Fans of "Minecraft" may enjoy "Minecraft Dungeons," but it doesn't have the building and crafting element of the original title, so hardcore builders will likely skip the new game. The general public could appreciate the fantasy, dungeon-exploring elements.
Unlike "Minecraft," where you can build, mine and customize your surroundings, "Minecraft Dungeons" is focused on exploring dungeons and seeking adventure. Players embark on short missions that can be completed in multiple sittings. Missions can be played alone or in a party of up to four people. Team members get several lives, meaning more chances to complete the mission, even if they are at first killed by dungeon bosses.
"Minecraft," which was released in 2011, is a huge moneymaker for its publisher, Xbox Game Studios, and its Swedish developer, Mojang Studios. More than 200 million copies of "Minecraft" have been sold to date, according to Helen Chiang, studio head of Mojang, which makes it one of the best-selling games of all time, alongside "Tetris" and "Grand Theft Auto V." In 2014, Microsoft bought "Minecraft" and Mojang for $2.5 billion.
More people are playing "Minecraft" while social distancing. Mojang said that in April there was a 25% increase in new "Minecraft" players joining the community and a 40% spike in multiplayer sessions, compared to March. People have thrown "Minecraft" graduation ceremonies and other live events in lieu of in-person gatherings.
"I won't say that it's a good thing that we have the Covid-19 situation right now. But I do think that the timing for the game is good. This is something that can help families have a fun time together," said "Minecraft Dungeons" executive producer David Nisshagen.
CNN Business played "Minecraft Dungeons" for several hours in a two-person party. Each mission was simple and easy to complete but not to be underestimated: On the last mission we played, my teammate and I explored the dungeon so thoroughly that we ran out of lives. It was frustrating to lose all of our progress after completing most of a long mission, but it just made us want to try again.
The game has a bit of a storyline, mainly told through cutscenes. Your objective is to protect villagers from the evil Arch-Illager, the main antagonist in the game, and his armies.
"Minecraft Dungeons" takes the relatable and fun parts of the dungeon crawler genre -- such as hunting for treasure chests, looting decent weapons, and cooperating to defeat a boss -- and simplifies them.
The game, which includes fantasy violence, is rated for players age 10 and older. It keeps the blocky, pixelated style that "Minecraft" is known for, which reduces the impact of in-game violence. When you smack a monster, it simply falls over. This distinguishes the game from other popular dungeon crawler titles like "Diablo," "Torchlight" and "Path of Exile," which are gorier and rated for older audiences.
Because gameplay is so simple, adult players may find they need to play with a team of friends, or else it's not engrossing enough to sit through.
One part of the game has the potential to become a viral meme. If you separate from your party for more than a few seconds, a pop-up will appear, asking if you're "feeling lonely." If you are, you can teleport to your friend with the push of a button, the game suggests.
"Depending on how many players are playing at the time... you will be overwhelmed [if you're alone]," said Nisshagen, the executive producer, explaining the feature. "So that's the encouragement to remember to stick together, play together and cooperate."
"Minecraft Dungeons" is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows and Xbox One. A standard version costs $19.99 while the $29.99 version gets you a hero's cape, a pet chicken and additional future content.