“It’s an RPG and I don’t play RPGs!”
“It’s 1600 bloomin MS Points!”
These were just some of the excuses that I threw out to justify NOT buying this game. I even tried the demo just out of curiosity…it made no sense and held no appeal for me at all. Despite my protests, people were constantly telling me that I was missing out and really needed to take the plunge. With an hour or so to spare one evening, I decided to give the tutorial another look. It still made no sense but I wasn’t going to give up. Calling on my faithful friend YouTube for help, I watched a couple of vids and it all started to become clear. One more play with the tutorial and a little extra nudge from a couple of friends and I hit the “BUY” button. Nearly 15quid lighter I began to learn what all of the fuss was about…
You see, this is a many faceted title that can be played in many ways with infinite possibilities. Don’t be put off by the primitive looking “8Bit” graphics, before long, you won’t even notice. Indeed, once you start to try to build anything more creative than a box, the blocks simply add to the challenge of trying to make things look good and it won’t be long before you’re mastering that.
So what’s the aim of the game? Well, that’s just it, there isn’t one. At least, not yet. Later updates that will bring it more in line with the PC version, should introduce a hidden zone called “The End” which has to be found and accessed then won by defeating a dragon. That however is only ever going to be a minuscule part of this game. Until that update lands, you decide what the aim is. Initially, assuming that you don’t opt to start playing in “Peaceful” mode, you are playing a survival game. Arriving in your new world at dawn, equipped with nothing more than a blank map and bare hands, you have until nightfall to gather resources and knock up a shelter. Once the sun dips you will encounter monsters and they have no compassion for little Steve (that’s the standard name for your character.) Monsters? Oh yes, you have to contend with assorted beasties known as MOBs. Zombies, Skeletons, Spiders and worst of all Creepers (very soon these will be renamed “******* Creepers!” ) So unless you are tucked up in some form of sealed dwelling, you willneed a sword and a lot of nerve as these things relentlessly pursue you through the darkness! In trying to avoid the inevitable onslaught, you will get your first experience of building. Punching at tree trunks or blocks of earth to break them into smaller chunks you begin to build up an inventory. At this early stage, your construction medium of choice is irrelevant. Function over form is the key here. Walls and a roof will do as a bare minimum, once that is in place you can start to think about more trivial matters. Perhaps a door for your new, temporary abode? Now to start crafting, which is the term used for converting or blending raw materials to create
anything of use.
It was the concept of crafting that mainly discouraged me from this game. Having had a brief dabble at RPGs in the past, I could never understand it. It always seemed like a kind of guessing game or test of memory and intelligence in trying to work out what goes with what, to make what! Not so the case with the XBox version of Minecraft. Working from a menu of items, each one has details of exactly what is needed to make it and in what quantity. You just have to find the resources and have them in your personal inventory, then a couple of clicks will see a new item made. Sounds simple? In some cases, yes it is, in others it can be quite challenging. Some things are very rare, others are needed in large quantities. Perhaps they can be found by exploring large areas on the surface through a variety of landscapes, dense forest, sandy desert, huge snowy mountains etc. Maybe they need to be found underground? These are the best ones because that means we get to go mining! Great fun, digging away finding various ores as you go, avoiding yet more beasties but also deadly lava flows and hidden water falls. Suddenly discovering cavernous chambers and tunnels taking you deeper and deeper into the earth.
That really sums up the game. There lie your basic elements, it’s entirely up to you what you do with them. If you want a bit of action, craft yourself some armour, grab a sword and head out into the night to battle the MOBs. If you want to relax, switch to peaceful mode (no MOBs) and go mining, it’s amazing how therapeutic it can be just tap-tap tapping away with your pickaxe, punctuated by the occasional joy as you uncover a few blocks of diamonds. Lighting the way with flaming torches, before you know it, an hour has passed and you are in an almost catatonic state of pleasure! If you want to let your creative juices flow, then you can embroil yourself in the most famous aspect of Minecraft…Epic Builds! It is incredible just what can be achieved, especially considering the clumsy looking graphics but a quick trawl of t’internet will show you some amazing structures, created within the game. Ranging from huge towers and castles to replicas of Hollywood spacecraft to entire cities, you are limited only by your imagination (and how much time you can sink into a project!) If technology and engineering are your thing, start designing and building machines and even electrically powered gadgets to make your Minecraft life a little easier, or simply just to sit back and watch your creation in action.
As I write this, I have just finished constructing a huge processing plant which catches and traps MOBs before killing them and harvesting the useful goodies that they drop before feeding them into a collection room. This was about a 5 hour build and every minute was enjoyable. The pleasure of seeing it actually run and work perfectly just tops it off!
All of these things are great on your own but of course can be so much more fun when played as a multiplayer game. Up to 8 people in one world helping each other out or just generally creating havoc brings in yet another aspect to this incredible game. A game with no real purpose, no way to win, no story to follow, no tasks to fulfil, so how on earth can it be so good?
Give a group of primary school kids a pile of yoghurt pots, empty boxes, scraps of cloth and they’ll soon be creating their own games or building things using nothing more than base instinct and imagination. That is exactly what the developers have achieved with this game. You are given the basic items to play with, from then on it’s up to you. However you feel though and whatever mood you are in, you can easily find something to please you in this fantastically
You can find out more about this game, get some help and advice or find others to join you in a multiplayer game by visiting the forums at GamingInn.co.uk … there are quite a few of us on there who need little excuse to fire the XBox up for a bit of Minecraft!