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[Disclosure: A preview code was provided by the publisher for the contents of this article]
“But, but, but... it's a Minecraft clone” you say. “You're right.” I say. The game doesn't really pretend to be anything other than Minecraft with some modifications in features and content. The most notable change I spotted in the hour or two I managed to put in with the game is that there is a steep measure of verticality involved that isn't in Minecraft.
Before getting to that verticality bit – because it really does deserve its very own paragraph of explanation – I'll discuss the basics first. So Block Story is an open-world, crafting survival game. MindBlock Studios' indie title is currently in Early Access and has three modes of gameplay. You can do the story mode, a free-form crafting mode or a survival mode.
The story mode is a progressive mode where players complete quests to unlock new materials, new weapons, new items, etc. You can't just craft things, you have to earn and learn the recipes for them, and you can only do that by completing quests for other characters.
The free-form crafting mode is exactly what it sounds like. You can craft whatever you, whenever you want. It's basically a newb-mode so you can get your bearings and learn how to play.
The survival mode is exactly like story mode except the enemies are harder, the conditions are harsher and the environment is more unforgiving. It's the typical hardcore mode of most procedural, open-world crafting games.
Once inside the game, the controls are about as typical as you would expect from... Minecraft.
You beat up trees with your fists until you're able to craft a workbench – though it was tricky at first, learning how to place the workbench down, as it required a double-click instead of a single-click – and from there you can build all the necessary tools for survival, ranging from pickaxes and torches, to armor and weapons.
Crafting is – once again – very similar, if not identical to Minecraft. Gamers moving over from one to the other should find it pretty easy to get into Block Story for this reason. You place objects around the crafting bench area in different shapes to make different things. So within a 3x3 space, if you place three stones across at the top and two sticks down the middle, you create a pickaxe. Simple, eh? Simple.
One of the big differences between Block Story and Minecraft is that whatever you craft only has a limited count for usage. For instance, if you make a stone pickaxe with a 30-count on its icon, it means you can break 30 blocks before it'll break and you'll need to make another.
As you move through the game, completing quests and gathering resources, you also begin to better understand the game's mechanics and world. There's also one thing I would really like to point that I thought was cool – and I'm unsure if this happens in Minecraft since I'm not an avid player of that game – is that quest NPCs will usually follow you around at some, or at least travel into your immediate vicinity. This removes any fear of traveling too far or too high and losing the quest NPC for good.
Speaking of height... it's time to discuss that verticality issue I brought up early on in the article. So to separate itself from every other 3D voxel-block game out there, Block Story did something a little bit different with the way the world can be traversed. There's a world in the sky. I haven't been able to make it up there yet, but if it's one of many layers then that would be pretty awesome.
I did grab a couple of screenshots of how the world up above looks during the night sequences, and it's quite a sight.
As far as graphics go... the environments are your typical Minecraft-style blocks but the characters, animals, creatures and monsters are properly modeled with some somatic semblance to what they're supposed to represent. In other words, humans look like humans and not a squared render of the Michelin Man.
I haven't had to engage in any combat, so I have no idea what that's like. I can say that the skill/attribute system isn't setup too bad. You break enough blocks and you earn a level-up, in which you gain a single attribute to up necessary survival skills, ranging from combat to mining to movement.
For those of you who skipped through the article looking for a short-hand of the above preview: Block Story is like Minecraft with a few tweaks to the gameplay paradigm, graphics and adventure scope.
Keep in mind that it's not a bad game by any count, and it's a functionally sufficient game during its Early Access period. Still, this is only the first impressions and things could change either way depending on how the game evolves.
For more info feel free to visit the official website.