Minecraft is a game that is hard to review because it is an experience that is different for everybody, and one that has a great distinction from most other video games. This is one case where I really lament the application of review scores; no matter what I say, or how many points I decide to give the game, being as objective as possible about both its merits and its flaws, you have to actually play Minecraft before you can decide if what I am saying holds any water. Simply reading reviews and watching videos will simply not suffice, and if you are one of the few who has not taken the time to explore this wonderful world, I urge you to do so – before you even finish reading this.
SHINES LIKE A DIAMOND
It's a Horrible Night to Have a Curse - Survival mode is the “campaign” of Minecraft, and is the meat of the actual game. Since Minecraft contains multiple ways to play, it's a bit hard to lump them all together and review them as a single entity, but the Survival mode is generally the one most players will spend their time in. The only way to describe it is that you are dropped into a literally endless world of randomly generated blocks, one with different environment types, weather, and a day and night cycle. In the daytime, the world is generally safe, but when night falls the land is flooded with all kinds of unique and wonderful creatures who are out for your blood. The final version of Minecraft puts even more at stake, forcing you to develop farms and to hunt for food in order to keep your food bar up so you do not starve, and with a literal end to the game, there is even a greater objective for players to shoot for. But the long and short of this mode is simple; build structures to protect yourself, mine down deep into the earth and gather materials to make better tools, and try not to get killed along the way by the many monsters, lava pits, and other dangers you will inevitbly run into. It's a fantastic experience that you will want to keep going back to over and over again just to see all that the game has in store for you.
Creative, Multiplayer, Hardcore...Oh My! - Without fighting a single enemy, without building a single pick axe, many people will find endless hours of entertainment simply by having the ability to place and remove blocks at their leisure. Some fantastically complex and wonderful creations have been made this way, and entire communities exist just to share these in-game wonders with the rest of the world. Things get even more obtuse when you throw in a multiplayer mode where thousands of servers are running at any given time, home to gigantic player made cities, mini-games, and communities. Remember when I said there was something here for everybody? Throw in a Hardcore Survival mode for the achievement hunters in us, where a single death means starting an entire world from scratch, and the appeal is incredibly widespread. I play Survival mode on a difficult setting, while my wife plays on peaceful where not a single monster will ever spawn to harm her. The game is totally accessible, leaving only one question to be had; how will YOU decide to play Minecraft?
It Finally Ends - Yes, Minecraft now has an ending. Apart from the regular world where the majority of the game takes place, there are two other dimensions that can only be reached by finding rare materials. It will especially take new players a long time to reach the climax of the game. This sense of finality was a little disappointing at first, and without giving anything away, the somewhat abstract and esoteric nature of the end sequence seemed out of place, perhaps even a little pretentious at first. But the message that I interpreted in it was ultimately a good one, and since nothing is stopping anyone from continuing on and making a new world to explore, the end game is really more of an Easter egg anyways. Nothing will ever force you to end your game, so this really just acts as an extra objective, should you choose to pursue it.
It NEVER Ends... - Minecraft is a game many people will play religiously for a week or so, drop, and forget about. The difference here is that eventually they will want to go back. For the past year I have been playing off and on, but I am consistently dragged back in like a bad habit; the game being just as fun to me each time I do. That is because Minecraft is a completely unique and timeless experience that has been seldom emulated, and its unique qualities shine through in the fact that it has managed to sell millions of copies simply by word of mouth. You may stop playing Minecraft in a month, maybe in a week. But you WILL return to it, whether it is to explore a new mode, start a new world, just hop on a server or explore someone elses. Minecraft is not a game that is easily forgotten, and I have a feeling it will grip me, again and again, for many years to come.
LIKE DIGGING UP COAL
An Archaic Approach - Minecraft is not intuitive in any sense of the word. Without a guide to help you, you will have no idea where to start. Without reading an FAQ, you will never get a server running to play multi-player with your friends. Without some decent hardware, the game will chug like molasses. I have tried to be a little bit abstract in my review because the game is better played cold, but without a guide handy, you will be lost, and you will get stuck somewhere along the way. Minecraft is a computer game the way they used to make computer games, with all of the benefits and flaws that go along with it. In-game servers and other modern commodities are completely non-existent, the interface is controlled exclusively by hot keys, and the game offers no hints or help along the way. While these negatives can also be viewed as positives, this is the one aspect of the game that cuts down its general accessibility. I am glad we live in a world where a game such as this can sell four million copies at twenty bucks a piece – but buyer beware, the problems are there.
I implore the cynical gamer to disregard their usual feelings when it comes to popular games. If you are holding out on purchasing Minecraft because you feel it has been overhyped, or that its popularity implies that it might not be the gem everyone holds it up to be, you need to think twice about your decision and take the time to sit down and play this game. I have met a few people who will not play Minecraft simply because everyone else is doing it – but they are dead wrong in their assumption that this is a bandwagon experience, do yourself a favor and don’t make that same mistake. Minecraft is the only game I can think of where everyone can get in on the fun. This is easily a title I could see being touted alongside Farmville on Facebook, one where everybody will have a different experience, a different way to play the game. Minecraft is essentially a virtual Lego set, but bereft of the problems Lego has. In Minecraft, you will never run out of blocks, you never catch yourself stepping on hard pointy bits, and the only things standing in your way will be your own inhibitions or lack of imagination.
Every game has its flaws, and Minecraft is no stranger to this either. However, no other game in existence manages to pull so many elements together into such a cohesive, accessible, and absolutely incredible package. Minecraft is a game that will dig down into your soul, and surgically extract the joy and innocence that gaming used to provide; one that has since been tarnished with heated fanboyism, controversy, excessive analysis and a complete and total lack of imagination in an industry that has evolved into a crude, lumbering beast devoid of any emotion or joy. You will feel the way you did when you first picked up a Nintendo controller, when you first went into an arcade: a sense of wonder, a sense of excitement, and most importantly, fun. There is no such thing as a perfect game, but Minecraft is about as close as it gets because it excels in all of its positive points. For this, it receives my highest possible accolade. Simply put, this is the best game I have ever played, and one that should be experienced by everyone.