Developer – Mojang
Publisher – Mojang
Platforms - PC, Xbox 360, iOS, Android, and Xperia Play
Minecraft has seen its fair share of success, breaking 16 million registered users and 4 million copies over its lifetime near the start of this month. Not bad for a game that’s only just released.
There are three modes to experiment with in Minecraft: Classic, Creative, and Survival. Each mode is capable of single and multiplayer gameplay and focuses on a different element of Minecraft.
In Classic mode, players are free to play with the landscape by placing or destroying blocks as they please. Monsters do not exist in this mode and you will not be hurt by lava or cacti. This mode is free to anyone that wishes to try out Minecraft. Just head to Minecraft.net and find Classic on the right side of the page.
Classic mode is a great way to become familiar with the feel and look of Minecraft without actually buying it. Prior to buying Minecraft, I gave it a try and wrote it off as nothing more than a LEGO game, where the objective was to build things. Not really my style.
I had so much fun in this mode, flying around and throwing flaming snowballs (try throwing snowballs through falling lava) at monsters, and experimenting with the materials and items that would otherwise take hours to amass. Not having to worry about fall damage or being killed by creepers was refreshing.
Minecraft’s real appeal is in Survival mode, where players must gather resources and fight to stay alive to mine (or craft) another day. Running and fighting for my life has always been an exciting part of the game. I love building my own house with resources I collected, it truly adds to the whole survival experience. It was much more fun than merely placing blocks like you can in Classic mode. I could look at a structure I had built and feel some pride for the work that I put into it.
I mentioned that you have to fight to stay alive, right? In addition to minding your health (hearts, of course), you must also keep track of your hunger and collect food in any way possible. You can break grass to get seeds, which you plant and build up for a nice big farm or you could go the hunter approach. Tracking down and killing animals is a quick way to get a bite to eat but not a great strategy in the long run. You can get more food by leading them to an enclosure and breeding your own food.
Farming was my favorite part of Survival. It felt good to know that I single-handedly kept our group from starving to death. Planning out my farms was fun and I would think of new and better ways to do it each time. I still don’t think I can top my greenhouse that had underground irrigation. It produced enough wheat to feed at least seven people (friends were always coming and going) and even supplied much of the wood that we needed for buildings and tools.
A close second is one of the newer features, enchanting. The “level” over the experience bar shows how many points you have to spend on enchanting. Each enchantment has a different value and can produce buffs such as +5% damage to arthropods (spiders). Unless you learn the runic language that is used to enchant, you’ll pretty much be taking a stab in the dark when enchanting items. I’ll have to play around with it a bit more and compile a list of the enchantments that provide the most use.
One caveat to this open-ended experience is that there is absolutely no story in Minecraft. The player is dropped into the world and it is up to you to shape it the into what you want. The only nod to a story is made after you defeat the Enderdragon, which is essentially the boss of the game.
While the game lacks a story, there are achievements that aim to teach you how to play through the game. They serve no purpose other than to say, “Hey, good job. You made an axe! Now go chop a tree down and you can have another achievement.”
As I shaped the world in my own image, I was able to reflect on myself as a person. A lot of my structures were ambitious projects, large opulent buildings made of materials rarer than cobblestone, which is abundant. I wanted people to appreciate the amount of work I put just into gathering the resources. Aesthetics were a very large part of my plans and my materials of choice included glass and sandstone, which required many hours of use of my furnace. Collecting the thousands of blocks was a hard task but when I thought about the end result, it was worth it.
I appreciate that you can look at a person’s home in Minecraft and get a good idea about that person. I value good design and functionality. I want something that looks cool and is large. I have a room for each aspect of the game. Every home I build includes a room specially made for storage, growing mushrooms, and sleeping. Each person has their own bed and room. I try to make my homes large enough to see from a long distance and I strive to complete all of my projects.
Minecraft isn’t about fancy graphics. The art is simple and perfectly matches the concept of the game. The pixelated landscape is reminiscent of a simpler time. If you don’t like the way it looks or you receive headaches from looking at it (I used to), there are mods out there that edit the textures. You can even change the default appearance of your character by uploading a custom skin to your Minecraft account. This game is tailored to the player in every way. You make what you want of it.
The music is well done and complements the lonely landscape quite well. Even when I’m surrounded by other players, I find the music to be oddly soothing. One of the tracks (Calm 1) reminds me a bit of Final Fantasy VII’s Flowers Blooming in the Church. I get that same feeling of tranquility, yet I’m not so soothed that I fall asleep. C418 does a great job of bringing variety to Minecraft’s soundtrack.
The monster sounds are creepy and instill a sense of fear in the player. One of the worst sounds I have ever heard is the sound that a ghast makes when it dies. It truly adds to the survival experience because I get terrified every time I even imagine a ghast chasing after me in the Nether (a hidden zone in Minecraft). Their horrible shrieks signal me to take cover, because a fireball is about to head towards my face.
Overall, Minecraft is a game with the power to enchant you. Its charm comes from the simplistic gameplay and the freedom that you, the player, are left with. I’ve thrown many hours into this game and with each update, I find something new to experiment with. There are some oversights, such as a lack of official mod support, which Mojang is working on implementing in the future. If you’re looking for a game that you can lose yourself in or you’re a fan of LEGOs, then this game is for you. Those looking for linearity with outlined goals will be out of luck here. But I have managed to convert firm non-believers into addicts, so maybe there’s hope for you!
Check out our Xbox 360 review here.