"Punch Trees, Get Wood"
There's a lot I could say about Minecraft, so much that I'm not sure where to begin. I could go into detail about how many hours I've withered away building colossal towers or railways that stretch across the globe, or rigging up hidden doors and traps… but I'd rather not. Suffice it to say, the game immediately snared me when I started playing it back in 2010, when it was still in its Alpha stages; and it's refused to let me go ever since. I'll occasionally stop playing for a spell… but I'll eventually return to it, to see what I can build.
Developed by Notch and his independent studio, Mojang, Minecraft has already sold millions of copies, and it just came out of beta last month. The game doesn't feature advanced, hyper-intelligent A.I., and it's not a visual treat. It doesn't have a deep, complex narrative that'll keep you up thinking about it either. It doesn't need any of that.
Minecraft is coded in Java, and it has one simple premise: Build. It's just you, a randomly generated map (or pre-generated from a world seed), and a bunch of hostile / non-hostile NPCs. That's not to say it's a simple game. Far from it, Minecraft is actually quite complex. You can enchant your weapons and armor with a variety of effects or use Redstone and build automatic doors, working circuits, or even an entire subway system.
I've even seen a few people create art. Of course, you're going to have to work for it. Unless you're playing in creative mode (where you're invincible, can fly, and get access to every block in the game), you're going to have to hunt down every single material. Need iron to make railroad tracks? Start mining. Need wood to build a house? Start chopping. Need spider silk to make a bow? Craft yourself a sword, and start hunting.
There lies Minecraft's charm. The fact that you have to work for every building block, every tool, every pixel, and then place each one individually means that, once you've finished whatever you're building, there's a very real sense of accomplishment, far more than leveling up in an MMO or winning a game in an FPS.
What's more, this game's positively massive, and it keeps getting larger with each passing day. Underground cave networks stretch for miles. Ancient, buried strongholds hold in their depths deadly traps, dangerous creatures, and incredible treasure. NPC villages pepper the landscape; they're great places to stop and rest for a while (though the NPCs don't really do all that much yet). Hostile mobs wander about in darkness, fully prepared to make the player regret not staying indoors and aboveground.
Once you get bored of the main world, there are two other areas you can explore, always at your own peril. Grab some Obsidian and a flint and Tinder to make a portal to the nether - Minecraft's version of hell. Get enough Ender eyes, and you can reactivate one of the old gates in the strongholds to go to The End, populated by Endermen and Ender Dragons. Don't worry about escaping; you won't survive very long anyway.
If you're tired of wandering about solo, Mojang's made setting up multiplayer incredibly easy. You can either just run a game over a local area network, or download Mojang's server tool to run a server of your own. Alternatively… connect to one of the already established servers. There are some pretty awesome ones out there.
Multiplayer is about as simple as the rest of the game. It's just Minecraft… except you've got a couple of friends to help you build. Or hinder your efforts, depending on who you're playing with. There's not really a "team" functionality in Minecraft, so it's pretty much a free-for-all.
There are three separate gametypes in Minecraft at the current juncture: Creative, Survival, and Hardcore. We've already described creative, and Hardcore is like Survival, except that it's locked on the hardest difficulty, and when you die, that's it; either your world is gone, or you have to disconnect from the server.
As far as the aesthetic experience goes, Minecraft isn't really all that pretty to look at, but it doesn't really need to be. It's easy to tell what's what, and if you want to change the look of the game a bit, there are plenty of mods to make it look more complex; all of them are very easy to install. Mojang has also included the ability for players to create and install their own skins to change the game's appearance.
Unless you find yourself a Jukebox, the music is not really all that special, though there are some nice songs in the game. The sound, on the other hand, is very, very memorable. Ask anyone who's had an encounter with their first Creeper. You learn to listen for that hissing, and dread the moment you hear it, because it means that you and whatever you happened to be building is going to be going up in smoke. Oh, and the game also occasionally tosses in a few noises that sound like an infuriated or awakening Old God. Try listening to that at three in the morning, and tell me you're not at least a little unsettled.
While Minecraft is a rather awesome game and an incredibly entertaining experience, it does have a few problems. I noticed it tends to lock up every now and then - I've yet to determine the cause, since my system should easily be able to run it. Furthermore, some persistent character customization would be nice - every single player in the game is given a default and rather boring male avatar dubbed "Steve". Also, the physics for liquid are… broken. We'll leave it at that.
Minecraft is not for everyone, but if you're anything like me and gain enjoyment out of creation, then I have one thing to say… Grab yourself a copy, and start punching some trees!
GameDynamo's Score for Minecraft (PC)
A gamer at heart, Nick started writing when he was a child. He holds a BA in English, works as a freelancer, and loves every minute of it. One day, he hopes to net himself a career in game design - but that's something for the future.
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