FortressCraft-Chapter-One:-Creation---Xbox-360-Review FortressCraft Chapter One: Creation - Xbox 360 Review

   14/04/2011 at 09:34       Phil May       3 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - FortressCraft, Projector Games, Xbox 360, Indie Marketplace, Minecraft

Like all novel and innovative game ideas, anything that starts as a cult hit and explodes into something with mass-market appeal will always attract its fair share of clones, some well meaning, some rather more nefariously designed to purely cash in and make a fast buck. With the success of Minecraft on PC, it was almost inevitable that various developers would produce their own versions of Markus 'Notch' Persson's world building materials crafting cave defending game (which in itself drew on several influences including Dwarf Fortress, Infiniminer and Dungeon Keeper.

FortressCraft, from Projector Games, is the first under-the-telly-console game to pinch elements of Minecraft and deliver them for a bargain basement price though right off the bat it's worth taking a closer look at what you get for your 240 points, and exactly what you don't see carried across from the original Minecraft too.

FortressCraft Chapter One: Creation is pretty self explanatory, in that what you're getting here is purely the world-building block-bashing stuff from Minecraft in a fairly basic form. No crafting, no real gameplay as such but a near-infinite sandbox to construct your own blocky creations in.

If you play the trial, you're offered a single player time limited sandbox to spend some time in and this serves as a useful way of messing around with the controls and various settings before you lay down your MS Points for the full version.

With the proper version of Chapter One you get collaborative creation with other Xbox Live users (either complete strangers or you can filter creation mode to just members of your friends list - which is probably quite a sensible option if you ever intend to keep stuff!) Of course, if you're not interested in seeing other people run roughshod through your own personal eden, you can lock everyone else out and keep your creations to yourself.

For those of you completely in the dark about Minecraft and in particular the creation mode, a random world of blocks is created and players can add or remove blocks of their own to turn a barren landscape into something more civilised. Imagine a vast virtual 3D world filled with square lego blocks which you can add to or hack away at and you'll get the basic idea.

Each FortressCraft 'World' starts in this way, and in the full version of the game you can save and recover your work for later editing. Collaboration settings can be changed at any time so once you've spent hour after hour making something, you can invite your friends in for a look at your work.

The user interface is fairly simple but carries with it the same unique 'challenges' that Minecraft's creation mode did.

Using the Crosspad on the Xbox 360 controller, you can shuffle through the small pool of available materials to choose block types. The left stick moves your Xbox Live Avatar around the landscape while the right stick allows you to look around in 3D and move your lookspring cursor. Highlighting any block and clicking down on the right stick will allow you to 'dropper' that block and switch your active block type to the one selected.

The Right Bumper adds a block to the landscape, the left bumper will remove one. The A button allows you to jump (usually to a height of a single block) so you'll probably spend the first ten minutes or so just getting used to moving around the landscape and checking out the visuals (which are quite nice and take a lot of cues from the recently reskinned and patched versions of Minecraft itself with delicious visual treats like transparency and particle stuff).

Once you've decided to actually start building, it's extremely easy to lose hours to this if you're the sort of person who isn't really fussed about an end game, and just wants to build crazy or beautiful structures out of blocks. That's exactly what I've done over the last few days and though ultimately it could take an extremely long time to visit every single block in your randomly generated world, it's amazing how addictive laying down ordered paths and stringing together architectural structures becomes.

As mentioned before, the game comes with the same challenges and limitations that Minecraft's create mode does. In order to build anything tall, you've got to build something equally tall as a 'scaffold' so you can begin to pile your blocks up. Interestingly, FortressCraft will let you build stuff directly underneath where you're standing, so it's possible to build quite high that way before your avatar succumbs to gravity and ends up falling all the way back down to earth with a bump.

The range of your cursor's influence is also fairly limited so you cannot highlight distant blocks and add to / remove them. Again though this is the sort of stuff that Minecraft engineers will be all too familiar with, and of course it's part of the appeal that these limitations exist and push you into creative new ways of hewing your creations out of the raw landscape.

FortressCraft even improves on Minecraft in a couple of ways. Sound is used to good effect so different materials will sound different when you walk on them, and huge cavernous spaces will echo deliciously as you walk through them. Water looks beautiful though it's a little frustrating that there appears to be no way to make your own in the game (unless I'm missing an option in the block selector, which is easily done as it's a little on the clunky side).

Dynamic lighting can be applied to your constructions in the form of electric lamps or torches. As FortressCraft features a day to night cycle, it's quite nice to see the light gradually fading and your strategically placed light sources lighting up your latest creation.

FortressCraft Chapter 1: Creation is the first step in a bigger project, but obviously the continued expansion and success of the project will only happen if enough users buy into it at this early stage. Thankfully it already seems to be fairly popular and it's worth noting that creation mode's default is to let all players into a particular session, so be warned. There are already FortressCraft players who love destroying what you've done so make sure you're wary when you first start up.

All in all, I've enjoyed my time with this and for a measly 240 points it's an engaging and satisfyingly close approximation to Minecraft's creation bits. There are a few clunky elements about it that could do with some spit and polish (a better block selector would be a start, and also a quick-save-world option would be excellent rather than forcing the player to quit to menu every time they want to save - and saving often is definitely recommended as FortressCraft does crash from time to time) but it'll be interesting to keep an eye on this and see what happens with the next few chapters. If Projector Games carry on like this and get enough people on board, it could become something of an obsession.

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