Surprise! We got the Minecraft Jungle Awakens DLC a little bit early. And early impressions are POSITIVE.

Minecraft Dungeons first DLC drop, Jungle Awakens, is here. Set deep in various Jungle-themed biomes, this is the first of two announced DLCs heading to Minecraft Dungeons. We also got a nice surprise bonus level for free today, called the Lower Temple, which was previously rumored from data mining.

The Jungle Awakens DLC not only represents the best levels in the game already, but it also showcases how much potential this franchise has to be an on-going game, with frequent new maps, weapons, mobs, and beyond. Here are some early impressions, and why we’re loving it so far.

Smash and loot

Minecraft Dungeons

From $20 at Microsoft (PC)
From $20 at Microsoft (Xbox)

Minecraft meets Diablo

Minecraft Dungeons is an epic action RPG set in the blocky worlds of Minecraft! Team up with three friends and get your dungeon crawl on.

Into the Heart of Darkness

While the DLC doesn’t boost the game’s level 108 power soft cap, it is by no means what I’d call a walk in the park. The first level, Dingy Jungle, is easily as tough as Obsidian Pinnacle on maximum difficulty, if not more so, while also boasting a sprawling size that is easily up there with the biggest levels in the game.

It feels like the level itself is trying to kill you.

Not only is the Dingy Jungle huge, it’s stunning. Thre’s lush 3D vegetation that will make base-game Minecraft players jealous, and a whole host of infectious new mobs, including enchanted vines that shoot poisonous darts and plant-encrusted skeletons.

As you progress deeper into the Dingy Jungle, you begin to hear disconcerting roars, which result in subsequent ambushes. The undergrowth gets gradually more, erm, aggressive. Vines sprout out of the ground, blocking your path. This can be nasty in combination with encroaching creepers. Even deeper in, the vines bloom with flowers, armed with dangerous barbs that really hurt, and also poison you. This is the first time in Minecraft Dungeons where it feels like the level itself is trying to kill you — Redstone minecrarts notwithstanding.

Dingy Jungle is a sprawling complex with multiple layers and secret areas. I haven’t played through enough times to determine its randomness, which we see in varying degrees in the game’s base levels, but budding jungle explorers will find plenty to enjoy. I found a hollowed out tree with an ambush event and a chest, along with a separate area with giant skeletal remains, complete with a hidden map for Panda Plateau, a Panda-themed level.

Progressing deeper into the jungle, the enchanted vines got ever more abundant, and gorilla-like plantoid golems with rapid speed began showing up to stop my approach. The roars got more intense too, and I imediately began to wonder if Mojang and Double Eleven might’ve taken some inspiration from the likes of Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness when building the pacing of this level.

Without any exposition, I was impressed with the subtle storytelling the game was imparting with every step — until I was violently murdered and lost my final life, that is. Dingy Jungle is bloody tough, in the most awesome way possible.

Another service game win?

Minecraft Dungeons has already proven a big hit across Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch, dominating sales charts across multiple platforms at launch. That’s the sheer brand power of Minecraft in action, though, and doesn’t necessarily suggest the game will have any raw staying power as Microsoft works to beef it up with subsequent DLC. This first outing, however, is extremely promising.

State of Decay 2 and Sea of Thieves weren’t particularly well-received at launch, but both games enjoy a healthy community of dedicated fans following years of free updates. This is especially noteworthy in the case of Sea of Thieves, which boasts tens of thousands of concurrent players on Steam as of writing. Hopefully, we can see Minecraft Dungeons blossom in the same way in the coming months and, maybe even years ahead. I’ll see you in the Jungle, friends.

Not your average Minecraft

Minecraft Dungeons

From $20 at Microsoft (PC)
From $20 at Microsoft (Xbox)

Minecraft explores the dungeons.

Minecraft Dungeons is the next saga in Minecraft’s story, and Mojang Studios have knocked another one out of the park. Awesome co-op combat paired with powerful loot, all at a crazy affordable price? There’s not much more you could ask for in an epic dungeon crawling ARPG.