Minecraft took the world by storm in 2011 as the blocky 3D sandbox game that quickly became engraved into the minds of gamers around the world. Developed by Mojang Studios, along with its creator, Markus “Notch” Persson, the game sold over 200 million copies on multiple platforms, as well as harbouring 125 million users to date.
What made the game so popular is that it’s a completely sandbox video game, meaning there is no end goal in sight, with minimal limitations, and allowing full creative freedom to take over inside the 3D generated world. This quickly captured the hearts of millions of gamers worldwide, often showing off their outstanding works inside the game.
Then in 2018, Mojang Studios revealed another Minecraft game titled Minecraft Dungeons during their Minecon live streaming event. However, unlike its predecessor, Minecraft Dungeons took the role of a dungeon crawler, similar to Grim Dawn, and Path of Exile. This transition surprised many gamers, but still eagerly anticipated its release. After all, Minecraft’s amazing success proved to gamers that Mojang Studios can make great games. But one has to wonder, what made this transition possible. How did Minecraft, whose foundation came from world-building exploration, ended up diving into the world of dungeon crawler games. Let’s find out.
The World of Minecraft
Minecraft as previously mentioned is a 3D sandbox game and is virtually infinite. There is no beginning or end. Your goal as a player is to explore the vast world, gather resources, which are technically blocks, and build anything you feel like building. Minecraft offers various game modes namely Survival Mode, Hardcore Mode, Creative Mode, Adventure Mode, Spectator Mode, and Multiplayer.
Survival mode pretty much explains itself. Players would have to survive the world of Minecraft, and the basic way to do so is to gather resource blocks in the environment, which you can use to craft other materials and items. In this mode, monsters spawn in some areas, which the player has the choice of fighting it or running away from it. This mode pretty much gives players a sense of life within the game. It’s harder version is called Hardcore mode, where it’s pretty much the same thing, but harder, and has the permadeath feature. Meaning if you die, in Hardcore mode, you’re done. You need to start a new game.
Creative mode gives the players absolute freedom in the game. In creative mode, players have access to all the resources and items in their inventory. They also gain the flight ability, which they can use to move more freely inside the world, and focus on world-building. Adventure mode, on the other hand, was designed so players can experience worlds created by their fellow gamers. They will play each other’s world in survival mode, but the rules are dictated by the world creator.
Spectator mode, on the other hand, gives players the role of a spectator, where they can fly around the world, watch it unfold without interacting with the world, it is a casual way of watching how their fellow Minecrafters interact in their worlds. This interaction brings us to the game’s multiplayer feature. Multiplayer in Minecraft is possible either through LAN, split-screen or through player-hosted private servers. This allows for the full social interaction of Minecraft gamers in one single world. Despite its many features, Minecraft is still widely known as the game where players can do anything, and anywhere they want.
The Minecraft Popularity
Minecraft received critical acclaim, and its millions of sales a month after release made it one of the best selling video games of all time. Critics praised Minecraft’s ability to grant players creative freedom in-game, as well as its “blocky” design resembling those of Lego blocks. Rumour has it that one of the features that made Minecraft so popular is its resemblance to Lego blocks, on top of its world-building feature. The simplicity of its graphics, combined with vibrant colours, and world-crafting gameplay made it a game welcomed by gamers across all age margins. Needless to say, YouTubers, live streamers, and other gaming influencers played a major role in raising the popularity of Minecraft. These online celebrities took a dive in the Minecraft world. Showcasing their world-building skills against thousands of their viewers, and followers. Even YouTube’s Gaming celebrity giant PewDiePie dabbled his hands-on Minecraft.
As with all iconic game titles, Minecraft received multiple awards such as Best Debut Game, Best Downloadable Game and Innovation Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards 2011. It was even referenced on other video games such as Torchlight II, Borderlands 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and many more. And in June 2020, Minecraft was inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame.
Minecraft’s monumental success would have anyone think that in order to top it off, Mojang Studios would have to create another word-building Sandbox game using Unreal Engine 4. Perhaps make a more complex, cinematic-rendered 3D game of a different title. But that wasn’t the case, instead, they yearned to expand the Minecraft world, but on a different path this time.
From World Building to Dungeon Crawling
Mojang Studios’ latest release under the Minecraft name is Minecraft Dungeons which takes us to a more story-driven, dungeon crawler gameplay, and acts as one of the few spin-offs of the Minecraft game Its initial release was supposed to be around April, based on their announcement in 2018, but the COVID19 pandemic delayed it to May 26, 2020.
Unlike the original Minecraft game, Minecraft Dungeons has a story campaign where it revolves around a homeless “Illager” named Archie, who was rejected by everyone. He comes across the “Orb of Dominance” which grants him powers and uses it to exact revenge against those who wronged him, bringing the world to its knees, enslaving villagers, with his massive army. The player takes on the role of a hero who is tasked to defeat him at all costs. Armed with a melee, and a ranged weapon, the hero will have to travel across multiple dungeons in order to get to the “Arch-Illager”.
According to the developers, they thought of the possibility of bringing something new to the Minecraft universe, so they decided to make a dungeon crawler game. Minecraft Dungeon’s original design was supposed to be a single-player dungeon crawler game that takes inspiration from The Legend of Zelda series, but during its development, they decided that the multiplayer feature brings added enjoyment to the game, and has now taken inspiration from Torchlight, and Diablo.
Needless to say, the uncanny resemblance to Diablo is noticeable. IGN reviewed the game, and coined it as “basically Diablo with a Minecraft skin”. Other reviewers and YouTubers called the new Minecraft game as “Diablo for kids” as its blocky texture, and lack of a grim in-depth story makes it an introduction to dungeon crawler games for children.
Developers also made sure that it still stays true to the Minecraft world, as instead of adding classes, and special skills limited to one selectable character, they decided to link the skills, and stats to equipment and artifacts found in-game. This gives a refreshing new take on dungeon-crawling, and looting, as players are encouraged to explore the levels in search of rare equipment while maintaining the “gathering resources” aspect of the original Minecraft game. The same equipment can also be upgraded, and enchanted giving players more creative freedom in terms of character customization.
Minecraft dungeons have received mixed reviews from critics, with some saying it’s a fun, and exciting game to pass the time. An introduction to the dungeon crawling genre, without the complex skill allocations, and dark storylines, while others expressed their opinions over its short story campaign, and lack of depth.
Overall, the game is still in its early days of release, Mojang Studios also promised upcoming Downloadable Contents for the game available for purchase, and free if players bought the Minecraft Dungeon Hero Pass. So there’s no telling how far the game will evolve to, or what the reception’s going to be in the future.
However, if there is anything we can take away from this huge leap in the gaming industry by Mojang Studios, is that they have proven themselves as the centre of creative freedom. Both in games and in real life. They broke away from their original game’s massive success by bringing their Minecraft title to another genre.
A true testament to the sandbox genre, where the possibilities are limitless, Minecraft Dungeons can very well pave the way to the mindset that even if your popular title is from another world, you can still make waves in another. With millions of games available on home consoles, like the Playstation, or even in the huge library of browser games like Games.lol, what’s stopping Minecraft in moving from world crafting to dungeon crawling? Will this be a huge success come the DLCs? Will it be able to live up to the original game’s hype? Only time will tell, what’s sure now is that fans of Minecraft are eagerly anticipating to get their hands on the new title.