The Ninjabot

Steam Early Access Check-In: Block Story

Posted on May 21, 2014 at 11:27 am by Victor Chaves

Block Story

Currently available on Steam Early Access, Block Story features lots of Minecraft elements with a fair amount of RPG characteristics thrown into the mix. Being in Early Access essentially means that the game isn’t completed in its entirety, but it’s available to play now while the developers continue to update and refine the game as time goes on. Therefore, this isn’t a review so much as a consideration of the current state of the game.

Before getting into that, I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you that I’ll be referencing Minecraft several times in the proceeding paragraphs. Much like Minecraft, where you dig, craft, build, and fight creatures in an ever-expanding blocky terrain, Block Story follows the same pattern and also includes some changes to the formula. Most of those changes include quests that involve getting new recipes and new creatures to fight, not to mention a bunch of tweaks to the general crafting system, gameplay, and art style.

Block Story

Crafting and Questing: Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

The crafting system uses either the 2×2 hand-crafting or the 3×3 crafting table, which creates every item you’d ever need—just like in Minecraft, minus the oven. Included with the crafting menu is a recipe book, so constant Alt-Tabbing to a wiki page is not required; it’s really helpful not having to do that. However, the recipes themselves are almost completely changed. Where once simple tasks of creating a source of light required combining only two objects, Block Story requires a fire and eight glass blocks, as well as several preceding steps just to get the glass. Accomplishing simple tasks like this was more annoying than it should be, as reading through the recipe book was cumbersome, and taking the extra steps to make glass required too much effort.

Questing is really simple; NPC’s wander the landscape and offer rewards for fulfilling specific objectives, which mostly involves farming resources (i.e. collect 30 Wood, 10 Gold Ores, etc.). This feature sort of ruins the Minecraft feel that Block Story is relying on since part of the fun of Minecraft is mining, collecting, and building resources yourself and seeing the fruits of your effort. Collecting resources for others minimizes that fun because you don’t have the visual representation of your labors, just a recipe for an item you probably can’t craft yet.

Block Story

Stand Still and Let Me Hit You

Smaller changes involve the combat system where fighting is now incredibly dull thanks to the fact that they’re based on pure attrition. Each fight I had involved just standing still, mashing attack until the enemy ran away, after which I would then just move forward. It’s rather boring, even when fighting dragons. Minecraft, on the other hand, had a wide range of enemies that did different things and required the player to react accordingly to each situation. The times I had to watch my back for creepers while dodging arrows and cracking zombie skulls were way more interesting than whacking away at a single creature while comparing declining health rates.

Speaking of the enemies, they and the NPCs have an odd art style related to them. Where Minecraft had creatures that were just as blocky as their environment, creating a cohesive design, Block Story does nothing to match creatures with the environment. Each creature is a smooth, oddly detailed model, unlike the rigid blocky land they live in. It’s incredibly jarring and took me right out of the world, rather than allowing me to become engrossed in it.

Essentially, Block Story is not very interesting to play. The additional features involving the questing and revised crafting are in no way engaging, the art style is inconsistent, and the combat is alarmingly dull. The best way to explain Block Story is that it’s like a worse version of Minecraft.

Block Story

Let’s Make Block Story Better

Since this is an Early Access game currently under development, I feel I need to end with some constructive criticism. Personally, I played a lot of Minecraft, as well as several mods, some good and many bad. For example, Eldritch, which I reviewed here, while borrowing heavily from the Minecraft aesthetic, sets out on its own as a stealth rogue-like dungeon-crawler that becomes more than just “Minecraft-inspired.”

This is the core problem with Block Story—it doesn’t become anything more than its inspiration. What Block Story needs to do is embrace what makes it different from Minecraft. Remove the mining and grinding, build upon creating, and put more emphasis on the adventure aspect and Block Story could be truly amazing. The most fun I had was simply choosing a direction and going for several minutes at a time since the land looks interesting enough to warrant exploration. Additionally, quests could be much more interesting than just gathering resources, and the fighting should involve enemies that do different things, as well as give the player more combat options. MindBlocks Studio has the potential for an interesting game here; by casting away the Minecraft elements and expanding upon their new ones, I can imagine Block Story would be a game worth following. For now, though, it’s best to give it some time.

This feature is based on the Steam download of Block Story, provided by MindBlocks Studio.

Follow Victor on Twitter @fake_brasilian to hear how he loves The Ramones thirty years too late.

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