Minecraft: A Review

If you’re a human being, then it’s just about guaranteed that you’ve at least heard about Minecraft, even if you have no idea what it’s all about. This simple little block-building game has been around since mid-2009 and is still kickin’, continuing to do incredibly well for itself. With a whopping 74 million monthly active users, Minecraft still maintains a massive place in the gaming world. People obviously still love the game, and as an avid block-breaker myself, I can understand why.

The main draw to Minecraft is its large open-endedness. When you create a new world and spawn in for the first time, you’ve nothing but your fists and a fresh, blank canvas the size of the Earth itself (well, approximately 8 times the size actually). Most players start out similarly: punch trees, get wood, make basic tools, build a simple shelter, etc. Then from there, well that’s completely up to you. You could go mining deep underground for resources and minerals, go monster hunting, craft a rod and start fishing, or gather up some animals and start a farm. Soon you’ll likely start plotting out larger, long-term projects, such as mapping out the land within a 1-mile radius of your home, scaling that mountain in the distance and constructing a secret fortress lair at the top, raising the ultimate army of wolves and ocelots to follow you into battle, or using nothing but sponge blocks to dry up the ocean nearby. These kinds of projects are going to be a big reason to get you to stay, and of course, having a few friends to jump into your world with you makes it all the more enjoyable.

But that’s just the survival mode of Minecraft. You have a health and hunger bar to deal with, as well as the danger of death with the consequence of that being the loss of everything you have on you. And maybe that doesn’t sound like compelling gameplay to you. Well, keeping in line with Minecraft’s open-ended nature, there are many different ways you can play. Rather than survival, you may play in creative mode instead wherein you have infinite access to every block in the game as well as the ability to fly. With the creation powers of a god, you can build some insane things if you know what you’re doing. Really though, running a quick Google search of “Minecraft builds” is all you need to do to understand the awe-inspiring artistic potential these little cubes offer up. So if you fancy yourself a builder and like the concept of creating freely without restriction, then creative mode is for you.

If you’re looking for a more structured Minecraft experience, you can explore a variety of adventure maps created by the unendingly-creative community. Adventure maps are essentially stories/adventures that take you through a world built by someone, usually with some kind of narrative attached to it. These maps may involve traveling the land, finding loot, and fighting enemies and bosses; some adventure maps are almost like video games themselves. Some are quaint and simplistic, while others are complex, massive in scale, highly ambitious, feature beautiful builds, and introduce completely new game mechanics.

As with many games, Minecraft has a large modding scene as well. So if you find your Minecraft experience a little bit too vanilla, or you’ve otherwise grown tired of the content available in the base game, mods can add that extra spice you’re looking for. The kinds of mods available range from the addition of simple little backpacks designed to give you more inventory slots, to the ability to craft rockets you can use to ascend into space and visit other planets. And in a similar vein to adventure maps and the more structured gameplay they provide, certain mod “packs” (a compilation of multiple mods) are available which feature specific quests and tasks that must be accomplished in order to reach some ultimate end goal. And all the while you get to experience the strange and exciting new additions that these various mods introduce.

Ah, but maybe you’re more into playing with other people, PvP or otherwise. Well for that you’ll find plenty of public servers to play on, some of which are more centered around the base vanilla game, while others feature custom minigames or special rules and mechanics. Many servers even feature MMO elements, such as player progression, gear and loot to find, and PvP combat, again providing Minecraft with more structured gameplay.

Still not satisfied? Alright well how about this: on top of all these ways to experience and play the game, Minecraft also features a number of console commands which, when combined and arranged together just right, act as a pseudo-programming language within the game. This unlocks amazing possibilities, such as adding the Infinity Gauntlet, working cars, or complete other games into Minecraft. In the case of the latter example, one person coded the entirety of Pokemon Red/Blue into Minecraft. Graphics, mechanics, and all. It's as ridiculously awesome as it sounds. These are all within the vanilla game, by the way. No mods, by its definition. The only thing that's used to make these is that in-game coding language I mentioned. I guess one way to describe these types of additions would be "vanilla mods". Personally, this is the most compelling creative aspect of Minecraft for me. I love seeing what weird or crazy things I can code up.

So if you’re the type of person who thrives in an environment where creativity is king, where the amount of fun had is largely a product of the level of effort you put into the game, then Minecraft is likely just the fit for you, if you hadn’t already discovered it by this point. Truly, the game is a creator’s paradise. Whether you’re a builder, engineer, programmer, designer, artist, modeler, or even an animator, Minecraft is rife with creative potential and entertainment for you. I myself purchased this game nearly 7 years ago, and to this day I regularly return to it, and happily. Oh, and did I forget to mention that to this day and for the foreseeable future the game receives 100% free updates? Because there's that too. These include smaller updates, as well as massive updates jam-packed with additions that drastically change up the game.

Conversely, I will warn you that although Minecraft is immensely popular and praised by many, if you’re not the type of person who enjoys making their own fun, you may not like this game. Minecraft is “mechanically loose”, straying away from the structure found in many other games. This means no quests, NPC dialogue, a detailed story to follow, etc. And while there are opportunities to engage in more structured content, as I had mentioned, it might not be what you’re looking for. The activities you participate in and busy yourself with will largely be conceived by your own imagination and willingness to do them. Yes, there is a massive, stonking, intra-dimensional dragon you can find and kill, but there isn’t any sort of quest or narrative revolving around any aspect of that. Ol’ Harold of Wintermere won’t be coming around to say, “Oh thank you traveler, that dragon had stolen McMuffins my cat. But he’s safe now thanks to you! Here, as a reward you may have two gold pieces and a cheese wheel”. Nah nah nah, you would kill that dragon because you truly want to, not because someone else made you do it. Lousy Harold.