So I used to do some minor editorial writing here and I thought I’d pick it up by explaining why you all hate me. Well, piece by piece. Let’s start with my disdain towards Minecraft.
I bought the PC version probably a year ago and I regret it. I wasted around $20-some odd on it and it wasn’t worth it. I’ve played a pirated copy of Terraria much more than it. It’s hard to explain why I dislike Minecraft in a sentence or two like I usually do here, but I think maybe a full blog entry is in order to get it straight, with the recent release of Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition reminding me of this game.
The main reason I dislike this game is simply because there’s nothing to it. It has the potential to be a great game, but it denies this potential completely.
Let’s look at a real “open world” game like The Elder Scrolls, most recently Skyrim. I know you’re all about to type out your angry responses saying “BUT SKYRIM IS A HUGE BUDGET GAME WHILE MINECRAFT IS INDIE”. Before you do, I’m simply using it to compare the genre, not say Minecraft is bad because of its lack of budget in comparison. Skyrim is truly an “open world” game. “Open world” implies that the options of a game’s world are open to you. Like in Skyrim, I can go do the main quest, or I can do a sidequest, or I can walk around and look for dungeons, or I can hone my skills, so on and so forth. That’s an open world. Minecraft, on the other hand, is not an open world. As I said before, “open world” implies that the options of a game’s world are open to you. Simply put, Minecraft has no options.
You have one option: build. You’re supposed to build or other type of defensive structure (castle, tent, moat, the Maginot Line, etc) to defend against the creatures of the night. But what else is there to do? You go get more materials to build more stuff to make a better house to defend against creatures of the night. Perhaps this would make for an interesting tower defense-esque mechanic if it actually mattered. But the creatures are basically useless, easily defended against with your first fortification. Then you’re just building your structure to make it look prettier. It’s the equivalent of putting stickers on your house. The rest of the game comes down to acquiring resources to build objects that either A) add worthless fortifications to your house or B) help you get more resources to make more stuff. I remember Yahtzee, in a review of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, made a rather valid and obvious complaint that many people missed: the city building aspect is useless. You accumulate more coin only to buy more properties to get more coin, and the cycle continues. Minecraft suffers from this same issue, but unlike Assassin’s Creed, it’s the entire game’s central mechanic that suffers.
As a creative sandbox/glorified art tool, Minecraft is an interesting concept, gaining popularity with people demonstrating their artistic skills by making accurate 3D models out of blocks. That aspect is interesting. But that’s possible on the free game they have right now, Minecraft Classic. This new game adds new elements that give it a sense of identity crisis. It keeps this whole “artistic sandbox” aspect but tries to give it focus, almost trying to make it more of an open world game like Skyrim. But none of it works. RPG aspects are dull and uninteresting. Quests (which were apparently recently introduced) are dull and unexciting. The world is lifeless and bland. You don’t need a big budget to achieve Skyrim-like worlds. You just need good ideas. Why not have a good RPG system where you can invest into dedicated perks and learn new skills associated with that? Like if I find I’m great at mining, why not let me get a perk that possibly gives me more of the mined substance if I’m lucky? Plus the losing of levels when you die really makes the accomplishment of “leveling up” feel lesser. In Skyrim when I reach a level, it feels definitive. Here, it feels temporary and unimportant.
I don’t even expect a really quest-based game here. Making a game with loads of quests would be something characteristic of a big budget game, and I don’t expect every smaller budget game to experience the same. However, I would at least want them to make questing your own thing. Randomly generated tunnels and dungeons akin to Terraria. That’s what made Terraria for me. I could get a friend and say “Hey, let’s go down this hole”. Next thing you know we’re fighting monsters left and right and finding loot around every corner. And I’m talking interesting, unique loot. Not just materials. Like unique items and specialty items. Different weapons, armor, tools, stuff that’s rare. I don’t want to go through a large dungeon only to find that I get a few rare crafting materials. I want something that feels unique. This reference will fall flat on a lot of you but it’s like opening a pack of Magic cards and finding a Planeswalker. Even though other Mythics may be better, he still feels unique.
And when you beat the game, what do you get? Nothing, there’s no real achievement to it. You fight a poorly designed boss with no real relevance and no real build up. You instead jump through an obtuse series of hoops to get to him. There’s no climbing up the food chain. There’s no sub bosses to beat, checkpoints to reach, you simply goof around until you get the right materials and then fight a lame boss. Nothing special. It flubs the whole “adding structure” aspect to the game here.
At present, Minecraft was a game with so much potential that just fell flat. It could have stuck to being a creative artistic game, but when it ventured into being more of a “game” and less of a “sandbox”, it became subject to my criticism. The way I could see it was this: an open world game designed around your own personal questing with an array of unique enemies and unique loot, with a RPG system to match the current slew of big budget open world games. All this would be complimented by a creation aspect, allowing you to build your own bases, camps, and fortresses to establish anything from businesses to attack points to mining colonies. Make the game equal parts structured and equal parts unstructured. Give it an edge over its big budget competitors while still keeping the heart and soul it was originally designed with. But it delivers none of this. It’s instead a game suffering an identity crisis between being a sandbox and an open world game. As a sandbox, it’s interesting, but not worth $20+ to most of its current fans. As an open world game, it’s skimp on features and lacks key aspects that define an open world game. It’s a sad story. A game that could’ve been so much, defeating other indie games in terms of scale and ideas, but instead crashing on take off. It feels more like an early stage of a grander game, a testing phase if you will, but it’s not. It’s the official release.
So that’s Minecraft for ya. Well, for me at least.