MEGATech Preview: Block Story for PC (Steam) Dylan Duarte May 16, 2014 MEGATech Reviews With so many games doing the “Early Access” pseudo-release these days, the line between preview and review is becoming increasingly blurred. Block Story was initially released last year on iOS and Android, and last month saw its PC debut. Developer Mind Blocks is going the early access route in an attempt to gain valuable feedback before the game’s inevitable “full” release. This is undoubtedly a preview of Block Story, for two reasons. One, it is an early version of the game and it wouldn’t be fair to treat it as anything else. Two, there is a sacred, unspoken agreement amongst game reviewers that a title cannot be properly critiqued if not played thoroughly and to completion. I put a sum total of just under two hours into Block Story due to being haplessly stuck on one of the early tutorial missions. This is my Block Story. A Familiar Story I debated whether or not I should even bring up Minecraft. When it comes to creative endeavors, I’m a big proponent of stealing. Yeah, I said it. I think plenty of great art has come from artists borrowing heavily from other works and re-purposing those elements to fit their own vision. There are a million variations of “everything’s been done” floating around out there for a reason. Filmmakers, writers, musicians all look to what’s been done before for inspiration and ideas. I see no reason why video game developers can’t do the same. Having said all of that, Block Story emulates Minecraft so completely and aggressively that I almost feel it would be dishonest to talk about the former and not mention the latter. I certainly couldn’t play the game without comparing it to Minecraft every step of the way. I did wonder if this comparison was unfair and if I should let the two games stand on their own, but the truth is that so many things Block Story offers have been offered before and better, and that was a bit tough to ignore. Mind Blocks certainly isn’t the only developer guilty of cashing in on the crafting-based, sandbox voxel craze, but Block Story seems to be making a bigger splash than most. When they decided to go this direction, they invited the comparison to Minecraft and I have to keep that in mind. The Best Graphics on the PS One Block Story is not a pleasant looking game. The colors are pretty, sure, but everything else is blocky – and not in the good way. I’m certainly sympathetic to the financial woes of independent game studios, but the smart thing to do in this situation is to adhere to a visual style that doesn’t call for AAA graphics. Unfortunately Block Story goes the other way by employing characters that are supposed to look human and animals that are supposed to look like animals. It’s not the best choice when you’re graphically underpowered and it shows. Again, the color scheme is nice, but everything is unavoidably ugly. However, this is the perfect spot in the review to remind everyone that this is early access and a visual overhaul could totally be in the works. Crafting What Minecraft Hasn’t Here’s where Block Story has an edge over Minecraft: quests. Notch has been talking about putting quests in Minecraft for a long time now, something Mojang’s title desperately needs, and yet it hasn’t happened. Mind Blocks stepped and filled that role, delivering exactly what Minecraft didn’t, which is traditional RPG quests in a sandbox, crafting environment. The quests I experienced seemed run of the mill, though to be fair, they were introductory tutorial quests, so there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room there. Plus, I only played like three or four of them. Way Down in the Hole The quests were simple. First I had to gather wood, then I had make a toolbox (work bench), then I had to craft a pickaxe and so on and so forth. Once NPCs were introduced, a tiny Viking-like fellow asked me to gather more wood so that he could build a boat. Eventually he asked me to plumb the depths of the Earth in search of coal and gold. So I crafted myself some more pickaxes. In Block World, each pickaxe will dig out a set number of blocks, and you can stack the tools on top of each other to increase the number of blocks you can dig. Also, pickaxes seem to function as multi-tools, useful against any terrain. I went to work, digging into the ground, looking for coal and gold. I hadn’t yet been shown how to make torches (and I probably wouldn’t have the proper resources anyway), so as soon as I went a couple blocks down everything became very hard to see. I started to dig out what were essential skylights to help myself see, which was a bit of a pain. Then night came, rendering my skylights useless. I read somewhere that there are beds in the game with which you can sleep the night away, but I hadn’t gotten to those either. Unable to see, I had no choice but to wander aimlessly around on the surface while I waited for sunrise. I couldn’t wander too far either, for fear of losing my mine. In the end, I managed to collect two pieces of gold, of which I needed ten, and about five pieces of coal, of which I needed twenty. Thenm I shut the game off. The “P” Word Despite my merciless preview, Block Story has potential. I’d like to play it again someday and experience what it has to offer – like dragons, for example – but the few hours I played turned into such a grueling experience that I don’t intend to go back any time soon. I wish Mind Blocks well, and I hope Block Story really finds its place, but it’s got a ways to go. In the interest of being constructive: more resources. For the love of all that is holy, Mind Blocks, be more generous with the resources! Share This With The World!