If there was one game that has taken the world by storm in recent years, it would be Minecraft. Just do a search on Youtube and you will find funny play-throughs, amazing creations, and an ever-growing community of builders and adventurers. It has sold over 3 million units as of August 5th, 2011; pretty impressive for a game that is still in beta.
Minecraft is sandbox world with no real storyline. The idea of the game is you’re a solitary person who has to survive in this world by building your home (or cave, hole, wherever) and create tools from wood, stone, iron, and other matter you find in the world. By day, everything is happy and peaceful on the surface, but at night, hordes of monsters spawn in the darkness. If they find you, they will kill you. But you don’t just stay on the surface; you can, like the name suggest, mine through the caves. As you go deeper into the bowels of the earth, you find stronger and better materials for tools, art, or over gameplay that allow to make things like mine cart systems (or trains), explosives, diamonds, and more. But of course, in the darkness you will find more monsters, and their spawners.
Killing spawners allows you to access chests with special prizes and gear. You can even create a portal to a realm called “The Nether” and explore that.
At first the game seems pretty graphically poor because everything is composed of blocks. But that’s how the game is supposed to be designed, and it’s a cool deviation from the either hyper-realistic or cartoony graphics that the majority of video games have. Even if you’re not much of a builder, you can’t help but think of how to improve your home, or getting better tools. The other cool thing about the game is the fact that it is randomly generated. As you move throughout the world, the game is randomly creating new territory, so no games or worlds will be exactly alike (which definitely appeals to my inner explorer).
But if you find that single player get boring after a while, then get online and play with your friends. If you have a friend with a Minecraft server (or a public Minecraft server, like TechnoBuffalo’s), then you can go on their and play whatever game type they have, whether it’s just the standard game with friends, or a mod game. That’s right, a modded game. Minecraft’s creators encourage people to mod the game and make new game types out it, which is also why it’s common to see many player with custom skins, either downloaded or self-made. But more than just skins, you will find downloadable packs from other players, ones that range from floating islands in the sky, to huge desert worlds, and many more.
For all the greatness of Minecraft, it’s not all a perfect, cube-centric world. The game is still in beta, meaning that you will have occasional hangups and freezes; I actually had it as many as once every 5 minutes, with no apps running. I respect that this game is still in beta, but this still seems like an unnecessary flaw.
Fortunately, this generally didn’t happen when I was fighting monsters, but it made it all the more scary when it did happen then (and not the good kind of scary).
Another downside goes toward the game play. Building is addictive, exploration is awesome, and fighting monsters can sometimes scare you silly, but it lacks a real adventure. Yes, you need to survive hordes of monsters that spawn in the dark, and yeah you can download more adventure-themed mods, but I think this is something that should be in the game-play. However, I think it is fair to note that the good people at Mojang have already announced that more features are coming out soon in the 1.8 beta update (called the Adventure Update), as well as future updates. These include, but aren’t limited to sprinting, computer generated villages (which I have mixed feelings about), more monsters like Endermen, and even new environments like rivers, volcanoes, and more. Hints seem to indicate that the game might be a little like an MMO (massive multiplayer online) game in the sense that it’s more of a free-roaming, sandbox style game with small quests and achievements you can get for certain things, maybe even boss battles.
One last downside, at least from a technical note, is the online login system. After you make a free account with Minecraft, you can buy the game, and then log into the single player game and the many multiplayer servers. However, when logging in, it requires the game to ping back to Minecraft’s server, which is annoying if you don’t have an online connection. You can still play the single player game fine, but then you lose things like custom skins, and I also noticed in offline mode, I couldn’t get my wolves to stand up (though interestingly enough, they could still attack me sitting down if I accidentally hit them).
All things considered, Minecraft is a very open and innovative game. It can be a little unstable at times, it uses a lot of memory and heats up your Mac like nobody’s business,
but it is a very fun game that has quickly made a name itself. People who love creating, building, and exploring will find it exciting, while those who prefer adventure and action games have something more to look forward to in the months to come. I hope in the time between beta and 1.0, Minecraft can be stabilized and cleaned up, but I look forward to its development.
You can buy Minecraft from www.minecraft.net for $21.95 while it is in beta and is available for Mac 10.5 and higher, as well as Windows XP and higher, and Linux. iOS and Android versions are in development, with a beta Android version available for testing specifically on the Xperia Play. There is also a Kinect-enabled version for Microsoft’s XBox 360 in the works.
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