The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Despite ostensibly being a PC game, Mojang’s unprecedented indie
smash hit has more in common with an eclectic box of toys than with
Skyrim or Warcraft. Like a well-rounded set of trucks, balls, blocks,
and figurines, Minecraft gives you the tools you need to bring your
imagination to life. But with a real-time simulation constantly running,
this is more like Toy Story than a LEGO set.
been out in beta form for several months, but officially released on
November 18 with the addition of more RPG-like elements (thus this
review, which speaks solely to the current version of the game). Those
additions are a mixed bag at best, but Minecraft is an amazing
Wandering the infinite, randomly generated
3D world of Minecraft is a game in itself. The mathematical magic
Mojang has working inside the game’s code creates fantastic vistas,
sprawling cavern complexes, towering mountains, and much more while
relying on very few pre-defined pieces like the buildings that make up
NPC villages. Every world is unique, fascinating, and bursting with
possibility. Whichever direction you choose, wondrous adventure awaits.
It can take innumerable forms: befriending a pack of wolves, clearing
out a monster-filled dungeon, creating a mountainside terrace farm,
planting a forest, or sailing across a sea are just the beginning.
with the world takes two fundamental forms: removing and placing
blocks, and combining materials to make new
tools/blocks/decorations/weapons/etc. When you start out in a fresh
world, you’ll likely build a rudimentary shelter with a single torch
lighting the interior to hide in during the monster-filled nighttime. A
few dozen hours later, a skilled builder could have a mountaintop castle
(built block by block with quarried stone) with a redstone-powered
automatic farm (carved into the land by hand, with harvesting machines
built from rare deep ores). Persistence leads to dungeons with traps set
to kill the monsters that spawn within (including controlled flooding
to deposit all the drops in a central location), and even a high-speed
rail system to quickly travel through expansive mines.
Alternatively, you could build whatever you can imagine.
The interactions between your character, machines, plants, animals, and
monsters can be combined to bring just about anything to life. However,
if you’re more of an adventurer than a builder, getting the materials
in the first place is more than half the fun.
Despite having very
few explicit goals, Minecraft generates fantastic scenarios. Once, while
following a vein of ore a few meters below my underground home, I
stumbled across an enormous abandoned mine. The crumbling mineshafts
converged on a hundred-meter tall waterfall. While carving a path along
the cliff face with my mining pick to try to reach the other side,
skeletal archers began peppering me with arrows from above. I tried to
retreat to safety, but an arrow knocked me from my hastily carved ledge
and I plummeted to my doom – or would have, had the waterfall not poured
into a giant lake that cushioned my fall.
Utterly lost, low on
the wood needed to craft more torches, and a mile or so below the
surface, I was having an amazing time without being told to advance on
the glowing arrow marking an enemy position or collect a dozen bear
pelts to help a poor hunter. The sense of accomplishment when I finally
made it back home with my inventory full of fabulous rare metals was
The beauty of Minecraft is that no two players’
experiences are alike. What I just described was the natural outcome of
my randomly generated world, the path I took through it, and a healthy
dose of random die rolls. You’ll have an entirely different adventure,
but Minecraft’s unrivaled content generation means that no matter your
world, you always have something awesome to do.
The final piece of
the Minecraft puzzle is the community. That auto-farming castle –
wouldn’t it be cooler if your friends could admire it? Find a good
multiplayer server (or run one of your own) and that becomes reality.
Network performance is occasionally problematic, with any hint of
latency or overstressed servers causing frustrating desynchronization,
but on a good server it’s a non-issue.
The millions-strong global
Minecraft community has made the game far more than the sum of its
download. Gamers collaborate to design amazing machines for you to draw
inspiration from and modders make everything from texture packs to whole
new dimensions and power sources. Minecraft is more of a platform than a
game in some ways. Diving into the mod scene can extend Minecraft miles
beyond the base game.
While the toybox/platform side of Minecraft
is incredible, the “game” side of it is lacking. The few explicit goals
it dangles in front of you by way of its achievement and enchanting
systems are lame, unwelcome distractions from the goals you set for
yourself. The hellish Nether dimension is a fun place to explore but
lacks content, and the boss fight at the end of the game isn’t worth the
effort to get to it. If you can’t make your own fun or are heavily
slanted toward achievement rather than exploration or building,
Minecraft’s lack of structure may disappoint you.
Reviewing a game
that sold four million copies before its official release may seem like
an exercise in futility, but Minecraft is a phenomenon that deserves
all of the many accolades it has already received. I’d love to see
achievers thrown a bone at some point, and for NPC villages to have some
kind of interaction, and for more interesting monsters to appear, and
for Mojang to give me a pony. Focusing on what isn’t present is doing
Minecraft a grave disservice, though, because Mojang has created a
unique and wonderful star in the greater gaming sky.
Email the author Adam Biessener, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.