Review by Jerrynsteph4eva

"A unique experience worth the price of admission, even if it gets a tad stale after a while."

Minecraft is a bit of an oddity. Never before have I had such a wide range of experiences with one game before, mainly due to the constant updates and the random nature of the world. Minecraft has been both addicting and boring, easy and difficult and everything in-between. And to think, all this stemmed from a couple of programmers in Stockholm who enjoyed making indie games.

If you're one of the few people who haven't yet heard of it, Minecraft allows you to explore a 3D world filled with various blocks that you can mine and then replace to build your own creations. While the concept is simple, the gameplay is deep and impressive and there are many nuances that help keep you addicted to the game. For example, while Redstone may simply mean a TNT trigger or a way to open your house from afar, people have taken it and made working machines with it (such as printers and computers).

When you first fire up Minecraft, you're asked to choose between two modes: Creative and Survival. Creative mode allows you to wield an infinite amount of any block or item you choose while Survival puts you in the wilderness and has you mine for all your resources. There's a stark contrast between the two modes and is one of the reasons that there's numerous ways to experience Minecraft.

You're also given the choice to choose a "Seed" or a randomly generated world. Each world is completely unique from one another (aside from Superflat worlds) and it feels like you're exploring a brand new world each time you fire it up. The random generation is very impressive as well, oftentimes creating big mountains and spacious, interlinked underground caverns. Seriously, exploring a few caverns underground will make you wonder if it WAS truly generated randomly. The worlds are infinite as well, an impressive feat for a Java based game. You can run to the ends of the screen for ten hours, only to continue finding new areas to explore and still have your progress on the other side saved. If you want to, you can also enter a seed, which is any combination of words or numbers that will generate a specific world for you. This is great if you're having trouble finding your way around and need some help or simply want to play on the same world your buddies are and see who can find what. The world even has "biomes", which act like real life biomes. You have desert areas where you'll find Cacti and hardly any water, forest areas with Ocelots and numerous types of trees, snow areas and so on. The range of wildlife and blocks you can find differ in each biome, which is pretty cool.

Creative mode is likely where most new players will start, simply because most of Minecraft's publicity comes from people's creations. Using an infinite amount of blocks, you can build the structures of your dreams (so long as you clear away some space first), aided by the ability to fly and break any block in one hit (including obsidian and bedrock). You can even call up special blocks like Command Blocks (that execute server commands that can be used to give people items, change weather or other cool features). However, creating buildings takes a LOT of time depending on the size since you have to place blocks one by one. But if you want to recreate your local neighborhood or give yourself a magnificent castle, this is the place.

Survival is where the real fun lies for most people and you're tasked to stay alive in the middle of nowhere. You start with absolutely nothing and have to mine for your blocks. You now have a health bar as well as hunger (which requires you to eat to keep up your strength) and monsters spawn in dark areas at night. To defend yourself, you'll have to build a shelter and some tools using the crafting system, which is fun and unique. In order to craft tools, you have to "build" them in the crafting window. For example, to build a sword, you have to place a stick and two wood blocks on top of it. There are numerous recepies and it's a lot of fun trying to figure them out.

But Survival also shows off the majesty of Minecraft. I'll admit, I was more of a Creative player until I played the Xbox version (which forced you to play Survival for the longest time) and then I realized that Survival is where the fun of the game lies, as Creative mode gets boring without a specific plan. Since you've got to mine your resources, you'll be exploring the numerous caverns of Minecraft for ore. You'll see just how awesome the random creations are and feel a sense of accomplishment as you find your ores and upgrade your house and build your structures. It's a blast, especially if you imagine your creations and build them in Survival mode instead.

The game even contains numerous side activities if you're bored of exploring. You could be a farmer and raise wheat, mushrooms, sugar cane or the like. You could be a fisherman and catch a bunch of fish. You can explore the wilderness and tame wild Wolves and Ocelots to be your pets and protect you. You can even use redstone (the game's circuitry simulator) to build complex machines that automate many tasks for you. There's plenty of stuff in Minecraft to do, even if you're not a fan of exploring.

However, the true fun comes from playing with your buddies. In CMP (Creative Multiplayer), you can quickly build impressive structures with your buddies or watch as your simple farmhouse turns into a sprawling city as your buddies quickly build around you. It's a blast to see what numerous minds can come up with and you can even introduce roleplaying to the mix to have even more fun (create a city and assign everyone jobs, play the game's fictional sport 'Spleef', etc). In SMP, you help increase the fun as you play with other people. Perhaps you forgot to finish your shelter. No worries, hop in with someone else! Gang up on the enemies that swarm you for drops. Mine together to get ores faster or steal all the good ore and watch as your competition fends off zombies with a stone sword because you stole all the iron. Playing with buddies makes the game tons more fun, whether you're seeing what they build with their creativity or raiding underground caverns for ores.

Minecraft is constantly updated as well and if you choose to purchase it, you'll get all future updates free of charge. While updates may take a little while to come out, new features are added every week, which means if you haven't played in six months, you'll find new features, blocks and sometimes even game modes await you when you log back in.

However, Minecraft is not without it's share of flaws. The biggest flaw with Minecraft is that it gets boring very quickly, especially if you're playing on your own. If you're not creative or have a huge plan, Creative mode will get old extremely quickly after you build your house and whatever structures you wanted to. While Survival holds it's fun a bit longer, it too grows boring after you've collected a lot of ores and especially once you've obtained diamonds and explore the Nether for a while. Since Minecraft really depends on your creativity and/or sense of exploration to thrive, it can get really boring after a while since the game does not contain goals.

Building also takes way too much time to accomplish in Minecraft. It can take upwards of five minutes to create a basic house for yourself in Creative and if you want to create lavish, huge buildings, you're looking at hours of work since you can only place one block at a time. While I can understand why they did it for Survival mode, I don't see why they didn't allow you to place multiple blocks in Creative to save time, since that's mainly what the mode was about! While you can use MCEdit and the like to make life easier, I feel it would have made the game a lot better if you could place multiple blocks at the same time, even if it was a Creative mode exclusive.

If you play multiplayer, you'll eventually run into griefers as well and I wish the game had better options to protect against it. It sucks firing up Minecraft and connecting to your server of choice, only to find your house in ruins and all your stuff ransacked because some griefer came online while you were gone. I wish the game allowed you to assign privileges in multiplayer, such as "lock this door from anyone except ____/make unbreakable to everyone except me" or even an option to claim an area and disallow anyone from changing the contents or raiding the chests. It would be a simple fix that would save many hours of rebuilding, refinding or even just trapping your house with redstone locks if you could simply disallow griefers. While the game does allow you to kick players and ban them, it's only as good as the admins are (who can't really watch everyone on a bigger server).

The game also does not feature a tutorial like the console versions nor does it feature the simplified crafting system from it. If you're new, you'll likely find the game a tad confusing at first and will have to play around with it to learn about the various features and blocks rather than follow a scripted tutorial that shows you how everything works. While some will enjoy this about the game (as it increases their sense of accomplishment), new players will likely get frustrated without help and it would probably be better to purchase the console version instead if you find yourself struggling to learn the game.

On a minor note, because the game is constantly updated, not only does this make Seeds generate different worlds that before but it also means there are oftentimes numerous glitches that affect the game. If you plan on playing in a specific world with friends (and don't want to invite them over the internet), you'll have to start at the same time as you'll likely be in two different worlds if you wait till an update.

All in all, Minecraft is a great game that allows you to build as you please or go spelunking for ores and offers a wide variety of experiences, mainly due to the huge possibilities of creative mode or the random caverns you'll explore for materials in survival mode. While it does get boring without friends or a goal, it's certainly worth the money you shell out for it and with the constant updates, you'll be coming back to it a lot. Find a few buddies and play online with them (though watch out for griefers) and you'll soon understand why Minecraft is the most successful indie game of all time.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/28/14

Game Release: Minecraft (US, 11/18/11)

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