If you haven’t had enough of amazing indie games lately, I’ve got a doozy for you, from the husband-and-wife team of Wollay and Pixxie from Picroma.
Cube World is a kind of deceptive game to look at from pictures alone. The first impression it gives is that it’s yet another Minecraft clone. Nothing could be further from the truth. It does look similar, and Minecraft is an admitted influence, but the game play owes more to World of Warcraft and Zelda than it does to Mojang’s blocky juggernaut. Where Minecraft is a game about building with some RPG elements added, Cube World is 100% RPG, with only some traces of building and crafting added. That’s not to say that the crafting elements are weak. They’re actually pretty innovative, and I’ll get to them shortly.
When you start the game up, the first thing you’ll run into is the New Character screen. You’ll be presented with a variety of races and four classes to choose from. This early in the alpha, the races are:
The differences between them are purely cosmetic right now, with two exceptions—dwarves and goblins are physically small races, and can fit into spaces in the environment that larger races can’t access. Classes are pretty standard; there are four base classes with two specialties each. Any race can be any class and specialty.
- Fire Mage
- Water Mage
Each of the classes have particular pieces of equipment they can use, from armor to weaponry. You’ll get most of this by killing things around the world, though you can visit the cities of each region in each world you explore to buy more if you want, or even create some yourself. Crafting equipment is a simple matter of owning the formula for a piece and having the materials to craft it at the appropriate crafting station. If you’ve got what you need, you get what the formula specifies. Upgrading weapons feels more like a Minecraft-inspired process. As you adventure, you can collect various materials like wood, iron, silver, gold and some others. These can be refined into cubes. These cubes are actually the voxel “pixels” that the weapons are made from. You can put extra pixels onto a weapon, and each one adds a bit more power to the thing. This lets you not only improve gear you’ve found, made or bought, but also lets you give it a unique look.
Closely related to equipment, players can tame just about any creature in the world and keep them as pets. Pets help you in combat, and once you have the riding skill, many of them can speed your travels through the worlds by serving as mounts. Leveling up your pet mastery skill improves your pet’s maximum health. To tame a pet you need to know or figure out the special food item that creature likes. Present that food to an untamed creature, and wait for it to bond with you. There is no known limit to the number of pets you can tame, but each character can have only a single pet active at a time. The general shop in each city sells one type of pet food, making it a good place to get started.
Walking and riding aren’t the only ways to get around. Improving your Climbing skill to level 5 allows you to open the Hang Gliding skill. To actually use the hang gliding skill, you need to buy a hang glider, available in the general store in any city. It’s a fun and picturesque way to get around, but you’ll need to invest more skill points in improving the skill to really improve your glide speed and range. Improving your swimming skill to level 5 allows you to open up the boating skill, which allows the use of boats, also available at all general stores. Boating is less glamorous, but overall probably more useful since there’s no range limitation on boating other than requiring water. Boating is significantly faster than walking, so it’s worth having if you’re going to spend any time traveling coasts or longer rivers.
If you caught my use of the word “worlds” earlier, that was no typo or mistake. Characters and worlds are created independently of each other, and you can take your characters freely from world to world any any point with all stats, levels, experience and equipment intact. The worlds of Cube World are procedurally created—another Minecraft similarity—and like Minecraft’s worlds, they’re generated based on a specific seed value. When I created the world I’ve been exploring, I used the seed value 42 to create it. If you were to create a world using that same seed, you’d be exploring the exact same world. You’d find the same landmarks, the same regions, cities and rock formations, roads, and buildings that I have, and even find the same inventories in stores. This has some interesting consequences. Seeds that have starting cities with good equipment can be shared over the Internet so that anyone can just create that world, pop in, grab the equipment, and go back to where they were before. I’ve done this myself to get a stronger lamp than the starting one all characters have at creation. (If you’re wondering, it’s a Legendary Lamp in the starting town of the world at seed 13775.) The result of all this procedural generation is incredibly beautiful and surprisingly varied. You’ll run into a few distinct biomes as you explore whatever world you create.
- Grasslands (Default; your original spawn location is always near the city in a grassland biome)
- Lava Lands
- Snow Lands
The worlds are filled with creatures that are hostile, friendly or neutral, and in an interesting twist, they can’t be identified by type. What I mean by this is that you won’t know automatically that all Gnobolds you run into are going to attack you on sight. Some might not care about you one bit; others might actually be friendly. In a further twist, the inhabitants of a world can sometimes be hostile to one another as well. Often I’ll be wandering the wilderness and come upon battles in progress between combatants who don’t care one bit about me at all. This goes a long way toward making the world feel alive. You never get the impression that everything exists just to get in your way or to help you; things are just happening around you, and you’re there to see it or you aren’t. Different biomes contain biome-specific creatures such as sharks and piranha in the oceans, nomads in the desert, and penguins in the snow lands. There are also different collectibles to be found, so it’s worth getting out into the world to explore.
In the absence of true RPG style quests, there are at least missions that you can occupy yourself with as you wander the vast worlds. These are generally pretty simple ‘kill the boss’ affairs, but will bring you to various castles, ruins, catacombs and such.
You don’t have to be on a mission to ransack these places, though you apparently gain bonus experience and loot if you do. (Sadly, I have to be vague on this point as I don’t know anyone else with the game and was unable to solo any of them with my current characters’ power levels.)
Cube World is a multi-player game, with 2-4 player coop available right now in addition to solo play. There’s a lot of talk about Cube World becoming an MMO, and that is a possibility. From Picroma’s Cube World page:
“We will experiment with the possibility of higher populated multi-player servers, without compromising game balance and performance.”
From that, I take away that they want to do it, are planning to do it, but aren’t promising it until they’ve figured out how to do it.
The bottom line is that this is an incredibly fun and beautiful game right now, and it’s only going to improve from here. I strongly recommend you try to get hold of it and try it for yourself.
It’s available as an alpha for Windows XP SP2 or higher from Picroma’s store, with planned support for Mac OS X and unspecified consoles in the future. The alpha costs 15 Euros, or about $20 USD.
I love open-world RPGs, but I’m going to wait for the game to mature a bit.