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Minecraft Review - Playing with Legos Again
I loved Legos when I was a kid. I had a huge box of miscellaneous blocks purchased from different neighborhood yard sales. In the morning the box would look like little more than a container of confetti – but by noon it would be assembled into a space station, or a castle, or a town in which every car was a convertible, a police cruiser or a fire truck.
It’s easy to look back on these years and focus on how much fun I had building things out of my Legos. But it wasn’t just the process of buildings that that made Legos enjoyable. It was the fact that I could build in response to my own imagination. I didn’t build a space station just to build a space station – I built a space station because it was going to be the forward base for a grand fleet of space vessels ready to attack Mars.
Now I’m older, and my imagination isn’t stoked as readily as it once was, but I have now found a game that lets me recall the youthful creativity I once enjoyed. The game is called Minecraft, and it is far more than the sum of its parts.
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Minecraft Survival Mode
You’re in a field. It is green and, in its own way (Minecraft’s graphics are artfully done, but purposefully blocky and pixelated) beautiful. The sun is rising to its high noon position and, somewhere nearby, animals happily roam.
This seems like such a happy place. But come night, it turns into hell. Zombies are real, and they want your blood. Welcome to survival mode.
Minecraft’s survival mode is, essentially, a limited sandbox that forces you to build everything that you need to survive the game world. Torches, weapons, tools, and shelters – all must be built yourself. If you need resources, you must venture out into the world and find them. If you want a shelter, you must build it yourself.
It’s hard to explain just how addictive survival mode’s gameplay can be. It seems silly at first, because there is no real challenge to survival mode. Once you’ve read a Minecraft tutorial you won’t have a hard time strictly surviving in the game world.
Yet, as you begin to explore the world and realize that you build just about anything, you may find yourself becoming a kid again. Suddenly the game is not just about re-arranging blocks. It’s about using your imagination and creativity to not just survive, but thrive. First you’ll build a basic shelter. But then you’ll begin to wonder…how can I add a moat? How can I add doors and windows? How can I improve my tools?
And, before you know it, you look at the clock and it’s 2 in the morning.
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Minecraft Creative Mode
Personally, I prefer Minecraft’s survival mode. I find that the constant threat of monsters, even if they’re not terribly bright or deadly, gives more context to my creativity. I’ve recently began to add a large moat around the castle I’ve built in my survival mode game – not just because I want to, but because it helps keep the monsters out.
But I’m gushing. Minecraft’s creative mode is great as well and will likely appeal to an entirely different kind of play. While survival mode is essentially a sandbox game, creative mode is less like a game and more like a toolset.
It’s a robust toolset, as well. Minecraft allows for construction on a truly massive scale – for example, one player made a 1:1 recreation of the U.S.S Enterprise-D. Minecraft also includes a logic system that makes it possible to model computer processors inside the game by constructing certain blocks.
Creative mode has no real goal, so it isn’t for everyone. However, it is a lot of fun for creative minds and is a good way to model objects in a way that you otherwise couldn’t.
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Yes, Minecraft does include multiplayer. It is officially limited to creative play at the moment, but even so, the multi-player can be a blast. You’d probably expect that throwing a bunch of people into a game world and giving them the ability to build and create whatever they want would simply result in thousands of buildings resembling human genitals. To an extent, you’re right. But groups have also come together to create huge buildings that would have taken a single person months or even years to complete. It is, in fact, surprising to see how much maturity exists on many of the Minecraft servers that are online. The amount of effort required to erect any structure in Minecraft seems to make individuals decide against pranks and instead focus on designing something cool, like they're own floating castle or a highway between structures.
Unfortunately, multiplayer isn’t without issues. There is no official way to browse servers in-game, so you’ll have to type in server I.P. addresses in order to join them. I also had a few crashes and some lag issues while in the game. Still, it is a lot of fun and works well most of the time (hell, it’s more stable that Civilization 5 multiplayer was at release!)
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Minecraft is currently in Alpha, but it isn’t free (you can play older versions for free, but they’re pretty limited). You’ll have to pay 10 Euros (13 in U.S. Dollars) to buy Minecraft. Having to pay for an Alpha release may seem odd, but don’t worry – Minecraft is not a buggy game by any stretch of the imagination.
In fact, Minecraft is more fun and more stable than games I’ve paid forty or sixty dollars for. The Civilization 5 comparison is very apt for me – I bought Civilization 5 and Minecraft at about the same time, and while I’ve played a lot of both, I find myself booting up Minecraft more often.
This is an excellent game. If you have even the slightest interest in sandbox games you should buy it – now!