulder action game. You could also just call it a Soulslike, the genre From Software effectively invented. It shares many other traits with other From Software games. These range from how bosses are handled, to a large portion of older games’ equipment systems, to the most infamous: the fact that when you die, you drop all your unspent currency/experience, and get one chance to run back and pick it up. And if you fail, you kiss all your experience goodbye.

There are a massive number of differences as well, though. Unlike previous games, Elden Ring is open world, and when I say open world, I really mean it. There were three separate occasions in my playthrough where I thought I’d seen the entire world, only to then walk directly into a brand new zone. And because it’s so big, you get a horse (best value; Torrent legit looks more like a yak) to traverse the world. There’s also a brand new crafting system, which I never touched, and the ability to summon spirits, which I used a lot.

To my mind, the biggest ramification of how open the world is, is that there isn’t strictly speaking a single path to the end of the game. There are some required bosses, but the early game is open enough that it only requires you to beat two out of a fairly large set of bosses. Anyway, now that we’ve covered the game’s general mechanics at least slightly, let’s go back to those three questions I answered above.

Answer Ye These Questions Three

First off, do I recommend Elden Ring? Here’s why my recommendation is an “It depends.” Elden Ring is a Soulslike, and it’s a From Software game. This means the game is hard, not by being unfair, but by just being very punishing for mistakes. I talked about this sort of design in my Bloodborne writeup, if you want to read about this design philosophy in more detail.

Elden Ring could almost be taken as a synthesis of the games From Software has made. So if you enjoy those games, it’s an easy recommendation. At the same time, it’s a very unique experience. I’d argue that if you’ve never played a Soulslike, Elden Ring is currently the pinnacle of the genre, making it a good entry point.

With that said, if you’ve played them before, and didn’t like them, or simply don’t like action oriented combat games, Elden Ring is likely a bad fit. The ability to beat Elden Ring isn’t something reserved for only the most elite gamers, but it is a game that demands far more patience and tolerance then any other AAA title I can think of. There’s a reason the “Easy Mode” mod has 40,000 downloads.

Next, question two: do I like Elden Ring? Yes, I generally like Elden Ring, but, I still don’t like it as much as Bloodborne. The reasons for this can be grouped into a few big reasons: (A) weapons, (B) combat, and (C) “I just don’t like open world games.”

A. Weapons. I simply like Bloodborne’s weapons more, specifically their trick modes. The ability to spend resources on a single weapon, but to swap between modes based on the enemy you’ve encountered was something I enjoyed quite a lot. Elden Ring has a much greater number of weapons available, but none ever actually really clicked with me the way Bloodborne’s Threaded Cane did. In addition, although I found a lot more weapons, I simply didn’t have the stats for many of them, and thus ignored them.

B. Combat. In Bloodborne, when you get hit by an attack, if you can strike an enemy back fast enough, you can recover a portion of your health. This lends the game a very aggressive tone, encouraging offensive play. In Elden Ring, you do not. This simple difference sets an incredibly different tone, and frankly, I like fighting more than I like waiting. This brings us to the other thing I liked better about Bloodborne combat: parries.

In Bloodborne, your secondary weapon is almost always a gun. Guns are not really ranged weapons. Instead they’re used to perform parries/counters, and you almost always have access to them. Elden Ring doesn’t have guns, and while it does have parries, Parry is a single special attack option available only on shields, and using a shield means giving up two handed weapons, and also many other combat options. Look, I just liked my shotgun okay?

C. I just don’t like open world games. This one is pretty self explanatory. I just don’t. Elden Ring is an open world game, and it uses a lot of the common open world tropes, including various repeating objectives and structures, having to collect maps for new areas, and in the latter half of the game, a fair amount of re-used bosses. Also a crafting system.

I do not enjoy getting lost. I do not enjoy crafting shit. And I really don’t enjoy trying to find a specific reagent. Yes, I could use a wiki, but I didn’t for reasons we’ll cover later. I mentioned this in my earlier Elden Ring writeup, but it also made it feel much harder to figure out if I was just bad at a fight, or if my character’s stats weren’t high enough. Is skill too low, or is number too low?

Next, question 3, the most important question: Is Elden Ring fun? I had fun with Elden Ring. I was also frustrated, annoyed, bewildered, and pissed off. Those two sets of emotions aren’t necessarily exclusive. Elden Ring, and Soulslikes in general, are satisfying because of how obnoxious they can be, and how good it feels to finally dunk an enemy that’s been wiping the floor with you for several hours.

(We’re about to get into spoiler territory, so if for some reason you want to avoid spoilers, now would be the time to leave.)

With that said though, I would say I had less “Fun” in the second half of the game, and closer to the end. The environments are far more sparse, and bosses are heavily reused. In addition, the final section of the game is effectively a boss rush, where you have to face FIVE bosses with no other zones or content between them. Of these five bosses, I’d argue the first and third bosses you encounter are more impressive and interesting than four and five, which gives the game a weird tone.

Also, while I don’t want to be too direct, the “Final” boss of Elden Ring is one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen in a From Software game. This is for several reasons and I’ll cover them quickly. First off, the final boss is large, which would normally be fine, except they’re so big that getting close enough to attack them requires that you’re also so close that you can’t see the tells for their attacks. Second, they only have one lock-on point, directly in their chest. This makes it hard to stay focused on them, and hard to see their tells, which come from the head and arms. Finally, despite being an absolute chonky lad, they spend most of the fight just running around the arena, and getting close enough to them to hit them is the primary challenge. It’s incredibly annoying.

There are quite a few awesome bosses in the game, but the final boss is not one of them.

So now that we’ve answered the big important questions, let’s move on to the other thing I wanted to talk about, and perhaps the biggest issue coloring my experience with Elden Ring.

I’m pretty sure I played the game wrong.

I Played Elden Ring Wrong

That sounds pretty weird, doesn’t it? After all, arguing that someone is “playing it wrong” is usually used to perpetuate elitism. It smacks of explaining why someone you don’t like, usually because of gender, skin color, or both, isn’t a “Real Gamer.” So using it to describe yourself is weird.

So why do I think I played it wrong? Funnily enough, it actually has nothing to do with in-game behavior or mechanics.

My playthrough of Elden Ring was completed with as few spoilers as I could feasibly make it, and completely solo. I never once looked at a guide, wiki, or any form of information or tutorial. I also played in offline mode and never used an online summon. The extent of my exposure to information from outside the game was one or two offhanded comments from my friends (“Mimic tear is good”) and a few small memes that I encountered accidentally.

I did this for my pride. From Software games are hard, and I wanted to be able to say to know that “I beat Elden Ring without having to look anything up, by myself.” That’s literally the entire reason.

And in retrospect, it was a pretty stupid decision.

Everything about how Elden Ring works feels like it’s designed to be “experienced” as a game in some form of multiplayer. Not in-game multiplayer, but exchange of information multiplayer. You find something cool about how various mechanics work, and share it with your friend. They tell you how a certain symbol on the map always indicates it’s an area where you get resources to upgrade your weapons. It’s a virtuous cycle of phased discovery within a group.

The game is built of a million small riddles and puzzles, but once you solve them, you can share them with someone else. This is true of many From Software games, but Elden Ring being open world takes this to a whole new level. There’s just so much stuff, and a massive amount of it is easy to miss.

I kind of regret doing everything completely on my own, and I think I would have had more fun if I played more earlier, and chatted with friends about stuff, rather than the grinding slog I took to do it all myself.

There’s probably a lesson there, but let’s pretend this was a one-off thing, and wrap this article up. There are a few other issues I have with the game, including the crashes and boss re-use, but I already wrote about those a few weeks ago, and I’m not sure it’s worth re-hashing.

In Conclusion

Elden Ring is an advancement of the Soulslike genre, and synthesizes many of the mechanics and environments from previous From Software games. Even so, there are several weak portions of the game. While it deserves the acclaim and praise it gets, I wouldn’t call it perfect by any means. If this article has inspired you, and you’ve now decided you want to become Elden Lord, it’s available for the current gen consoles, and also PC.

But you’re gonna have to beat me for it.

Minecraft Dungeons

I spent months seeing ads for Minecraft Dungeons and assuming it was a fancy Minecraft mod. As it turns out it’s a completely different game. It uses Minecraft textures, sounds, creatures, and trappings (like the currency is emeralds), but its actually an Action RPG.

Blocky Diablo would also be accurate.

If you’re new the genre, ARPG is just a fancy name for a Diablo clone. It’s a 3rd person top down dungeon crawler where you collect loot and level up your character. As a big fan of Diablo II and a big fan of Minecraft, you might expect that this would be my kind of game… and you’d mostly be right.

I mostly enjoyed Minecraft Dungeons. While I didn’t play much endgame content or go to the much harder difficulties, I did clear the full story, and some of the postgame, and had a good time with it.

However, I have three fundamental problems with the game

  1. Lack of twangy guitar music.
  2. Consumable arrows.
  3. Map readability and collision.

While issue one pretty much speaks for itself, issue two is a bit more nuanced. Why does it matter that Minecraft Crayons has consumable arrows? To explain that, let’s talk about how the game handles skills.

Minecraft Funyons has an interesting “class” system. I put class in quotes because there are no set classes; how your character approaches the game depends entirely on what kind of gear you wear and enchantments you apply. If you want to be a rogue, you equip armor that makes you deal more physical damage. To be a tank, you equip armor that reduces the damage you take. If you want to be a caster, you equip armor that reduces the cooldowns on your artifacts (effectively your abilities), and then equip artifacts that deal damage. And if you want to be an archer, you equip armor that gives you extra ranged damage and extra arrows.

The problem is that the arrow economy is such that even with bonus arrow armor, enchantments, and artifacts, you STILL run out of arrows at some point each run. With at most 10 de facto classes, it’s a strange design choice to make one of them effectively unplayable.

My third issue was map readability. While the Minecraft style maps are very pretty, because all the elements are visually similar, I often found it hard to quickly figure out which terrain was walkable and which blocked me. And that’s a big problem when trying to make a split second decision with a million mobs following me. Hit a wall, and you’re dead.

Being pinned against terrain by a wave of enemies wouldn’t be terrible if the standard roll ability let you roll through the enemies, but it doesn’t, unlike almost every game I’ve ever played with a dodge. It also doesn’t actually dodge hits. All it does is give you a quick burst of speed followed by being slowed. Looking back, I found this design decision this most frustrating part of the game.

And there are a few other things that don’t quite make sense to me. The enchantment system seems to be built to encourage you to try out new sub builds frequently. But this never really worked. There are only two ways to get your enchantment points/levels back to try out a new item or build.

Option 1 is to salvage the original item, getting rid of it. If you do this and then don’t like your new build, you’re shit out of luck. Option 2 is go give your items to the Blacksmith, which gives you back your enchantment points, and then upgrades the item after your clear 3 levels. But again, if you don’t like your build, you’re still shit out of luck, abeit only for 3 runs. Why there isn’t just a “refund enchantment points” button is beyond me.

The game is also a bit buggy. While none of these are “Eat your savefile” or “Crash your machine” levels of bugs, they’re still annoying. For example, I fought a miniboss at the start of a level, and then spent the entire level listening to the dramatic boss music. Almost every chest you open spews some consumable items out of the level, entirely wasting them. Another time I rolled in the middle of combat and got stuck in a hole in the map.

Overall, I did have fun with it, even if it was somewhat simple. It honestly felt like the game was initially designed as a roguelike, but at some point they changed it to a perpetual gear chase. The addition of the Tower, a game mode that is quite literally a roguelike adds to that theory.

Minecraft Dungeons is available on pretty much every platform, and also has cross-play between all of them. So if you’re looking for a solid, but simple ARPG you can play with other folks, grab a copy, and sit back. Just be prepared to deal with some annoyances along the way. And if you’re still on the fence, you can read more about it here.

Ed Note: The post-game content is actually surprisingly extensive, and decent. I played it even if Max didn’t. It functions similar to PoE’s mapping system, in that the zones themselves are remixes of previously cleared areas with increased mob variety and specialties. It also has it’s own special gear chase with gilded items and whatnot. TLDR: Postgame good!