|Release: November 18, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
It must be noted that in the transition between beta and full release, the sound effects have been given a pretty exhaustive overhaul. For example, falling off a cliff now results in a sickening crunch of what I assume to be your character's bones breaking, and the bow and arrows sound a bit more "twangy." The Endermen even have their own unique sounds now.
Now, perhaps the biggest turnoff for the Minecraft skeptic has been the claim that Minecraft has no point. I would argue that the point of the game is just about anything you want it to be, and that's why the game has potentially revolutionary implications for the future of gaming. However, to satisfy those critics, some new features have been added. There is now a level system, so your character can progress and become more powerful by killing various types of creatures. There's also an achievement system—which isn't brand new, but it's been expanded for the official release—that sort of nudges you through the game's subtle progression. (Find a certain type of ore, use that to make a pick to mine rarer types of materials, build more powerful weapons and armor, etc.) And there's even a final boss battle against a ferociously difficult dragon, whose defeat results in the rolling of credits and a quote by Mark Twain. A proper ending, if you will.
So yes, there is a point now. You must work your way up through the game's resource tree, equipping yourself with better and better gear and leveling up until you are powerful enough to face the Enderdragon. Yet, to those of us who fell in love with the original Minecraft sandbox, this sense of forced progression doesn't feel all that meaningful. I understood that there was already some progression taking place beneath the surface; a level system undermines that and feels more like a tacked-on grind to keep players mindlessly occupied than an actual game-enhancing feature. However, it's easily ignored if all you care about is exploration, building, and crafting. And perhaps it will lure some of the skeptical few to Minecraft's literally endless world.
Now, I have to admit that it's extremely difficult to give Minecraft a numbered score. Do I ignore the cultural impact this game has had on the world? Do I simply write off all the thousands upon thousands of hours of YouTube videos, the bootlegged merchandise, and the meta-jokes and memes the game has inspired, or can all of those things now be considered part of the Minecraft experience, if not part of the game itself? I certainly think that Minecraft is pushing gaming—and even culture—in a radically new direction, and provides some crude versions of never-before-seen gameplay mechanics that will eventually be polished and implemented by other game studios in some very cool and innovative ways. (The implications of a randomly generated infinite 3D word, for example, are staggering.)
Minecraft is so much more than a game by now; it's a potentially generation-defining phenomenon. But at its core, there's a game, and that game needs a score. Ultimately, I'm giving this game the highest score I've given to a game this year, and that's mostly because I believe it's doing more to push the envelope of what's possible in the industry than anything else I've played this year. On top of all that, it's built around some very solid mechanics and iced with a phenomenal atmosphere that has to be experienced to be believed. Personally, I dare you to pick up Minecraft and not eventually spend a hundred hours in its blocky world.
CCC Editor / Contributing Writer