Last night my kids and I were just meant to play a little bit of Dungeons together on our Xbox One S. Just a quick run through a zone and then off to bed, alright kids?
Two hours later we had scoured every nook and cranny, found every secret door and every hidden chest in an area we probably could have cleared in 10-15 minutes if we’d just mainlined it. But with every step the game revealed itself to be a fabulous ‘Diablo for families’ experience that will get regular play for months and maybe years to come.
There’s so much to be said for elevating ‘kid friendly’ games toward the best game mechanics in the business. Nintendo certainly does it like no other, but the wider industry often thinks that you can’t make something for those under 12 and still include advanced game mechanics of any kind.
Minecraft has shunned this idea since its earliest days, of course. It is simple on the surface and quickly offers deep building and crafting systems to those looking for details.
Here with Minecraft Dungeons, Mojang Studios and Double Eleven have built a full fledged action RPG with a gorgeous Minecraft skin. Starting with simple characters, the levelling, the equipment drops, the enchanting system, they all work together to get you thinking and rethinking character builds in search of optimised carnage.
The game flows smoothly on Xbox One, and local multiplayer was a joy. There’s no fighting for loot here, which is a plus or a minus depending on your outlook. Every drop is reserved for specific players, and the emerald currency is evenly distributed each time it drops. I really wish there was loot trading system, though, as there was jealousy amongst the troops when someone else got a drop they didn’t need while someone else was desperately trying to target a tankier build to play up front while another was keen to be a ranged attack specialist.
The general vibe of drops through the first play through are very hit and miss. When you start buying random items from the village vendor and it says they’ll be ‘level appropriate’, people often find themselves receiving useless items well below the level of their current best items. It’s actually more of a disappointment for the younger players, who again would dearly love to be able to swap with each other to get the gear they want.
There’s a fun story to play through – indeed some might find themselves wishing there was a lot more story. But it’s a complaint based on how nicely the story elements have been put together. It would be great if they lasted longer. Instead, the game speeds you toward the adventure mode where you can start to level up the challenges and in the process find cooler items and tougher enemies to deal with. Yes, just like Diablo.
As much as those gripes about trading and overly randomised loot are very real, Minecraft Dungeons has given us a new environment that is familiar to Minecraft fans that takes them toward new styles of gameplay. This is a gateway game for the hardened young Minecraft fan to open their eyes to new styles of fun.
If Minecraft Dungeons as it stands right now is all we ever get, it’s a nice fun ride that will wear eventually feel a little tired, I’m sure. We are yet to head into its hardest levels of difficulty, but it is the discovery and customisation that attracts our merry band to play. Once items, enchants and artefacts become largely a known quantity it won’t be quite so fun.
But I can only imagine Mojang has expansions and updates in mind. And with that idea that this game is likely to be well supported into the future to keep it evolving and fresh, and potentially solving some of the gripes that exist, I think Minecraft Dungeons will see a long life in many households for many years to come.
We received a free review code to access the game ahead of launch on Tuesday, 26 May. It will be available on Xbox GamePass, or for direct purchase via Xbox One, Playstation 4, Windows and Nintendo Switch.
The gaming influencer and content creator agency Click Management represents some of the world’s biggest names in the space. LazarBeam, Loserfruit, MrFreshAsian, Muselk, and more.
Grace Watkins co-founded the company and runs the show, having peeled off from working at PwC to take on this role.
Gaming content creators are a massive force in this industry, so it’s great to get Grace’s insights on the role Click aims to play both locally and globally. And how they engage in that tricky space where global reach doesn’t always align with where marketing dollars want to go.
This was recorded in the ‘before times’, at Fortnite Summer Smash back in January.
This week I’m chatting with Ross Symons, CEO of Big Ant Studios, Australia’s most prolific maker of sports video games. Cricket, AFL, tennis, rugby league, and even lacrosse, Big Ant has got them all in its library. What unites designing sports games of so many stripes? How has Big Ant dealt with licensing? We explore these questions and many more.
Ross is a true veteran of the industry and shares so many great thoughts about games development since some of its earliest days and how to carve a path in the industry. So we start by heading all the way back to where it began for Ross to show just how deep his knowledge of the business goes.
SMG Studio has a diverse catalogue but every one has been an eyecatcher. One More Line, Over The Top Tower Defence (OTTTD), Death Squared and more, as well as licensed versions of Risk.
Ash has a background in advertising which comes up in our discussion as part of pinning down the clarity of vision the studio hits on with each of its games and also right here at the start as we kick off the call with the realisation Ash and I once worked together 20 years ago…
On today’s show I talk to Ben Goldhaber, co-founder and CEO of Juked.gg, a fantastic esports aggregation website that makes it easy to just see all the esports happening live online right now.
When you hit the site you just get this great dashboard of live feeds as if you’re looking at a bunch of screens in a sports bar. It launched in 2019 and I’ve been a fan since I first spotted it – it solves the classic problem of not knowing what’s on and not being sure where to find it.
Ben has a huge background in both esports and live-streaming, and was even on the founding team when twitch.tv was born.
So it was great to catch up and hear his thoughts on why he’s created Juked as well as his thoughts on making esports easier to watch and where this still very new service might go from here.
On this week’s show we talk coronavirus tracking apps and if we’re going to do one we should make sure we do it right.
But thankfully that doesn’t dominate the show, and we get into fun stuff like digital boardgames, Minecraft getting pretty with RTX, Pac-Man at 40, and the next big Fortnite concert happens this weekend so get into it!
Here’s the Fortnite link to all the details – seriously, download it and experience this event:
Seamus catches up with the founder and CEO of Level Up Dice, Alex Abrate, to talk about the company’s origin story and how it has evolved over its amazing five years of making the world’s most gorgeous gaming dice.
What is Alex’s favourite material to work with? Do they find differences in dice preferences around the world as they tour the convention circuit? And why Alex is most at home selling face to face? And how’s it all going in this awfully weird year that is 2020?
Check out, maybe even buy, some Level Up Dice of your own at the website.
This week Seamus talks with Nico King, co-founder and Executive Creative Director of Chaos Theory Games, an independent games studio based out of Sydney, Australia.
Chaos Theory is a great blend of pragmatism and idealism, creating games for brands to help them with marketing initiatives right through to games for good, helping charities, educators and environmental causes to deliver fun and engaging experiences.
They’ve worked with businesses as big as eBay, M&Ms and Samsung to create mobile games and even AR and VR experiences. And then they’ve helped Sydney University gamify dermatology education, and created the Bleached Az game tie-in for a viral animated cartoon series.
We’re living up to our “tech, games, digital culture” tagline this week, with stories from every corner of the Byteside domain.
From when are Zoom hacks not actually Zoom hacks, to why games seem to have a much better handle than film on the idea of doing remakes. Plus hard drives for consoles when you’re running out of room, exciting new phones from LG, and even a little more Quibi and some old school Homestar Runner.