As I indicated in a previous article, I’ve been playing “Minecraft” for quite some time. It didn’t take long for games with variations on the theme to emerge and it wouldn’t be right to call them clones, especially if they offer unique gameplay mechanics that the original game doesn’t. “Block Story” combines both block building and RPG elements to make something pretty unique, though the question remains, does it hold up on its own? Before I answer that question, I’d like to thank Paul Pacheco for sending me a free copy to review. It’s important to note that this particular version is a single player experience only, though a separate MMO version is in the works for those of you who enjoy multiplayer.
Editor’s Note: From time to time, I may reference “Minecraft” in order to compare the two games. When I do, I’m referring to the “vanilla” or unmodded version of “Minecraft” as a standalone product. The same goes for “Block Story.” Also, this review was written 12/27/12…keep that in the back of your mind while reading it. The game has been updated significantly since then. My video series is more up to date, so go check that out after you’re done here.
When you first open the game, a small window will pop up that allows you to change screen resolution, adjust keybinds, and toggle windowed mode. Once you are in the game, you’ll be able to start a new game, continue an existing one, and adjust game options. The game options screen covers graphics and sound options, as well as language and load distances. Starting a new game lets you name a world, designate a seed if desired, and choose between story and exploration modes. New players will be glad to know that a tutorial is available to help them get started.
The environment took some getting used to, but I don’t mean that in a negative way. The colors were amazing and very different from what I normally see in “Minecraft.” Exploring caverns and the outside world turned out to be a lot of fun. I particularly like the ability to carry a torch, which in turn lights the way for you as you explore the darker areas. The way the various minerals lit up the environment at night made me stop in my tracks to enjoy the scenery. There’s also the infinite up and down mechanic, which again, took me for a loop. I generally mine horizontally two or three levels up from the bedrock layer in “Minecraft” to find those rare minerals, but I didn’t have a point of reference or guide in “Block Story”. I wasn’t sure where to look for those hard to find minerals.
One of the things that drew me to this game was the ability to craft different kinds of weapons and armor. Yes, I’m well aware that you can craft weapons in “Minecraft”, but it’s worth mentioning that you’ll have access to guns, staves, and knives in addition to swords and bows. Shields are available to block enemy attacks, something that “Minecraft” doesn’t currently offer. You’ll also be able to craft rings, which provide various bonuses to your character. These bonuses can range from health and mana regeneration to swim and fly speed. In addition to weapons and armor, you’ll be able to craft vehicles. At present, you’ll only be able to make boats and cars, but the devs promise that more is coming. My favorite feature has to be the recipe book, which acts as an in-game wiki. I seriously can’t thank the devs enough for including this feature, as I was constantly having to switch back and forth between two windows in “Minecraft.”
While there may not be any creepers in “Block Story”, there are plenty of other bad guys that can serve to ruin your day. The game boasts an impressive collection of eighty-seven mob types, including sharks, spiders, goblins, skeletons, yetis, hydras, snakes, dragons, eagles, bobcats, grizzlies, chickens, cows, sheep, and more. I like the variety of different mobs available, and I like not having to install mods to access them. What’s more, the textures on them are incredible. For a “block” game, the models are extremely pretty and detailed.
Quests…yes, there are quests. Let me come right out and say that I appreciate the addition of quests, mainly because they give me a sense of purpose and direction. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I prefer to wander off and do my own thing, but having the option to do quests keeps me engaged when I get bored with exploring. At the time of writing, there are a total of twenty-five quests and they usually involve teaching the user how to collect or craft certain items. There are some side missions, so to speak, that involve collecting materials in order to buy various items from vendors. I personally like having the option to buy materials and supplies by trading various items.
Leveling is another mechanic I personally enjoy tinkering with, mainly because I like seeing the fruits of my labor. As you interact with the environment, you’ll gain experience. Gain enough and you’ll level up, which allows you to assign skill points to your character’s attributes. You’ll be able to throw points into things like arrow damage, underwater breath, player health, loot distance, magic damage, fly speed, and more. At first I was upset over how close I had to be to an object to pick it up, but then I realized that it was by design, as part of this skill tree. Wonderfully done!
Overall, I found “Block Story” to be a joy to play, not to mention a highly polished product. One of the complaints I had with “Minecraft” is that it didn’t include any sort of in-depth RPG element. “Block Story” helped to bridge this gap and provide hours of entertainment in both the realm of building and character progression. One should also consider the price difference between the two games. “Minecraft” is priced at $26.95 (as of 12/27/12) whereas “Block Story” is currently being sold for $9.99. While I enjoy playing “Minecraft”, “Block Story” is certainly a cheaper and viable alternative and in my opinion, worth the purchase. The more I play “Block Story”, the more differences I find when comparing it to “Minecraft”, so fans of the latter would do well not to dismiss the former so quickly. If “Block Story” can continue to have regular dev support (fixing bugs, etc.) and updates, it could turn into something fantastic.
Final Verdict: 9/10
Editor’s Note Regarding “Minecraft” vs “Block Story” Comments:
I want to make it clear that I’m not here to debate whether or not “Block Story” should exist simply because “Minecraft” already does. “Block Story” is being sold as a product and deserves to be treated as a separate entity. No amount of complaining (short of copyright issues) will stop developers in general from making games that they’ve poured countless hours into. The sooner “haters” learn to keep an open mind, the happier all involved will be. If you don’t believe me, write a letter to J.J. Abrams and tell him to stop making Star Trek movies…let me know how that works out for you. Either play the game and support it, or don’t. Constructive criticism should be made (and accepted) with a professional tone. It’s that simple. Any comments made now or in the future that aren’t appropriate will be deleted.
You can learn more about and purchase “Block Story” by visiting the following websites:
http://www.blockstory.net/ (Official Site)
You can help bring the game to Steam by voting for it on its Greenlight page, here:
3/21/14 Update: “Block Story” has been Greenlit and will be appearing on Steam in April, 2014:
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