Categories
Games

A Minecraft Dungeons Adventurer’s Life

I purchased Minecraft Dungeons for the Nintendo Switch a month or two ago, primarily for our kids. They’re Minecraft fanatics, and they’d been looking forward to this game since they first saw the announcement. I was also curious whether this was a game that I could enjoy (despite the blocky graphics that I really wasn’t that sure about).

It didn’t take long for me to develop an obsession with the game. I believe I’ve logged more than 40 hours playing this oddly compelling game, more time than I spent playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, back when I was obsessed with that game.

Minecraft Dungeons seems like a simple, silly dungeon crawler game at a glance. The more time I spend playing the game, the more I appreciate just how smart, and immersive the game is.

Not just hack and slash (although it can be)

On the one hand, it is a dungeon crawler where you move through different adventures, collecting items, weapons, and slaying a variety of bad guys (I believe the technical term is “mobs”) that feature in Minecraft itself. There are loads of hidden secrets, secret levels, and variable challenge levels as you level up in the game.

You could play it as a hack-and-slash game, rushing to the end of each adventure to progress to through to the end. To me, it’s much more fun if you explore each level, and seek out the hidden treasures and secrets.

Simpler gameplay in Minecraft Dungeons

I spent some time playing Legend of Zelda last week for a few hours, and it reminded me how different the two games are. As I mentioned previously –

Legend of Zelda feels like an open world that continuously surprises me. The initial quest seems pretty simple: collect a number of special objects, and then head off to fight the Big Bad. Except it isn’t.

Completing the initial quest is just the start of an expanded quest with increasing variations, surprises, twists, and turns. There seems to be something new to explore in the former kingdom of Hyrule each time I return to play.

Legend of Zelda is a very permissive game, and the scale of it just amazes me. At the same time, I find it a more difficult game to play because it seems to require more physical coordination than I have. This becomes apparent when I’m fighting a tougher opponent, and am trying to remember which combination of buttons makes Link leap to the side, do a backflip, raise his shield, or do some other action.

In Minecraft Dungeons, the controls are pretty simple. This one swings your weapon, that one fires arrows (when you have), and these buttons trigger magical artifacts. Gameplay can become pretty crazy when you’re in the middle of so many mobs, you can barely see your character, and yet the controls are straightforward enough that I’ve developed muscle memory, and can play without thinking too much about the game.

A thoughtful game

Thinking that Minecraft Dungeons is a basic, kids game is simplistic. The more I play, the more I appreciate how much thought has gone into the game’s design, and how it all comes together.

I initially thought that once I finished the initial set of adventures, that I’d be finished with the game. Oh no, not only are there three difficulty levels (Default, Adventurer, and Apocalypse), you also realise that there are about half a dozen hidden levels that you can unlock for some pretty huge dungeons.

In addition, once you complete the adventures on Default difficulty, you can unlock a set of runes that, in turn, unlock a fairly gratuitous adventure where you plough through cow-mushroom hybrids called Mooshrooms to gather experience, and some cool weapons (if you survive).

Each adventure has a story with a common thread, leading to your ultimate encounter with the Arch-Illager who has subjugated the land with a magical artifact that it discovered. And even when (or if) you defeat it, there is an expansion pack that takes you through jungle settings where you meet new mobs (on each difficulty level too).

Go for the Hero edition

The game is available at two prices: the “standard” version, and the Hero edition. The cost difference is a few dollars, and the Hero edition unlocks the expansion levels for free (at least the jungle levels, and hopefully the frozen tundra biome that hasn’t been released yet).

It’s well worth paying the extra few dollars for the Hero edition.

A couple drawbacks

There are a couple drawbacks. Even though the game is available on the Switch, Xbox, and Windows, you can’t play with your friends across platforms. This is a real pity because the option to play with friends on the same console has you playing characters on the main user’s account, not the character you may develop through your own account.

What I mean by this is as follows:

  • When I play the game using my Switch profile, I have a character who I’ve built up over time.
  • When I play with our kids, I’m playing a totally different character that’s more of a guest on their Switch profiles.

What this means is that we can’t play with our respective, “main” characters on the same device. If we each had our own Switch, though, we would be able to play together, online (which seems like fun, based on my observations of our son playing with his friends).

All that said, it is fun playing together, and the way this works does tend to encourage players to spend more time playing together so they level up together. The game can be tough when you play solo.


Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Categories
Games Mindsets

Fighting Waterblight Ganon in Legend of Zelda is like Groundhog Day

My gaming experience in Legend of Zelda was going so well, until I found myself facing Waterblight Ganon in the Divine Beast Vah Ruta. Defeating this creature requires a level of coordination that seems to elude me.

Waterblight Ganon in Legend of Zelda
Waterblight Ganon, right before it smites me for the nth time.

I’m slowly getting the hang of jumping out of the way (although in some rounds, my special skill seems to be jumping into the path of Waterblight Ganon’s spear), but when it comes to switching to an attack, or using my runes to smash incoming blocks of ice, I just seem to hit the wrong buttons. And die. Repeatedly.

😫

Apparently this creature is the easiest of the four Divine Beast monsters, to boot. Hopefully this isn’t a case of me simply being the wrong generation to handle a dozen or so buttons on a controller. I don’t know how kids can be so coordinated.

Thankfully there are guides with tips on how to defeat these creatures. Unfortunately, you still need a level of skill to execute. My wife helpfully suggested that I just get my son to do this level for me. I’m tempted.

Categories
Devices Games Mobile Tech

My new gaming adventure

I haven’t been much of a gamer (at least not since childhood), until I started a new, casual gaming adventure in the last week or two. It started when we bought a Nintendo Switch for home.

We opted for the Switch because it seemed to be a better choice for the whole family. I also really like the sorts of games I’ve been hearing about from Nintendo.

We started off with Legends of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Minecraft, and Fortnite (our son introduced me to this one). So far, Legends of Zelda is my favourite game on the Switch. It’s a remarkable adventure, and our son and I are constantly comparing notes about where to find gear, how to solve the next challenge, and how to stay alive in the game.

I’ve also started playing a game or two on my Android phone. I really enjoy Alto’s Adventure, in Zen mode. I like just skiing across the landscape, and getting back up each time I hit a rock, or fall down a crevice.

The imagery in Alto’s Adventure is wonderful. Even those moments after a crash have a profoundly contemplative feel to them,

My ideal would be to play Alto’s Adventure (or even the follow-up, Alto’s Odyssey – I haven’t started playing this one yet) on the Switch, but the game only seems to be available on iOS or Android.

Our next game is probably going to be Mario Kart 8. We want a game we can play together, and this one seems like a great option. I’m also looking forward to the launch of the Nintendo Switch Online service that seems like it will bring the older NES games to Switch devices as part of the subscription service.

The timing for this is great. I’m on vacation with our kids for the next two weeks, and playing games like these together are a great way to unwind between the outings we have planned.