Minecraft Newbie Review, Xbox 360 Edition: So Everything I Thought I Knew About Minecraft Was Wrong

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A Minecraft review in 2014? Whatever, never too late. Mojang / 4J Studios

Is there room for a Minecraft review in 2014? I think there is, and I’ll tell you why. First, the company behind Minecraft just got acquired by Microsoft (ever heard of ‘em?) for $2.5 billion—with a b. And an illion! So the little game that could is back in the news. Second, because its new presence in the news means that many people who never knew much about Minecraft are taking a look for the first time. Coincidentally, I’m one of them. And everything I thought I knew about Minecraft was wrong. If you aren’t a gamer, or if you are a gamer but one who hasn’t been exposed to the game, you may be just as confused.


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Minecraft Xbox 360 Review: Not Actually Just A Sandbox


I always avoided Minecraft for two reasons. I thought it was a free-to-play game with no depth, and I thought it was a complete sandbox construction game, with no goals whatsoever. Both of these things proved to be wrong. As any of you who had actually played Minecraft sometime in the last five years know, it is not free-to-play, just cheap. I thought there were microtransactions; there are not, except for non-gameplay things. I think this one is entirely on me.

But the perception of Minecraft as a pure sandbox construction game, I think, is widespread. The game’s Creative mode is exactly like that, after all: It lets you pretty much do whatever you want and build to your heart’s content. This is the mode that gets all the press—even on gaming sites, mainly because people keep making such crazy things—but Survival mode is just as important, and gets a lot less attention from the community at large, outside of Minecraft players. As those players know, Survival mode is much more of an adventure: There are monsters, health and hunger, exploration, the titular mining and crafting, and all manner of other RPG tropes. In some ways, it feels like a sandbox version of, say, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, with fewer NPCs and quests and a lot more construction and creativity involved.

Survival mode is the part of Minecraft that’s actually a game, and not just a LEGO set, which is what makes it more interesting to me. The most surprising part about Minecraft, to me, is the sheer depth of that game. The simple emergent gameplay that comes from trying to feed yourself and get enough iron to build a railway is worth spilling a great deal of ink for, and perhaps I shall another time. The game also offers many valuable lessons to the enterprising business executive—since it’s essentially about running and building an enterprise of one (no worries about organized labor in Minecraft!).

Minecraft is the classic case in a game of simple systems naturally begetting complexity. The basic quest to win the game, which you’re never even really told about, is not terribly complex on its own, and doesn’t have too much depth. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Sure, you don’t need to build a self-harvesting wheat farm that makes more bread than you could ever possibly eat—but somehow I suspect you do end up making it, or similar contraptions, sheerly for the novelty and satisfaction of it.

Minecraft is easily the most addictive timesuck this side of Crusader Kings II, however. Don’t play this game if you have other commitments, because you will break them, or be very, very tired for them, all because of your quest to find the most picturesque location for a base, and get the best materials for it, and make it sustainable, and defend it from creepers.

In short, Minecraft is much more of a game than the general public seems to think it is—those of us who hadn’t played it or known someone who played it, anyway. And it is a very worthwhile game, even five years after it was released. And, now that it belongs to Microsoft, it’s only going to become more prominent—whatever direction it ends up taking. Above all, though, Minecraft teaches us something we can probably all agree on: Creepers are the worst.


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2011-11-18Minecraft is a sandbox video game created by Markus "Notch" Persson, later fully developed and published by Mojang. The creative and building aspects of Minecraft enable players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D procedurally generated world. Other activities in the game include exploration, resource gathering, crafting, and combat. Multiple gameplay modes are available, including a survival mode where the player must acquire resources to build the world and maintain health, a creative mode where players have unlimited resources to build with and the ability to fly, an adventure mode where players can play custom maps created by other players, and a spectator mode where players can fly around and clip through blocks, but cannot place or destroy any. The PC version of the game is noted for its modding scene, where a dedicated community creates new gameplay mechanics, items, and assets for the game.
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