Cube World Review: The Deadliest Voxels
At first blush it's tempting to call Cube World, the new voxel-based sandbox, a Minecraft RPG. It's got a big, procedurally generated open world whose boxy composition immediately recalls Mojang's famous cubes, and the overall aesthetic was clearly inspired by Minecraft's retro sensibilities.
That's about where the similarities end. For those expecting to drop into Cube World, pickaxe in hand, and start carving up the terrain and building the ultimate fortress, brace yourself for disappointment. Cube World, at least in it's alpha state, has none of Minecraft's mining or construction elements, instead putting its focus squarely on slaying monsters, leveling up, and gathering epic, color-coded loot.
The Folly of Youth
Early on, though, the monsters most likely to engage you in epic battle might not match your expectations. Forget orcs and trolls; the deadliest foes your fledgling mage, warrior, ranger or rogue will face are owls and alpacas. And the owls are no joke: take them lightly and you'll watch your low-level hero get pecked to bloody chunks by these relentless feathered nightmares. And woe unto the lonely adventurer that draws the ire of one of the wandering bands of frogmen or undead; with seemingly just a stern glance, they will reduce your lowly character to ash.
So yes, the early parts of Cube World can be very challenging, but not insurmountable. The real issue, which might be partly due to how early in development the game is, is the almost total lack of information or objectives the game presents. It is also like Minecraft in that sense: without a wiki to explain some of its systems, it's difficult to get your bearings.
However, where in Minecraft the total lack of information is forgivable because the systems in place are relatively simple and can, through experimentation, be discovered on your own, in Cube World the dense numbers, systems, and mechanics are completely inscrutable without at least some explanation. With character and weapon stats and a convoluted crafting system, some in-game help would go a long way towards smoothing out the learning curve.
Gem in the Rough
That said, there's still a lot of fun to be had here, navigating the cities, castles, and broad open plains of Cube World's randomly generated biomes.
The action really ramps up in the game's dungeons, each of which is populated with a vicious boss, like the Hell Demon or Ember Golem. Fighting these tremendous foes is an exercise in patience and frustration, especially if you approach them without being properly equipped or without a fat stack of healing items at your disposal. Accordingly though, defeating them is both satisfying and lucrative, as they can drop incredible gear and award massive experience.
"You got a bright future, kid"
In any number of ways, it's obvious that Cube World is a very young game with a lot of rough edges, but it's also plainly evident that it's a game with massive potential. The voxel-crafted world is absolutely gorgeous at times, and the joy of discovery when wandering the topographic map lends a sense of almost childlike wonder to the proceedings. It's tough to whole-heartedly recommend it for purchase in its current state (though it is for sale on their website), but it's a game we'll be watching very closely.