Minecraft (beta) review
Developer: Mojang AB
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: One
Words By:

It’s rare to find a review written about a game still in its beta stages, but then again it is also rare to have to pay for a game in its beta stages too, but because this game is different to most it deserves both.

At first glance, Minecraft could easily be mistaken for a simplistic game where you just place and destroy blocks. In a sense, that is correct, but the game delivers an experience that is both satisfying and enjoyable. For those who don’t know, Minecraft is an open world “sandbox” style game in which the user is thrown into an endless, randomly generated world, with no tutorial or objective, the user must then find shelter before night comes around, bringing enemies with it.

The game’s emphasis is firmly on crafting items to aid your survival, items like pickaxes, armour, shovels and axes can all be upgraded (or rather, you build yourself the better ones and throw away the old ones) when you find better resources. There is no tutorial to the game which leaves all first time players running around aimlessly. Without either the internet or a fellow veteran of Minecraft most players will not be able to craft a pickaxe or will have given up long before getting close. The game is played through a first person perspective (a third person view is available however) with simplistic graphics. The graphical style feels oddly fresh and fits the game well, and this fits with the games simple and friendly game style.

NPCs or “mobs” can be found throughout the world, most of these are harmless critters such as sheep or cows, but you will encounter aggressive mobs too. The general rule with these is enemies spawn in darkness, such as night time or in an unlit room/cave. There are 4 main types of enemy: Zombie, Skeleton, Spider and the Creeper. Zombies and Skeletons burn up in daytime but Spiders and Creepers do not, which leads to the creeper being possibly the most soul destroying enemy of all time because when you hear that tell-tale hiss you know you're either going to lose all your items or there will be a reasonable chunk missing from your house, which you will have spent hours on.

Minecraft worlds are generated randomly out of a series of “biomes”, which determine the look of the area and what spawns there. For example; in a desert biome there will be lots of sand blocks, cacti and little water, but in a rainforest “biome” there are lots of trees, tall grass, and lots of animals. This helps create diversity between different areas of the map which can help with navigation and resource collecting, along with keeping the game somewhat fresh when creating a new world instead of it being the same boring maps each time.

Although there is no specific goal behind the game, the main drive is to find diamond and reach the Nether (and of course survive). Diamond allows the user to craft super-powered items which allow for safer exploration, faster resource gathering and the ability to mine a near indestructible resource called Obsidian. Obsidian can be used to craft portals which lead to the Nether. The Nether is the Minecraft equivalent of hell; this sounds awesome but when you actually get there and after all the effort it took to reach it, it’s kind of a let-down. Much like getting socks at Christmas and having to pretend that they’re just what you wanted, while simultaneously dying inside a little. However the Nether does succeed in creating a terrifying atmosphere through dingy lighting, random flaming blocks, masses of lava and a generally generic “Hell” type of landscape. In the Nether there are also different enemies such as the Zombie Pig Men and Ghasts, which make a horrible wailing sound that never ceases to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

The game unfortunately limits itself through its endless resource gathering grind. When you have an urge to create massive buildings or giant mine cart tracks, you need to get the materials for it all, which can take a lot of time and effort. An annoying side effect to all this grinding is when you finally have said resources most of the time you either can’t remember what you were going to build or you just can’t be bothered anymore, also when doing things like farming there is only one thing to grow, and once you have a field of crops and a box full of wheat you can’t help thinking “…what now..?”

Minecraft also features an online mode which, given the correct circumstances, is fantastic. Unfortunately, most of the time it either lags or you suffer in the hands of “greifers” (people who go around and just destroy people’s things and/or stealing their items left in chests.) When you play online there are usually two types of servers, there are the ‘build’ servers in which people build brain moistening buildings and creations, or the ‘survival’ servers where it is pretty much every man for themselves. This is fun until people use mods to scan for blocks, allowing them to find your super-secret hidden base with ease and then gives them the opportunity to help themselves to your hard earned resources. The game would benefit from dedicated servers or some form of drop-in drop-out co-op mode because trying to host your own servers requires both good internet and a designated computer to be on all the time, or money to rent a private server.

The idea behind Minecraft is a very solid one and also one that can be easily improved upon. The single player is a lot of fun until you either grow weary of your current area, you have a ridiculous amount of resources or you want just to start again on a fresh map. However, there needs to be more craftable items added and they need to allow access to Creative Mode (a game mode where you spawn on a small map with unlimited amount of preset blocks and go wild) via the downloadable client instead of just online, fortunately as the game is still in beta stage there is still time for it to be improved, and as such there is still hope that these issues can and will be rectified.

Best Bits

- Endless worlds to explore
- Creating things is satisfying
- Potentially endless replay value
- Somewhat regular updates bringing in a few new things/fixing bugs
Worst Bits

- Greifers
- No real objectives
- No tutorial
- Mostly repetitive gameplay

by: Banjokazoozie

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