As Minecraft Dungeons arrives on consoles and PC, we look at all things Minecraft and examine the game's enduring appeal 11 years on...
By Virgin TV Edit
Whether you love it, hate it, love to hate it or hate to love it, it’s undeniable that Minecraft is up there as one of the greatest games of all time. Bliss-like simplicity and an ever-changing world make it one of the most oddly captivating gaming experiences around, and one that, 11 years on, is as engrossing as ever.
Millions of players, billions of builds, trillions of broken blocks and record-breaking sales confirm as much, and it’s easy to see why. We absolutely love it (even in those existential crisis-inducing, post-lava swims that send your entire inventory to the shadow realm). And now, with Minecraft Dungeons, the longstanding juggernaut gets a banging new spin-off…
Ditching its first-person, sandbox-driven gameplay for a top-down dungeon crawler, this brand new adventure sees you battle through a gritty, fantastical iteration of the block-like worlds we’ve come to know and love to save enslaved villagers from an army of undead, combustible wrong’uns.
And while Minecraft’s trademark crafting and building elements are absent, Dungeons more than makes up for it with action-packed, randomly generated dungeons to explore and smash your way through, as you complete a myriad missions either on your tod, or online with up to four friends.
Fans of the LEGO games’ simplistic but oh-so-satisfying combat will also find plenty to love, with Dungeons’ customisable weapons and abilities (for those that are a dab hand with magic) perfectly suited to helping you bulldoze your way through hordes of enemies.
If you’ve never dipped your toe in the world of dungeon crawlers, Dungeons is definitely the place to start. And it further proves that even after all this time, there’s still plenty to keep going back to when it comes to Minecraft’s enduring appeal.
Since its inception and sort of debut in 2009 (when it appeared on PCs as a playable, public alpha) Minecraft has proven time and time again that it remains one of the most engrossing, captivating experiences out there, keeping new players and veterans alike absolutely hooked. But why?
Well, before you sharpen your pickaxe and get dungeon-diving in Dungeons, read on and check out our ten reasons why the world is still obsessed with Minecraft…
As this brilliant, playable, browser-based version of Minecraft’s first ever iteration shows, it is (and remains) a spectacularly simple game. You’re dropped into a randomly generated open world and left to explore, mine, build and craft to your heart’s content. That’s it. But then, what more do you need?
You want a wooden crafting table? Chop a tree down and boom – you can make one. You want a gnarly iron spade to shovel away that sand mountain near your house? Get some iron and wallop – you’ve the shiniest spade in the west. If that sounds simple, it is. If that sounds boring, trust us, it isn’t.
2. The world
Right, let’s be honest. Are Minecraft’s blocky, eight-bit-esque world sumptuous? Probably not, no. But as they’ve consistently proven to players over the last decade, they’re rife for exploration (more on that later) and are the perfect stages for some serious fun.
Sure, J W Turner-style landscapes they most certainly are not. But as randomly generated game worlds with biomes, cave systems, oceans, underwater temples, mineshafts and more go, they don’t get much better or more captivating, varied or detailed than those found in Minecraft.
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a complete novice dwelling in a shack made of soil, crafting is one of the most gratifying pleasures we’ve ever come across in a game. And, as the above video showcases, people’s ingenuity and inventiveness knows no bounds when it comes to Minecraft.
From upgrading tools to building mansions, entire cities, magical spells, map-wide railways or, in some cases, constructing literal, fully functioning computers inside the game itself, Minecraft’s ingenious crafting mechanics mean that if a player can think it, they can build it.
Ah, yes. Tools. But, in the context of Minecraft, not the ones you may expect. As is often the case with these things, Minecraft’s vast and inventive PC community have long been tampering with the game’s inner workings, creating all manner of mods and showcasing its sheer versatility.
Microsoft (owners of Minecraft creators Mojang) have even utilised the game’s intuitive platform to create their own educational version, with Minecraft: Education Edition providing a fun, easy-to-use tool for schoolkids the world over to learn about subjects such as coding, chemistry and so much more.
5. It’s utterly compelling
As anyone who has played the game for any length of time will be able to tell you, Minecraft can, at times, be worryingly compelling. Without any in-built missions to complete, you find yourself setting your own goals which, when reached, inevitably lead to more ambitious targets.
As we’ve mentioned previously, try then losing your vast inventory of rapper-esque, diamond-encrusted armour or fully-functioning farm of crops and livestock to a sudden fall or explosion. Tragedy! If you ain’t embarked on obsessive, There Will Be Blood-style expeditions to mine more and more resources, you ain’t doing it right.
Few games offer the chance to flick from twinkling, zen-like moments (more on those later) to nerve-wracking explorations through dark, enemy-ridden mineshafts like Minecraft. Whether you play as a farmer living in a vegetarian utopia or as a diamond-hungry adventurer, atmosphere is everything with this game.
And, as is often the case with Minecraft, it stems solely from the actions of the players. You can farm or fight or do anything in between, the world and music (did someone say bangers?) combining perfectly to guarantee whatever play style you choose is entertaining and oh-so memorable. Honestly though. What a soundtrack.
While the game’s purpose, ostensibly, is to explore the randomly generated worlds and mine them for resources, countless new game modes, updates and alternatives have appeared since the game’s release in 2009 and have ensured that players keep coming back for more.
Much like the crafting – you can basically turn Minecraft into whatever type of game you wish it to be. Its infamously difficult survival mode is entertaining enough, but some players have gone on to create Hunger Games-esque multiplayer maps where you can battle other players, vast servers of stunning recreations of cityscapes, and even entire continents.
As we’ve already mentioned, Minecraft’s world is massive. And, with time, it has only got bigger, with updates adding areas like the Nether (basically a blocky version of hell filled with naturally growing IKEA lamps), the Ender World (where you can slay dragons… gnarly), chasms, villages of monosylabbic, Squidward-like “people”, abandoned mine shafts, icy plains, jungles, underwater castles…
Underground or above, there’s so much to see in the randomly generated worlds it’s a wonder more people don’t, like this guy, simply walk their endless, rolling landscapes for years. It’s an engrossing, captivating world to explore, Minecraft; one that always sucks you back in, however long it’s been since you last took a stroll.
Consistent updates and DLC are the lifeblood of most games, nowadays. When it comes to Minecraft, they’ve been crucial in keeping long-time players hooked and in bringing former players back.
From subtle tweaks to mechanics, aesthetic polishes, detailed additions like beehives and dolphins to brand new biomes entirely, Mojang have ensured that the formula has regularly been touched up and improved, meaning you can return after a few years away and feel as though you’ve stumbled on a new game entirely.
10. Breathe in… and out… ahhhhhhh
This point might be a weird one, but stick with us. For a start, listen to that tune… Seriously, listen to it… If that doesn’t make you want to sit back, relax and watch a beautifully square sunset and let out a long, stress-relieving, “Ahhhhhhhh” with a whole cooked chicken, we can’t help you.
The best thing about Minecraft is, quite simply, that you don’t have to do anything within it. Walking around beautiful biomes, listening to chill, plinky piano music like that and eating the odd apple or chunk of zombie flesh is, if we’re honest, one of gaming’s simplest, most satisfying pleasures.
Minecraft is the gaming equivalent of your comfy pair of trousers or your go-to laying down position on the sofa. Just booting it up and sitting in it is pleasurable enough. And we, hard though we’ve tried, cannot think of another game that can pull that off at all, or anywhere near as well.