Minecraft next-gen: Built for a ton of fun
TWO billion euro for a game? Even compared to the silly money being thrown around by the likes of Facebook, the €2bn Microsoft plunked down to buy the Minecraft franchise this month seems extraordinary.
MINECRAFT (NEXT-GEN); Xbox One/PS4; Rating: 9.5/10; Age: 7+
But even those living under a rock for the last few years will have heard of the not-so-humble block-building game, which has spread to several platforms and spawned an avalanche of expensive merchandise.
Microsoft has promised to continue supporting other platforms but it stands to reason its own PC and Xbox versions will be favoured in the long term.
For now, these new next-gen versions for Xbox One and PS4 are more or less on parity feature for feature. Indeed, they aren’t substantially different from their predecessors on X360 and PS3 either. Aside from a pleasing visual upgrade to 1080P with much longer draw distance, the only significant addition is a massive increase in the size of each world – up to 36 times bigger, apparently.
If you’re a Minecraft virgin, the console versions are much more welcoming than their PC/Mac counterparts, with helpful tutorials at every step and even soothing background music to accompany your adventures. But it’s still a little intimidating for newbies to begin with nothing but a randomly generated patch of land and some raw materials - especially if you’ve seen some of the incredibly elaborate constructions on YouTube.
The Xbox One edition includes some sample worlds to get you started, including Halo, Mass Effect and Skyrim-themed lands that look pretty stunning. If you’ve played Minecraft on PS3 or X360, your worlds can be easily imported, along with any DLC you’ve bought previously.
Minecraft on next-gen consoles remains an amazing experience, both educational and entertaining, despite its lo-fi appearance. Sadly, while you can create multiplayer worlds and invite friends to share your creation, you need to stay online as a host for as long as they want to play.
The dream of extensive server-based levels and mods as found in the PC version is still just that – a dream. Perhaps they will never become reality and because of that, Minecraft on console will always be the poor relation, relatively speaking.
Still, for a €15 piece of software (or just €5 if you already own it on PS3/X360), it offers stupendous value - months of hilarious gameplay in a sandbox of enormous flexibility.