Feature Article

8 Things You Should Know About Minecraft Dungeons Before Playing

Unfamiliar with the new Minecraft spinoff game? Here's everything you need to know about this wild departure from the popular creative sandbox.

Minecraft Dungeons is a brand new spin-off from blockbuster crafting game Minecraft, but it's pretty different to its source material. What I mean is, even if you're a huge fan of Minecraft, Minecraft Dungeons might not necessarily be what you're expecting--instead of mining blocks, chopping down trees, and building all kinds of creative structures like you would in a building game like Minecraft, Minecraft Dungeons is an action role-playing game. For those less acquainted with the genre, that means it involves the hacking and slashing of a lot of monsters and other bad things, taking inspiration from a variety of classic titles like the illustrious Diablo series.

Minecraft Dungeons tells the story of a bad guy called the Arch-Illager, who was ostracized by a group of mean Villagers because he looked a bit different to them--sort of like what happened to Shriek in Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Anyway, he ended up becoming quite powerful, which radically accentuated the chip on his shoulder and made him reckon it was a good idea to set loads of villages on fire. Naturally, Minecraft Dungeons is all about your quest to stop him.

Once you're up to speed, consider reading about our essential tips and tricks for playing Minecraft Dungeons, and keep an eye out for more nitty-gritty guides coming soon.

What Do You Do In Minecraft Dungeons?

To put it as plainly as possible: Minecraft Dungeons tasks you with making your way through areas--or dungeons, as the name suggests--which are populated with a variety of enemies. You'll encounter the zombies, skeletons, and spiders you might recognize from the original Minecraft, as well as some fan-favorites like Endermen, but you'll also meet lots of new enemies, most of whom are irritatingly powerful.

Each dungeon usually features a particularly strong boss at the end, too, and tons of unique and valuable loot to collect along the way. It sounds like there's a lot going on, but it's incredibly manageable and approachable.

When you get new items, you can experiment with different builds--maybe you want heavy armor that negates incoming damage, or fancy robes that make spellcasting far more efficient. You can enchant items by gaining enchantments points, which are earned every time you level up, and buy items from two traders who start to hang out at your camp after you beat the first couple of dungeons. It's basically just this: go to a dungeon, fight monsters, collect treasure, go back to camp, see if you've got any better items, go to a dungeon, and the cycle repeats itself.

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Why Are You Exploring Dungeons In Minecraft Dungeons?

The core reason as to why you fight monsters in Minecraft Dungeons is to protect innocent villagers who have lost, or are at risk of losing, their homes. All of these monsters are, in Minecraft Dungeons at least, the dastardly legionnaires of the nefarious Arch-Illager, who was once shunned by society and now seeks to dominate it after gaining access to the Orb of Dominance, a mysterious object imbued with deep and dark power.

As you make your way through the game, however, you'll see that there's more to this Orb than meets the eye. It's possible that the Arch-Illager isn't the baddie at all, but merely a frightened little puppet, ventriloquized by an ambiguous power against his will.

Although the story isn't very complex--or really present at all, aside from a couple of sentences that preface each dungeon--the gist is that people are in trouble, and you're the hero humanity needs to prevent the encroaching monster conquest. Detailed plot beats almost always fall secondary to moment-to-moment play, so while Minecraft Dungeons does feature a narrative structure, it's not particularly fleshed out or absorbing--combat and exploration are what draw you into this world.

What Do You Actually Do In The Dungeons?

You obviously need to fight your way through dungeons, but there's more nuance to it than just clicking on bad guys. In Minecraft Dungeons, you have a range of weapons at your disposal, from swords, to cutlasses, to sickles, to bows. Chaining these in interesting ways is what will allow you to create innovative and powerful builds--sometimes a light, speedy weapon enchanted with lightning will help you to dispel irritating, low-health mobs, whereas other times you'll want a blazing axe to deal hefty damage to massive stone golems. Sometimes you'll want to knock a firework arrow on your crossbow before firing five different technicolor shots into a swarm of enemies, which is particularly effective as well as being nice to look at.

It's not just weapons, though. Aside from pointy things you use to fight monsters, you've also got interesting armor combinations to work with, as well as magical objects called artifacts--we'll get into those later. You can enchant armor to set nearby enemies on fire, or increase your movement speed, or even deflect incoming projectiles. Once you get about halfway through the game, your armor sets will play a huge part in deciding whether you can actually beat a dungeon, in that playing without decent enchantments becomes incredibly difficult. So, you'll really want to make sure you experiment with armor combinations, and create builds based on weapons and armor that complement one another.

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Can I Play Minecraft Dungeons Without An Internet Connection?

While Minecraft Dungeons has an online mode--which makes progression remarkably easier--it's also perfectly fine to play offline. I spent most of my time playing by myself and it's just as fun that way, so if you don't have a particularly strong internet connection or a whole lot of friends who are into Minecraft, you can just play offline.

In fact, you can beat the whole game without ever connecting to the internet. Admittedly, it might be slightly more tough to get through some of the later dungeons alone, but they're certainly manageable, and I did the last three completely on my own. So don't worry about ordering a fancy new router--once you're able to install the game, you can play to your heart's content without having to worry about the internet.

How Do You Get A Game Over In Minecraft Dungeons?

You only have four lives per expedition in Minecraft Dungeons, and while you don't lose story progress with a game over, it's frustrating to get right to the end of a dungeon, lose your last life, and have to start that same dungeon all over again.

If you want to know how to manage your lives well, check out our Essential Tips and Tricks guide, as that features pretty much all the relevant information for staying alive and beating dungeons without too much stress. Again, you'll never have to start Minecraft Dungeons again right from the beginning, but game overs mean you lose all progress from your current expedition--except items, which you'll get to keep.

Sometimes it's actually worth pulling off a risky move to get a rare item, as you get to keep it even if you get a game over, and you can equip it before having another stab at the exact same dungeon, allowing you to try again with a more powerful arsenal.

What Are Artifacts In Minecraft Dungeons?

Earlier, I mentioned mysterious items called "artifacts." Essentially, artifacts are versatile objects that operate in a similar capacity to spells from traditional RPGs. One might enable you to summon an animal companion, whereas another could generate a circular regenerative field, or emit an almighty bellow from a magical horn designed to push enemies several squares away from you.

You can equip three artifacts at any one time, meaning that you can select from a variety of different combinations. Experimenting with different builds is what ultimately makes or breaks a dungeon crawl--especially on higher difficulties, where the stakes are higher. In my experience, I often thought artifacts were more effective than weapons, so they're not to be underestimated--especially if you can put together a powerful soul build.

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How Do You Explore In Minecraft Dungeons?

Each area in Minecraft Dungeons has a linear route through, and the way forward is signposted with regularly placed quest markers. However, it's sometimes worth totally ignoring the correct way through and focusing on blind exploration.

Sometimes, if you decide to go the wrong way you can find hidden areas that are packed with unique and powerful loot. Dungeons within dungeons you might say, that are off the beaten track but definitely worth visiting. So, if you're doing quite well on your current run, don't be afraid to ignore the correct way forward in order to investigate the map in its entirety--you might come out with an extra powerful weapon as a result!

What Do You Do With Emeralds In Minecraft Dungeons?

Early in the game, you'll notice a currency called emeralds, which you can obtain from chests and enemy drops in dungeons. Early on, it might seem as if there's very little to spend these spoils of war on, but you'll eventually attract traders to your camp who sell a variety of weapons and artifacts.

The conceit is that you can't buy specific items--it’s almost like a lottery, where you can choose to spend a certain amount of emeralds on a certain type of gear without quite knowing what you’re going to get. On top of this, there are only two traders in the game, a blacksmith and a wandering merchant. Each of these traders will offer you deals to purchase objects, but they're randomized based on your level. The prices aren't super steep, but you can easily waste all your money and miss what you're looking for. So be sure to crack every emerald pot--brown vases with green embellishments--and check every enemy drop in case there's cash laying about. You'll run out sooner than you might think, despite feeling like an emerald-ionnaire at the beginning of the game.


Apart from that, boot up Minecraft Dungeons and have fun! If you like real-time action combat that enables a variety of builds, from ninja archer to nefarious mage, this could be for you. And it could be the gateway for those in your life who may not necessarily be acquainted with this sort of game. If you need a bit more help, check out our essential tricks and tips guide for Minecraft Dungeons.

The game's simple, Minecraft-emphatic aesthetic is gorgeous, its music propels moment-to-moment play, and its systems are fairly easy to comprehend once you get a hang of them (which this guide should have you plenty ready for). Just make sure to explore off the beaten path, to experiment with builds--even if you have a favourite one!--and to be savvy with your emeralds.

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