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Preview: Minecraft

Dan Adams | 17 Nov 2010 15:00
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Maybe it says something about the state of horror games that some of the scariest moments in gaming come from the blocky yet charming Minecraft. This game will make you afraid of the dark. In doing so, Minecraft proves that fear doesn't require fancy visuals. Minecraft plays off of the use of light and dark very well. You'll hear zombies moaning and shuffling in the half-light while exploring deep caves. You'll hear the hissing of spiders and clacking of skeletons outside of your home in the dead of night. What you won't hear are the infamous Creepers that sneak up behind you before whispering their hissing messages of doom into your ear and exploding, taking you and a good chunk of the game world with it.

It's the unique balance of creativity and suspense that is most enjoyable. Surface construction has more meaning when it's finally lit up at night (enemies can't spawn in the light) and secure from evil intruders. Exploration of the deeps feels more satisfying when you've cleared an area of danger and manage to secure a base of operations from which to mine rare materials.

The game wouldn't be as much fun without the threat of monsters roaming the night or inhabiting dark caves, but combat in general just isn't particularly fun because the system in Minecraft is fairly primitive and enemies aren't intelligent. It's not a tactical challenge to defeat them. The only thing you can really say for the enemies is that they do deal a healthy amount of damage and therefore have to be respected for their relentlessness.

More important to me is that there aren't really any real objectives. Exploring and clearing out monster spawning dungeons to make my habitat safe is fun, but I can't help but wish there was a quest mechanic of some sort. Whether it's finding clues to locating a bunch of specialized pieces of materials that have to be used to create a massive object or "clearing" a zone from evil, minor goals would go a long way to providing more context to mining and construction and the satisfaction of meaningful success.

To be sure, the current version of Minecraft is the deal of the century. Sure, you're paying for what's essentially an undeveloped game but what's there is undeniably fun and addictive. It's got all of the building blocks (yuk yuk) for a long standing addiction even with its rather large issues. The development team at Mojang Specifications (the once one-man brigade of Notch has turned into a company with actual employees thanks to the success of the game) continues to add features such as the recently released Halloween update that added a dangerous Hell world (called the Nether) and climate biomes. I hold a lot of hope for the finished product. I'm sure the crazed fever surrounding Minecraft will eventually die down a bit, but Minecraft has all the makings of an indie classic.

I mean, this is ridiculous.

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