Minecraft Review for PC

Minecraft Review for PC

Mining And Crafting, Mining And Crafting…

It’s here. On November 18, Markus “Notch” Persson pulled a goofy looking lever from a stage at Minecon in Las Vegas, and Minecraft became a real game. It was almost like magic. Of course, now that it’s a real game, it’s officially time for it to be given a nice little numbered score. Notch has officially called Minecraft “reviewable,” bestowing his blessing, in a sense, upon video game publications and web sites that wish to tackle such a thing. And that means it’s my job to bestow such a number so we can finally quantify the Minecraft experience.

It’s admittedly a bit strange reviewing a game I’ve been playing for almost a year now. I originally bumbled my way around the open beta last spring (and you can read about those bumblings in a four-part series I did; start with Part 1 , then move on to Part 2 , Part 3 , and Part 4 .) Of course, this was early in the beta, and tons of new features have been added since then. So once Notch’s lever was pulled, I started a brand new world from scratch and began building anew. And I found myself just as immersed as I did when I began last spring. In fact, even amidst all the phenomenal games that have come out this holiday season, I have a feeling Minecraft is going to consume sickening amounts of my time this winter.

Minecraft Screenshot

Now, if you’re not one of the four million-plus people who have purchased a copy already, you might be wondering what exactly Minecraft is. Well, it’s pretty hard to give it an explanation that does it justice. The problem is that it’s so simple on the surface, yet so incredibly complex once you dig a little deeper into its layers. In fact, entire books could be written explaining the ins and outs of its various systems. Essentially, you pop into a randomly generated 3D world with absolutely nothing; no weapons, no tools, no resources, etc. But you quickly learn that the environment is both your best friend and your worst enemy. It’s your friend while you’re gathering resources like wood, coal, ore, and diamonds, and begin building a humble shelter (or a majestic mountainside fortress.) It’s your worst enemy, though, when darkness falls and the monsters are unleashed. During the nights, you can cower like a sniveling sissy, build some weapons to slay the attacking monsters, or just sleep peacefully in a bed you’ve built out of cotton and wood.

But there’s so much more than basic survival here. Sure, the monstrosities that you face off against in Minecraft have themselves become cultural icons, with images of Creepers gracing T-shirts, mugs, posters, and the like. But the you-vs.-the-world gameplay element isn’t even the main attraction. As corny and cliché as this may sound, the meat of Minecraft is your own imagination.

Minecraft Screenshot

Because really, if you can imagine it, you can probably build it in Minecraft. I’ve seen in-game representations of famous landmarks like the White House or the Coliseum. I’ve seen favorite 8-bit legends like Mega Man, Mario, and Samus lovingly re-created in blocky form. I’ve even seen an actual working computer built using Minecraft’s incredibly simple but mind-blowingly functional Redstone circuitry.

Essentially, Minecraft is an incredibly powerful sandbox toolset that comes with griefers built into the system. The real challenge to the game isn’t building—that much is fairly simple—the challenge is gathering the required resources and keeping your creations safe from the exploding Creepers or the Endermen who can pick up blocks and rearrange them at will. Of course, if you just want to build without all these distractions, the game also has a Creative mode that gives you infinite numbers of every type of block to work with, as well as a “Peaceful” difficulty setting that prevents monsters from spawning. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a brand new Hardcore mode that gives you only a single life, with death being completely permanent.

Minecraft Screenshot

Admittedly, Minecraft’s visual aesthetic is a bit controversial. At first, many people scoff at its low-res textures and almost offensive blockiness. Yet it’s an aesthetic that grows on you with time. The game has been carefully crafted with this blockiness in mind, filling its world with strangely boxy-looking critters and objects. What you may originally write off as ugly or outdated, you might eventually come to see as gorgeous. And I have to admit, standing atop a cliffside and looking over the landscape below can be a breathtaking experience.

You see, atmosphere is king here. There’s just something about this environment that makes it so welcoming and immersive. A huge part of this, I think, is the minimalistic approach it takes to its soundtrack. While you are mostly doing your mining, crafting, and exploring in silence punctuated only by some environmental sounds, every once in a while a piece of music kicks in. This music, composed by C418, is usually a hypnotic mix of piano and synthesizer. It’s always soft and simple, yet is so perfectly suited to the game’s vibe that it can be goose bump-inducing.

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.

Minecraft Screenshot

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.

You’ll either hate the simplicity of it all or fall in love with the blocky, retro aesthetic. 4.5 Control
First-person melee combat will always be a little awkward, but Minecraft handles it with grace. Building and crafting feel smooth and intuitive once you get the hang of it all. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
C418’s soundtrack is incredibly moving, setting the highly addictive gameplay to an almost hypnotizing audio backdrop. 5.0 Play Value
An infinite world jam packed with things to do. You can lose hundreds of hours of your life to Minecraft without ever getting bored. 4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Minecraft is a sandbox construction game, inspired by Infiniminer, Dwarf Fortress, and Dungeon Keeper, created by Markus Persson, the founder of Mojang AB.
  • The player takes an avatar that can destroy or create blocks, forming fantastic structures, creations, and artwork across the various multiplayer servers in multiple game modes.
  • Singleplayer and multiplayer, when purchased, can be played in the user’s web browser, or using the downloadable client.
  • Minecraft now has a proper ending, reached after exploring a new realm called “The End.”

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