It has been around for over two years and has been the primary source of attention for thousands of gamers and critics alike, yet Minecraft seems to be one of the hardest titles to review for analysts, given the game’s unique structure and status as a religion more-so than as a game. Minecraft is one of the very few true sandbox games around; any creative boundaries are because of the player, not the game. It has spawned its own genre and inspired developers to think about the replayability of their titles. It is fair to say Minecraft has been the most influential indie game of all time.
It is also fair to say, however, that this sandbox/mining/building/adventure mash-up is not for everyone. It may be easy to lose hours in building a 1:1 replica of your favourite spaceship, but doing so requires a lot of motivation and hard work, which somewhat defeats the purpose of a video game. Sure, it’s possible to wind down, relax and explore in Minecraft, but that’s not what thrusts Minecraft into the arms of critical acclaim.
In fact, just what did put Minecraft at the top of every gamer’s wish-list is hard to pin-point, because there is just so much going for this magnificent title. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the title is that you get out of it what you put in. This makes for a highly rewarding experience, despite the shortcomings presented by the game’s mind-boggling journey to the endgame.
What Minecraft Got Right
Throws players into the deep end - Starting up a new Minecraft world will simply put you in a random area, with no instruction on what to do. While this may seem like a negative, it forces players to learn their way around the game. Many will no-doubt jump to online guides and resources, but those who learn the ropes from scratch are given an even more highly-rewarding experience.
No literal boundaries - Quite simply, you get out of Minecraft whatever you put into it. There are no boundaries - worlds go on infinitely. As a player you have the ability to collect hundreds of different resources and put them towards any type of building you desire. The more creative a player is, the better their results, and this is vital to the success of a sandbox/building game.
Great world generation - Some buggy world generation was cause for concern during some stages of the beta, but the team at Mojang has really lifted its game and provided a procedural generation system capable of impressing gamers and programmers alike. Ravines, mountains, rivers, villages, strongholds and more combine to provide players with some incredible views which easily impress, despite this title’s “blocky” visual style.
Plenty to customise - While the “true mod support” we were promised for the game’s release has not yet been given to us, the ability to use mods is not lost. Almost any idea you could think of has already been implemented through a user mod, so players can potentially add an incredible amount of variation to Minecraft’s already-versatile engine. In addition to this, users have the ability to completely overhaul the game’s visuals if they desire; every single aspect of the visuals or gameplay can be changed.
Fitting sound - Somehow, the repetitive sounds of breaking and placing blocks does not become an annoyance. That in itself is an achievement. However, if you take into account the relaxing-yet-vibrant soundtrack and the memorable moans and grunts of monsters, it’s not hard to see that the sound in Minecraft does its job flawlessly.
Solid online - The online platform in Minecraft allows for the ultimate group projects. The ability to work together with several people at once on the one building makes Minecraft a social experience, pending you take your creativity online.
Caters to both casual and core crowds - Minecraft might at first seem like a game made for casual crowds, but switching a few options around makes it anything but. For those who are just beginning to dip their toes in the gaming world with Minecraft, “Peaceful” mode stops any horrid creatures from spawning, and “Creative” mode allows unlimited use of any type of block the player desires. On the flip side, core gamers might like to switch the difficulty to “Hard”, meaning limited resources, more enemies and damage. Beyond this, the insanely hardcore can turn on an aptly named “hardcore” mode, meaning that just one death will end the whole in-game world -- and any hard work which went into it.
What Minecraft Got Wrong
The ‘adventure’ doesn’t work - Now that we have a full-release, we have a full game. That is, one with a ‘story’ of sorts. However, the adventure which leads up to the end-game is confusing and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The NPC villagers around each world do not aid the user in progressing to The End, so many may not even be aware of what is a brilliant and epic final battle.
No proper mod support (yet) - Sure, it might still be in the works, but this is a feature players were promised upon the full release. Conflicting mods can cause the game to not run and are therefore a major annoyance to some players who wish to tweak their experience.
The Final Verdict
The story of Minecraft is inspirational. What we have today is the result of two years of hard work from a team that once consisted of just one man. Yet somehow, almost every aspect of play has been accounted for and executed brilliantly, time and again. Every element of this title fits the next beautifully, and things are only going to get better: while we may have seen the full release of Minecraft, we certainly haven’t seen the end of it.
By Harry Hughes.