During a half hands-off, half hands-on demo of Minecraft Dungeons at E3 2019 today, executive producer David Nisshagen hammered in one tagline repeatedly: "You are what you wear." He's not talking about the difference between say, a tired version of me wearing sweatpants when you work from home compared to a livelier self wearing slacks in the office. He's talking about a built-in flexibility for playstyles.
In Minecraft Dungeons, a co-op dungeon crawler with no class system, which means the armor you don and the weapon you wield defines you. And like one's own closet, whatever you prefer can change with your mood. Maybe you're in an archer mood, or maybe you just looted a shiny Truthseeker sword and want to put its innate special perks and abilities to use. Each weapon has a random attribution called an "enchantment," making the loot grind endless, and of course, delectable. Levels scale with the player, so the loot you find gets stronger with you. In Minecraft Dungeons, it's always easy to switch things up too and feel like you're earning something.
In fact, Dungeons is the first standalone Mojang game that isn't Minecraft proper. But unlike Minecraft, there's no "block by block" creation here; it's all procedurally generated, with levels in nine different biomes. In essence, it's Diablo for the whole family. You journey through dungeons, hacking at skeletons and husks alike. And at any time, up to three additional companions can pop in for drop-in, drop-out co-op. Maybe those additional players are a kid's parents; or maybe they're a group of four skilled Diablo veterans. The demo we see today is in Desert Temple, a familiar locale from Minecraft.
"So you start in one [level], and then you gradually open up," Nisshagen tells me when I ask if there's a non-linear trek through the nine procedurally generated biomes, or if there's a critical path during a group Q&A. "So there is a little narrative. It's not super deep or complex, it's not our focus. There is a certain order of things. [...] You need to do certain things."
Each level has a central purpose and an antagonist at the end of it, we're told. But with procedural generation, there's a lot of replay value in revisiting old levels; even the ones you've overcome already. The mobs you face are a mixture of old, familiar foes—even the dreaded Enderman—and some new enemies too.
Despite Minecraft being in the name, Minecraft Dungeons doesn't feel like just a renewed perspective on the beloved create-whatever media juggernaut. The art direction actually reminds me starkly of last year's JRPG Octopath Traveler, bright bloom lighting and all. When you get close to death, a cool dithering effect even blankets the screen. Visually, there's a lot more going for Minecraft Dungeons than where it gets its name from.
Another member of the press asked if Minecraft Dungeons would have microtransactions, which the developers from Mojang Stockholm said it's too early to go into details. The developers assured the room that it's a premium game without any loot boxes of the monetary variety. It's family-friendly vibe will be playable for all relatively soon when drops this spring for Xbox One (including Xbox Game Pass), PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. You can find the rest of our E3 2019 coverage here.