Yes, this is a review of Minecraft; a game that is still in its Beta phase. However, you can buy your way into the beta, so that makes it a release title. Well, that’s our excuse to review this ‘little’ known indie game, and I’m sticking to it. Read on to see what I have to say!
I set out to review this game without giving it the benefit of the doubt; just because it’s a beta doesn’t mean it should get special treatment. Consequently, this review will be scored on the beta and what you get from that package, not what “might” come in the full release.
This title, really sits in between several genres, it’s not a construction game; it’s not an RPG, although it has elements and it isn’t quite an action adventure, either. To be honest, this title has more confusion over its identity than a split-personality assassin, disguised as a Nun. Thankfully, the personality troubles don’t percolate through to the gameplay.
Anybody who has played the first few minutes of the game may be utterly confused. Both, as to why I’m saying the game has a distinct path, or maybe even how to play the game. The first 5 minutes or so are spent running around in circles, hitting random buttons – just to see what they actually do. The lack of any instructions makes the game pretty much a nightmare for the first few day and night cycles. Even a quick ‘Simon Says’ tutorial would be highly beneficial on the first night; however, This isn’t a game for the feeblest of gamers, you will not find any casual Farmville players here; due to the Indie nature of this game, those sorts of people just don’t even know Minecraft exists. That does beg the question: are we accustom to using the “WASD” keys to move? Do we even need a tutorial if we already know what keys are likely to do?
I did notice, when playing, that there didn’t seem to be many enemies spawn; after the initial encounters with Zombies, Skeletons and their unfriendly friends, It seems that an increase in the games population wouldn’t go amiss. Making even the shortest of dashes from your safe zone feel dangerous would up the stress level and give a heavier reason to the need for torch-lit shelter.
As you probably know, the game takes place in a vast open space, one that is technically infinite. When you start the game, you will have a random map generated for you, starting you anywhere from deep caverns and flowing streams to a small grassy mound and a beach. Although, if you don’t take cover quickly – using the first five or so minutes that is the daylight cycle to develop a hole to survive the night in. There is one good reason for this: nasty monsters spawn in darkness, with only one objective, funnily enough this happens to be having a light snack on your virtual brains. This is all assuming you are playing on the hardcore “Survival” mode – there is a less prestigious option: turning the ever-so-nasty guys off, meaning the venture out into the night is a simple moonlit stroll, compared to the terrifying run the survival mode could be.
While I’m no moron when it comes to games, I did find it extremely hard to find anything that I could make into light. I didn’t know how to make a fire and there was no coal in sight. Meaning that I did, I’m ashamed to admit, spend about half an hour working out how to create charcoal. This is, I believe, part of the charm of the game; while it is an extremely steep learning curve, it is relatively simple once you have survived the first night.
Minecraft, clearly, doesn’t have a story – there isn’t even a vague attempt at throwing one in. There is no spine, yet it still manages to stand up tall and offer things to do. It just feels like you need to build ‘stuff’, big ‘stuff’, it just has that aura about it. It really is nice to have a game that doesn’t force you in a direction; even huge games like the Fallout series feel clingy, even linear to an extent. Well they do when compared to this title.
The lure to build is massive; it is almost like all your childhood memories of playing with Lego and Macarno are rolled into one, large, computer file; animated and slapped onto the inside of your screen. I am pleased to inform you that standing on Minecraft has absolutely no resemblance to standing on the stray Lego piece. Although, your Computer might not appreciate the extra load. Who hasn’t tried building a huge fort with their multicoloured blocs, defending from hoards of enemies while making your own sound effects for the shooting of arrows and slashing of swords? It’s all very similar, build whatever you want and how you want, but you do get less funny looks: there are sound effects included.
One thing stands between your Palace, Mansion, farm or elaborate hole in the ground: your imagination. You literally can build anything you desire; maybe building the USS Enterprise, or Minas Tirith tickles your creative genius? You can do all of this alone, but maybe you would like to play with some friends? Well, unfortunately this is where the game needs some development. It is possible for you to join servers with your friends and build things; however, it is not easy, by any stretch of the imagination.
It almost lends itself to early online gaming, connecting with friends via IP addresses in much the same way Nintendo issues Friend Codes. It’s not really conducive to finding a lobby to quickly explore. Out of personal preference, this should support a lobby, listing popular servers and maybe even a friends list. Making it infinitely easier to get into a server and bash some creepers with your friends.
Aside from the pure lack of any sufficient means of finding lobbies, some unique features can only be found online. Primarily, this is the currency system that some user groups may have in place. This means cities can actually function like cities. Complete with some non playable shop tenders, it encroaches on RPG turf. With a little willpower, organisation and patience, it may be possible to create castles with opposing forces, complete with peasants and soldiers.
I could go on with this title, particularly with my ideas and how I play the game. Unfortunately, that would probably bore the Leather Chaps of you. While this is a very good, and addictive game – there are a few risky areas; namely the lack of an easily approachable multiplayer. Everything feels solid, running at a constant frame rate – even on my wreck of a laptop. It’s a very unique game, starting with intense suspense, sadly, this does feel a little short lived. While it is a brilliant starting point, I’m reviewing what is on the marked at the present moment, and that is very good, on the whole, only really let down by the multiplayer aspect.