Review by SanCheeze
"Eventually feels like a Massive Waste of Time"
When Minecraft first became popular, I knew several people who were all ecstatic about the game. They would constantly talk about what they had built, what new things were being added to the game, and all the goings-on in the server they had joined. Not only this, but they asked me dozens of times to spend a "measly" 15 Dollars for the Alpha version of the game, with tons of promises that I wouldn't regret it and that I would never have to pay again. Eager to end their pleas, I dropped some money into the creator's PayPal and downloaded Minecraft. And I have to say, I'm underwhelmed.
Part of the problem is that there were no instructions whatsoever, at least from the beginning. Now that there are achievements, tutorials and the like, this problem has been only slightly solved. The game doesn't explain very much, but simply tells you what to do through basics concepts like "Cut down a tree" or "Build a furnace". How I would accomplish these things was left for me to find out. Maybe it's just me, but it's bothersome to me that almost an entire year and a half can pass before the game's creator is willing to explain the basic concepts of his game.
Some might say that the effect is for "You to discover what you want to do" and that I've simply become totally reliant on tutorials to discover anything in the game. But in this day and age, tutorials are necessary. I'm not saying that every game needs to thoroughly and in very meticulous ways describe every last detail, but at the very least tell me how to move so I'm not wasting time randomly pressing buttons trying to figure out what does what. It wasn't until I discovered a wiki that I was able to learn more about the game and more fully experience everything it had to offer.
This shouldn't be necessary.
Aside from that, there seemed to be very little to do in the world of Minecraft. Naturally occurring phenomenon are non-existant with the exception of animals and monsters, who only serve to wander, attempt to kill you, or be killed for their goods. Therefore, the enjoyment of the game depends entirely on what you can do with what it gives you, which is actually quite a lot. There are dozens and dozens of blocks scattered about the landscape, all of which have a very specific purpose that seems logical, though often, again, you won't figure out any of the more detailed designs for blocks or tools without the Internets' help.
But after many deaths and failed worlds, along with plenty of research, I had finally learned nearly everything there was to know about Minecraft. Be it what Monsters did, which blocks did what and how to fashion differant blocks out of other blocks. Even then, the game is underwhelming, and even boring. The Heart of the game is definitely in creating things, but it's difficult to get excited about your projects when in the back of your mind you know that somebody else has already built something you were planning, be it a house, a castle, a spaceship, a to scale model of Istanbul, whatever. Somebody else has always done it better than you, and there are pictures to prove it.
But my biggest gripe about building is that you have to manually gather every single piece yourself. Nothing is provided to you. This wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't for the fact that how useful something is compared to how easy it is to find is ridiculously structured. The difficult to find Gold is often totally worthless, yet the trees that litter the landscape are absolutely vital to getting anywhere, as the wood they provide is used for almost every tool in the game. Similarly, Coal and Charcoal are both relatively easy to get your hands on, but are absolutely necessary for surviving nighttime, as monsters spawn in darkness and the coal and charcoal are used to make light-giving torches.
As gathering bothered me less and less, I inevitably decided to build a model of the Empire State Building, complete with Balconies, smooth rock to simulate concrete and glass windows dotting the side of the building. The entire project took me several play sessions, but eventually my masterpiece was done, glittering with torches that let it stand out like a shining jewel at night. But something felt wrong.
I hadn't accomplished anything.
At least, according to the game I didn't. The game never told me "What a fantastic build you have there!". As I stared at the tower I was so proud of, that pride eventually turned into regret, as I had just wasted several hours accomplishing, what the game seems to think, is nothing at all. Some people might say that playing Video Games is already a waste of time, but with most other games there is a story to follow that motivates you to keep playing, or maybe the premise of access to new an exciting game mechanics to play with, or even a rudimentary screen saying "Good Job!" when you finished a level to give you a sense of accomplishment. Minecraft doesn't have any of this.
What Minecraft instead does is give you everything at the beginning, the only restriction to its access being that you haven't gathered the right things to make it yet. It simply drops you in the middle of a world and tells you to think for yourself. At that point, the game seems to stop trying to give you incentive to play it, instead trying to get you to build your own experience. The problem is that this experience is mostly gathering things the exact same way, putting them in the right place the exact same way, and then spending a small amount of time looking at what you just made before you have to go get more materials to build it more. It's like the grind aspect of an MMO, except you have a choice in what this grinding will lead to. So it really is just the grind aspect of an MMO.
Don't get me wrong here, I love the concept of creativity and games merging. The problem with this is that the majority of gamers aren't artists, so asking them to build virtually everything notable in your game isn't the biggest way to present this concept. While there are plenty of people out there who have been able to create ridiculously complex things like mazes, castles, cathedrals, and things of this nature, these people both have a great deal of patience, creativity, and willingness to put up with the major inconveniences of the game.
The Multiplayer aspect is what many are still playing the game for, as it put you in an environment where you can find others who will praise your work, help you gather materials or socialize with. That seems to be what the projected idea would have been like, because in reality, the Multiplayer is filled with people who want to do nothing but destroy your hard work (Greifers) , forcing many moderators to devote time into fixing everything that player has done. There are servers where this is much less of a problem, but generally this is because you have to go through the tedious whitelist system to get in, and even then, most people in the several servers I went into were very anti-social, preferring to concentrate on building than respond to anything I asked them. On top of this, most servers are filled with inconsistant lag patterns and glitches that make the multiplayer feel less designed than the single player.
A short summary of what I thought of each individual aspect of the game, then I'll give my final thoughts.
For the Record, I don't care in any way about Graphics. They don't at all influence my opinion of a game. To me, they're the wrapping paper on a gift in that they don't accomplish much, if anything. This is why it's refreshing, to me, to see a game rendered entirely in 16-bit. It's a nice little departure from the standards we normally have: Instead of photo-realistic faces and polygon counts in the hundreds, everything looks like it was made out of blocks. It outlines the sense of simplicity that comes with playing Minecraft. But like I said, I don't care in any way about graphics.
There is little sound to speak of. You can hear your character's footsteps, grunts, the noises of digging, and the sounds of the flora and fauna. On top of that, music will play for seemingly no reason, or if you build a jukebox and put a record in it. The sounds are basic, the music is basic, and it again goes with the theme of simplicity that Minecraft is trying to pull off. After a few playing sessions, I just turned all music off and sound off in favour of something that's more favourable. The sounds and music get mildly annoying when you hear them constantly, so I can't recommend this game for it's presentation.
I've already spoken a great deal about the Gameplay.
There is none. You appear in a Forest/Desert/Mountain/Field/HIlly/Snow environment and then you can control your character. That's your story.
Minecraft isn't nearly as much fun as everybody else describes it to be. The major fun factor of this game comes from seeing what you can build, though most of your sense of accomplshment will be diminished by the fact that until you get very,very skilled, nobody will think anything of what you've built, alienating new players. If you have a Great Deal of Patience, don't mind repetetive tasks, and have a very creative mind that will let you visualise exactly what you want to build, then Minecraft is worth buying. Otherwise, the game has little to offer until more modes are released. Some people might say that it's just a Beta and that I should wait until the full game comes out, but the purpose of a Beta is to provide the public with most of what they should come to expect from the finished product, and while Minecraft is still installed on my computer for the purpose of seeing the final game, I don't have high hopes for it.
Besides, nobody should ever demand they get a 15 Dollar refund from somebody in Sweden.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 05/09/11
Game Release: Minecraft (Classic) (US, 05/10/09)
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