By: Matthew Conley. Published: March 14, 2011.
I hear them. They don’t try to hide it. Those foul beasts, with their strange echoing moans, howls, and hisses, gather outside of my makeshift layer in the ground. Darkness consumes me, but no longer! I place a glowing torch upon the dirt walls of my hastily dug-into grotto, illuminating the six square by eight square space that I now call home. Nighttime still reigns outside, as if a malevolent king refused to give up his scepter whenever his time came. What can I do? Where can I go? My eyes glanced towards the ground as I held my 16-bit pickaxe in my hand. How could I not have seen it before? The answer lay before me.
Created in 2009 by a man named Mark “Notch” Persson, Minecraft began full fledged development later that year, becoming a staple of creative survival games. The objective lies within your own mind; survive, craft, mine, build, repeat. You begin as a simple, random individual on a randomly generated world which supplies and creatures reside in abundance. Given absolutely nothing, daylight soon wanes and the horrible zombies, skeletons, and other vicious foes await to rise out upon the coming of the moon. What can you do? Simple. Mine. Walk up to a tree, left click and hold, and soon enough, a small block of wood will fall to the pixilated ground. What can you do with this cube of brown? Craft! (Mine-craft. Get it?)
Making various tools such as pickaxes, shovels, axes, and even swords gives you a variety of ways to go about your mission (survival, of course). Imagine real life: would you rather try to chop down a tree with your hands or would you prefer to build an axe and cut that time in half? As you proceed down into the depths of this random world, you may stumble upon coal (usable for torches and furnaces), iron (your staple metal for tools), crystal (the best), and even gold, all of which serve some purpose in the ultimate scheme of Minecraft. Minecraft’s crafting aspect goes so far as to incorporate redstone dust, which acts as an electrical current that allows users to build automated doors, mine carts, explosives, and even complex switch-lever systems! The sheer variety of things gamers can do with this game seems boundless!
Now, let’s be honest. This game harkens back to an era some of us remain familiar with. I’m referring to the era of the Super Nintendo, of the first Playstation, and of the Nintendo 64. Minecraft has that nostalgic aura, sound system, and graphics engine. Cover your eyes the first time you play this game! Though it looks good for a game of its type, ye who have experienced nothing but the bloom enhanced, Unreal-engined, high definition, CGI based games may suffer from burst retinas. Yet, after some time, the smoothness of the textures and the old, blocky look of the entire world grown on you. It’s quaint, maybe even modest. Minecraft isn’t trying to win a fashion contest. It’s going for the grand prize at a science fair!
Gameplay wise, the game does not change. You find resources, build a makeshift home, craft the resources, mine for more resources, build better digs, fight monsters, get more resources, and so on and so forth. At times, Minecraft’s repeating system can get stale. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat there for hours on end, gathering nothing but stone, endlessly searching for just a shred of coal so I could finally illuminate the horde of gold and iron I knew I stumbled upon. The endless grinding gets tiresome, especially when you have a great deal of hard to find equipment and you suddenly die, thus losing ALL of your hard-earned stuff.
The game even has a multiplayer component where you and a group of friends can run around the world together, building, learning, adventuring, and surviving. While this version of the game still remains in its early stages, the sheer prospect of such fun (so long as a friend can set up a server – there are no official Minecraft servers) lends to the precept of endless creation. Some of you may absolutely fall in love with this game (like I did) and others may not like the lack of objectives or the single-minded focus with which you play the game (repetition can get boring), but all in all, gaming society hasn’t seen a game based on simple, entertaining building in a long time and honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air.
Sound Design: 3/5
Immersion Value: 5/5
Overall Score: 4/5 – An epic adventure!