Developer: Mojang / 4J Studios (Console Editions)
Publisher: Mojang / Microsoft
Platform: Desktop (Core) Edition, Pocket Edition, Console Edition, Pi Edition
Genre: Open Word Survival Adventure / Creative Sandbox
OFLC Rating: PG
Why am I reviewing Minecraft of all things?
Sure, you have a game that is about five years old since it’s official release in 2011 – However, this franchise has been constantly growing is only getting stronger. Just like Lego, Minecraft is very much one of Scandinavia’s exports and one that is proving to stand the test of time. In fact, Minecraft offers a level of creativity that is strikingly similar to that of Lego’s. Since the launch of version 1.0, we have seen Minecraft become available on more and more platforms making it more or less available on anything!
Which brings me to this next point – Minecraft (if you will) is available in three main “Flavours”. The one all veterans know, is “Desktop Edition” being the original core versions of the game that are available for all major X86 operating systems (Windows, Macintosh, Linux, etc.). Then you have the “Console Editions” (XBOX 360, XBOX One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, VITA and Wii U presently) which most lovers of Minecraft would be more familiar with. But for anyone gaming on an iOS or Android device, you have the “Pocket Edition”. There is even a development on “Pi Edition” (a Desktop Edition for the Raspberry Pi operating system). Ultimately, anyone looking for the definitive experience will shoot for the Desktop Edition as you get all the updates before the other editions along with having more options available to you.
So what is Minecraft?
(Assuming you don’t yet know) Minecraft is an experience as opposed to being just another game. An experience that evolved with major patch, from the days of being a creative construct allowing to build things with an infinite supply of blocks into an expansive open world survival adventure experience that only becomes better with more company. But the evolution hasn’t stopped as there is new content continually added to make this much beloved experience better. Every new patch is like getting a new kit to play with sent in the mail from Lego that only adds to your collection to build from. I get that some of you might be asking whether or not you pay a subscription – Back in the early days when you could only get this online, you paid a one time transaction that felt like a lifetime membership and that’s how the Desktop Edition has worked since. Only now you have redeemable vouchers that allow you secure your copies over the counter instead of needing a credit/debit card to buy online. With release of Console Editions, you had the choice from buying digitally from a storefront service (eg PlayStation Shop, XBOX Live Arcade, etc.) or buy a hardcopy of the game from over the counter. Getting back to the question for those unfamiliar…
Going by the Desktop Edition – Minecraft offers the three game modes “Survival”, “Hardcore” and “Creative”. With Pocket and Console Editions you have only “Survival” and “Creative” modes to choose from.
Survival mode drops you into a randomly generated (assuming you did enter a code to generate something specific) world, a wilderness if you will with no particular set goals, instructions or story. In this mode you will at some point need to prepare yourself as your “Avatar” experiences hunger and the world you’re in isn’t always this tame as you will soon see once the sun sets. During the day is your time to prepare yourself with tools, weapons and necessary provisions (eg food, potions, etc.) along with building basic lodgings to retreat to and take cover in. Because at night, all manor monsters from the undead to the infamous “Creeper” will come prowling and ultimately prey upon you after catching your sent (in a matter of speaking). Until you are well equipped and gained the necessary skills (player knowledge) to survive the nights, building shelter (mud hut, wooden shack, carved out cave, etc.) that offers basic secure refuge is going to be your best bet.
By now you will get the idea that Minecraft uses a day/night cycle and also has weather. Back to the day/night cycles. Unless you’re playing the Pocket or Console Editions, there is no tutorial or tool tips that will offer newcomers any particular insight. More often than not, learning the ins and outs of Minecraft is done through consulting wiki pages, Youtube videos, literature and so on. When it comes to the actual story, everything revolves around you (any company you’re playing with) and world you shape. Building a basic shelter is as simple as breaking down blocks and rearranging them to make one. Making tools, weapons, potions and more complexed items requires crafting. When you open your inventory screen you have a two by two grid next to your avatar’s picture. This allows you to execute recipes and schematics by arranging necessary items in the appropriate formation to craft an item. But this will only allow you create basic essentials such as planks, sticks, torches and the all important crafting table – With a crafting table you have a three by three grid to work with. So to get you started here’s a few schematics for some starting essentials.
Planks are made by placing logs (which can be cut by simple breaking down trees with your fists) into a single space on any crafting grid. Place planks into two spaces on top of one another will create sticks. Fill you all four spaces of your backpack crafting grid to make a crafting table. Using a crafting table, place planks along the top row and two sticks in the remaining spaces of the central column to make a pickaxe. To make a sword place a stick in the bottom space of the central column with planks in the remaining spaces of said column.
For more recipes and schematics check out the Minecraft Wiki, search for guide videos on YouTube and/or download companion apps for your smartphone / tablet. Alternative you can play a Console Edition with or without owning the Desktop Edition as well.
However, if you find yourself in King Solomon’s sandals having done everything under the sun… Enter: The End.
This is a world where you can go to in order to challenge the “Ender Dragon”, a powerful dragon that offers up the one of the most (if not THE MOST) epic fight you will in your Minecraft experience. Once you beat him, you end the game and are treated to a rather peculiar text epilogue. Getting to The End is a quest in itself and fighting the Ender Dragon is no simple matter. But! The things you can do are as great and numerous as the imaginations of you and anyone else sharing the experience. Minecraft is one of those games that embraces that old saying “The more, the merrier” to the fullest. With the new content being added through regular patching, there is no shortage of things to do in Minecraft.
Creative mode is allows you build away to your heart’s content with an unlimited supply of every block, item and mob along with the ability to fly (eliminating the need for using dirt chunks as scaffolding).
Hardcore mode is Survival mode with a twist – You play on the highest difficulty and when you die, you do not get dropped back into the world (and have to go look for your stuff in the place where you previously died). Instead, it’s quite literally “Game Over Man!” (to quote Aliens’ Hudson played by Bill Paxton) as your world is practically rendered unplayable and can only be deleted unless you like to keep it as a record of sorts. Ultimately, Hardcore mode exists for players who appreciate a true challenge with their Minecraft experience. Sadly, anyone not playing Desktop Edition will never know how satisfying this experience can be.
But, what if you are playing the Console Editions?
Survival mode on it’s own is a highly satisfying experience and should not be scoffed at. The advantage of owning a Console Edition is that your character controls as fluidly as your Desktop Edition character, but you have an automatic crafting mode that displays the recipe / schematic for each item you can craft. In addition you have a “Tutorial World” showing you the ropes along with tool-tips and hints that popup during regular play. However, unlike Desktop Edition your worlds are more finite in comparison with restricted world sizes (depending on whether you playing on seventh or eighth generation console).
Pocket Edition is like the Console Editions with the inclusion of the automatic crafting system, but is even more restricted than the Console Editions. Unless you use smartphones / tablets for your primary means of gaming, Pocket Edition is a simplistically effective way to give show off the game to those curious about it.
Multiplayer is an interesting subject with regards to Minecraft as you have so many options. Desktop Edition will allow you to connect via LAN (all players must have their own accounts when playing) game, connect to online server – unlike most server browsers, Minecraft’s won’t auto search and self-populate with available servers to connect to. Instead you need to actively search via external (eg internet browser, etc.) means for server addresses. Finally, you have Minecraft Realms which take the pain out of setting up your own server. So if you play Minecraft and think PC gamers don’t pay for multiplayer… You’re only half right! Minecraft Realms is Mojang’s in-house server hosting subscription service that allows you to setup and manage your server with ease and it’s no wonder Microsoft pounced on Mojang with profitable options like this! This service allows you send invitations to players you want on your server and you can even grant administrator status to guests if you’re looking have others help you run it. Playing as an invited guest on a realm won’t cost you anything as only the Realm’s owner pays the subscription much like a lease.
Console Editions will display available games in the world browser via the particular console’s network service (eg XBOX Live, PlayStation Network, etc.) as well as offering a split screen function (with exception to Vita Edition) making them more viable options for quick and easy multiplayer action.
Minecraft as a whole is a game with both a rich and diverse community behind it as you will get those dedicated to helping newcomers find their feet, entertainers, competitive players engaging in PvP classics such as the “Hunger Games” mod and the mass majority just looking to have fun.
Ultimately, once you beat the learning curve Minecraft offers more than enough content to keep hooked for hours much like a tub of Lego and only gets better when you add company!
My summary of Minecraft may have come across as barebones regarding the finer details, given how “In Your Face” the game’s marketing (from both Mojang, Microsoft and the community) has been since it’s offical launch of 2011 you should by now have an idea what the game looks like and roughly how it plays. Minecraft from a technical standpoint (with retrospective aesthetic aside) is quite stable across all editions to say the least. The Desktop Edition allows for full control binding allowing you get that perfect setup for your style of play, whereas Console Editions are limited to a few set control schemes. However, the Pocket Edition is probably most limited of all the editions as you are restricted to the set touch controls though it would have been nice to have an option for use of smartphone / tablet supported game controller.
So, is Minecraft worth purchasing?
If your tub of Lego had you enthralled for hours, then Minecraft is going to offer some strikingly similar enjoyment.
If you enjoy no-holds-barred open adventure games, then Minecraft offers a fresh experience with every new world!
If you want a game you can enjoy with company… Minecraft is fun for friends and family alike!
Look to get into a game with a socially engaging community… From helpful players contributing regular YouTube content to the party that is MineCon, you’ll feel right at home!