Mess of a Game, Great Toybox
Minecraft 1.0 is out people, you know what that means! Time for me to shit it all over it in this review!!! No, but really, most of these reviews for Minecraft that I have seen on every review sites are giving it insane scores of 9/10's and 10/10's. Now I know you may not want to hear this, but Minecraft, as a game, does not deserve these scores. Let me explain. Minecraft is fun, there's no denying that, it's really fun, but basically as a toy box and not a game. However it is a game and is marketed as a game, so I will review it as such.
You see, Minecraft's main appeal, is that you can build anything you want, change the environment, push blocks with pistons, create a stone castle with a lava moat, enter the nether and fight hellish creatures, build a house, breed animals, and that's great! However, Minecraft as a game, sucks. A game needs good game-play mechanics, challenge, and reward for accomplishing said challenge, Minecraft has none of this. Now, I'm getting the feeling that I started this review out on a bad note, and most of you out there are probably ready to tear my heart out and eat it, so I'm going to say that I personally love Minecraft, but not as a game, as a giant playground. By the end of this review, I'm pretty sure you'll have a good idea of where I'm coming from.
Now, first off to address the presentation. It's fucking ugly. I know that the block style has a certain charm to it, but that charm you see, is called "programming graphics." They're basically just a place holder for the real graphics when the game gets released, only problem is, the game already is released in the full 1.0 version. Notch wanted to hire an artist to replicate a retro style for Minecraft, however, he never found one, so he just released the full version with the placeholder graphics, and before you say anything, no, flat, square models with textures is not retro, and it is not an art-style. I can see how there would be a certain charm to this art style, however it does not excuse this.
Now, onto the other aspects of the game. How bout that crafting? It's like half of Minecraft right? Well here's the thing, it sucks. There are absolutely no recipes, instructions, blueprints, anything telling you how to craft or use anything. Even the Minecraft CLONES got that right! I understand you can get all you need from just looking at the Wiki, but think about what this game would be like if you didn't have Internet access. It would be terrible! You wouldn't remember how to craft anything. I understand you using the Wiki for like a hint or something, but not one of the main aspects of the game that you absolutely need to do in order to progress! Speaking of progression, there pretty much is none. I know that Notch added an Enderdragon boss at the end, but this boss fight is pointless, there's no reward to it other than an End Credits screen, boy do I feel good. Going through all that and receiving absolutely nothing, not a new weapon, or piece of armor, metal, material, nothing other than experience, but that's only used for enchanting weapons and armor. Oh yeah, thanks for not even letting us choose which enchantment we get, thank you so much Notch for writing the enchantments in some bullshit language, and just making me take a blind ass guess as to which enchantment I'm going to get. I really want to get all that experience just to gamble with it on enchantments I probably don't even really need. In fact the only form of progression, is basically how good you're gear is, and how big and awesome your virtual house is.
One of these aspects of progression however, is completely useless, the gear progression, as these enemies are so easy, the only reason you'll need gear is out of fear on will get the drop on you. In fact, getting the drop on you is pretty much the only thing that makes the enemies challenging, they do nothing else. There is literally no path-finding for any enemy in the game, if an enemy is chasing after you, he'll just walk in a straight line. If there is a wall in between you and the enemy, he will jump. If that doesn't work, he'll do absolutely nothing else. The AI in these enemies, are terrible, Diakatana levels of bad, you could defeat every enemy by just digging a three block wide hole in between you and him. The enemy will make no attempt to go around it, or jump over it, no path-finding whatsoever. Now, the combat in Minecraft is simple and boring. Basically, you swing at an enemy, they get knocked back, an enemy hits you, you get knocked back. Repeat until one of you dies. There are no weapons other than the sword and bow, two weapons, that's all ya got.
The bow can be charged up for a more powerful shot, and with the sword you can block, and that's all you need to know. There are no techniques, no other weapons, no special attacks other than the bow charge, it's not like the enemies are going to make the combat any more fun, all they do is walk in a straight line. In fact, if you get attacked the enemies preform no attack animation, when they die, they just fall over preforming no animation, just fall on their side and disappear. You can get armor, but that only decreases how much damage you take, and you can craft yourself a better sword, but that only increases the damage it does, nothing else. The only enemy that provides some strategy, is the Enderman, which teleports behind you after you get close to him, however still, no pathfinding whatsoever, just walk in a straight line. The friendly AI for tamed wolves is just as bad, they can't follow you worth a shit, because guess how the do it? Well, in a straight goddamn line. However, those two aren't the worst in the game, no, the worst are the NPC villagers. You see, when you're traveling around Minecraft, you'll happen upon several NPC villages, filled with NPC villagers. You wanna know what they do? Abso-fucking-lutely nothing. If you attack an NPC, they won't react. If you attack an NPC, other NPC's wont react. If you take apart his house, he won't react. If you right click him, he won't react. If an NPC encounters a monster, they won't react, neither will the monster. Did I mention nothing in this huge, randomly generated world reacts to each other at all? The villagers can't even open the doors to their own houses. Now let me remind you, this is the full version. Not a beta, the full released version.
Now, the hunger meter and regenerating health. It works like this, if you're hunger bar is full, you'll regenerate health, eat food to keep you're hunger bar full, if it's empty, you'll lose health. Pretty simple right? The game also features poison food, such as zombie flesh, if you eat these, you'll gain a couple of hunger points, but lose twice as many. However, if you have a whole bunch of these and keep eating them, you'll gain hunger points, since the number of hunger points you lose by eating these does not stack. This is completely pointless, why would you put in a poison food if I can get the same effect from regular food if I just eat a whole bunch of them, that makes no sense at all.
Now, to appeal to the "game" side of Minecraft....y'know, cause it IS a game. Notch added a brewing system to brew potions with, and an enchantment system to enchant weapons and armor with. As I've already mentioned how dumb the enchantment system is, I'll move onto the brewing system. It is actually pretty good, you can create a variety of potions that heal, make you faster, stronger, less hungry, more durable, also you can make splash potions, that you can throw at enemies, along with stuff like poison, slow down potions, fire, and a lot of other nasty stuff, oh but here's the kicker, NO FUCKING RECIPIES! For god's sake man, if you're going to put books in the game, at least let me write in them so I can remember these recipes. A game shouldn't rely on an outside source like Wikipedia for basic aspects of the game like this. Well at least it's better than crafting, where as in brewing, you put two ingredients in two slots, mix 'em, and see what comes out. Crafting is nearly impossible to figure out without a guide. It's not enough that you just have the materials, oh no, you need to place them in very, very specific spots on the crafting table. If you're not going to have directions on how to do this in game, then why in the holy mother of all that is good would you do something like this?!
The only good aspects of this game, are the many items of which you can craft (which the system to do that sucks my balls) the building, and the exploration...that's it. There are no good game-play mechanics or anything other than that, and this is why I said what I did before. Building and crafting is good, but getting the materials to do so is a chore. Exploration is kind of fun, but just to see the randomly generating terrain, not mystery or discovery, since I know exactly what I'm going to find anyway. Honestly, ask yourself, if these worlds weren't randomly generated, would you still be playing Minecraft?
Now, you may be thinking from what I've said in this review, that I hate Minecraft, well I really don't. I just like as a building tool, not as a game. If Minecraft had gone in a more game-play focused, RPG centered "game". Don't just focus on the building, instead do what you're game does, BUILD around that idea. What if the game had actual, laid out dungeons that are human designed and just linked together randomly, complete with treasure chests, traps, corridors, smart enemy placement, and stronger, unique enemies, along with perhaps a boss fight and special gear that you can't just craft on your own (and that is actually better than the stuff you can craft on your own, unlike the cocoa beans which are completely useless, since food you get on your own restores much more hunger than that of cookies)? What if you could interact with NPC's? Trade with them, talk with them, perhaps even do jobs for them or hire them to do your jobs, like farm, or help you fight. Maybe the enemies could interact with the NPC's as well, and you could act as a hero, defend the town from a monster invasion, after they're driven off, build a wall to keep them out, and be rewarded for your efforts by the leader of the small town. Speaking of enemies, what if the enemies had actually AI instead of Ai that doesn't even exceed Atari standards....in fact, Pac-Man's AI even exceeds Minecraft's AI. What if the Creepers, instead of just running into a wall and waiting for you there, actually stalked you throughout the world, waiting for the right moment to strike? What if the enemies could actually figure out how to move around a wall? What if the combat was better? Incorporating special moves and techniques, perhaps power moves? If none of that, at least give us more weapons that operate differently from one another, that alone could make the combat fun due to the weapon variety and each weapon's strengths and weaknesses.
Perhaps most importantly, what if the crafting, enchanting, and brewing systems included recipes or blueprints so you could know what the fuck you're doing without just taking a blind guess 100% of the time? Hell, those blueprints alone could be the rewards at the end of dungeons. Go even further, a magic system in which you could craft your own spells, how awesome would that be?! What about just more mobs even? There's only like five enemy mobs, in a world as big as Minecraft, that's a shame. Imagine now, all these features implemented into Minecraft, all with Minecraft's randomly generating worlds. It would've easily been a competitor with Skyrim for Game Of The Year, but no. Instead we get this, an unfinished, extremely underwhelming and under-designed, shit load of lost potential, poorly implemented, and pretty much gets boring after a couple days, mess of a "game". Minecraft is great as a building tool, but sucks as a game, and so far, I can't recommend it to anyone for its thirty dollar retail price, as opposed to its ten dollar Alpha stage price. Now you may think I'm being too harsh with this review, but ask yourself this, was the actual game, the sense of exploration, discovery, and accomplishment the thing that kept you playing, or the idea of finishing your "dream house" the thing that kept you playing?