Block Story – Early Access Preview
Developer: Mindblock Studio, LLC
Have you ever played the game where you have to try and not think about a pink elephant?
Well it’s pretty simple; try not to think about a pink elephant.
It’s a tricky game, because the salmon-coloured pachyderm forces its way into your mind like, well, like an elephant.
A similar game can be played by trying to play Block Story and not think about Minecraft. As a voxel built open-world with items to craft and structures to build, comparisons are inevitable. However, as one of the statistically almost-insignificant number of people who has never played Minecraft for more than a minute or two, I am going to keep my focus on what Block Story does – rather than how it competes with its rival.
Whether or not you think there’s any room for Block Story in the market is immaterial – it’s here and you can pick it up for a pocket-friendly seven quid.
Now that’s out of the way, let me tell you about Block Story:
The world of Block Story is created entirely out of blocks. Blocks of sand, blocks of rock, blocks of tree etc. These can all be destroyed and harvested in order to make new items. So far, so familiar to anyone who has played this style of game before. The landscape is generated randomly before you head into the game and, once complete, you head out into the 1st person world that is yours to shape and re-shape as you see fit.
There are two quite distinct game modes here, one is an adventure which gives you an RPG approach to making your way in the world. The second is a creative mode that offers you instant access to all of the exciting blocks, bits and bobs that would otherwise take a donkey’s yonk in order to get. Both of these are a resolutely single player experience. The developer has plans in the future for a multiplayer release but it will be a separate title, not an addition to this one.
Adventure mode tries to spice up the ‘classic’ harvest and craft gameplay by introducing npc’s who are desirous of you to fulfil their questing needs. These are split into ‘gather me X numbers of Ys’, or ‘kill me A number of Bs’ quests. Hopefully, in time these will become a bit more fleshed and out and the folks you meet in your world will get a bit more personality. This aspect by itself could be enough to convince a lot of people to try the game since it offers something markedly different from other games in the genre.
I was surprised by the amount of crafting scope the game has to offer during my play time, given that you can craft rings, weapons and armour as well as cars and boats – and it looks as though this will expand in the future. Crafting is done by arranging materials on a grid in order that they somewhat resemble the shape of the item you’re trying to create. Happily there is also a recipe book within the inventory that explains how everything is made so you know what items you need to work towards in order to make progress. Some recipes are locked off at the start but are unlocked through completing quests – there are plenty of blocks to play around with from the start however. Vendors inhabit your world, ready to trade you blocks that you might not be able to craft to begin with – it is a good feeling to lay down those first brick foundations for your new house on the beach let me tell you, even if that house is occasionally beset by the odd giant spider or ‘Barlog’ (yes, I know, I see it too) that’s climbed up one of my shafts. If I’d have known that was how it was going to go from the start, I’d have named my new world Australia and had done with it.
If I have one strong complaint that I hope the developers address during this early access phase, then it is definitely the strength of the monsters versus the amount of damage you are able to inflict. Given the number of quests that involve killing a number of beasts, it takes an unnecessarily large amount of damage to put one of them down. Given that combat is hardly one of the games strengths, it seems a curious decision to highlight this by making you spend a long time doing it. Still, balancing hit points is a minor issue and can be easily tweaked, right guys?
Block Story seems like it would be interesting to people who are looking for something a little different from their world-building games. It has enormous scope for you to craft the world to your liking – the developers claim that the world will go on forever upwards and downwards. I tried this, and dug down until I got thoroughly sick of the brick bashing noise. There’s some weird beasties down there and I didn’t find an end to it. Plenty of lava though.
If you felt like your Minecraft experience would have been improved by questing, dragon pets and boss monsters to battle, you could well do worse than check this out.
“Yeah, it’s fine.”
“Oh I like this bit because you can build a house and it’s sort of got built in stairs.”
“Dad, can I have a biscuit?”
“The water is stupid, it’s not like real water at all.”
“It doesn’t work, it’s broken you can’t… oh no wait… oh… huh.”
“Dad, can I play Block Thingy again?”
Make of this what you will.
Block Story is Available on Early Access Steam for £6.99