Cube World may look adorable, but is it worth jumping in just yet?
By Tim Colwill on July 15, 2013 at 3:40 pm
There’s movement in the distance. A small, cubular creature bounds around at the base of a forest made entirely of cubular trees.
You approach, carefully, worried that it might be a squirrel. You’ve been murdered by squirrels twice tonight. As you get closer, you see that it’s actually some kind of alpaca instead. That’s good.
Sensing your approach, the alpaca turns to face you expectantly. You rummage through your backpack, looking for pet food. You have, uh… bubble gum. And blood orange juice. The alpaca stands there, patiently, while you mash the bubble gum onto its face and throw juice at it.
It’s not working. Disappointed, you pull out your sword and hack the alpaca to death. A solitary experience point appears in your progress bar.
You see more movement in the distance, and head over to take a look. It’s a roving party of elf adventurers. The mage spots you and kills you instantly with a laser beam. Welcome to Cube World.
New pixels on the block
Cube World is a voxel-based exploration RPG from husband-and-wife team Wolfram and Sarah von Funck in Germany. It’s currently in alpha, and you can buy early access to it directly from the developers over at Picroma.com.
It’s tempting to compare Cube World to Minecraft, but aside from the fact that there’s a lot of brown-and-green squares in a sprawling, procedurally-generated world, the two games really couldn’t be more different. Minecraft is a sandbox game of world-building, but Cube World has more in common with World of Warcraft than anything else. With four classes, eight races and colour-coded enemies and items, the similarities to an MMO ring out far more strongly than any link to Mojang’s monster.
At its most base Cube World is a game about two things: exploration and murder. The enormous, infinite world is populated with towns and wandering NPCs which are eventually supposed to give you dynamic quests, but in the current alpha stage the only way to gain experience is by murdering things.
Murdering things is surprisingly hard. Nearly everything you’ll come across at first level will quickly destroy you, and so you’ll spend a lot of time running away. It’s kind of weird, because it means that the objectively best way to level up is to pick on things which just aren’t very good at fighting, like defenceless chickens.
Dungeons form a key part of the Cube World experience, taking the form of castles, catacombs, pyramids, ruins, and other areas you generally shouldn’t wander into unarmed. Each dungeon has a boss monster who can be defeated for mad lootz, assuming you can get past all the other minions on the way. There’s also a slew of crafting options (if you can work them out) and various special ores and materials you can collect in the world.
Miniature multiplayer offline RPG
At the moment Cube World offers multiplayer support for up to four players, and you can host a server yourself simply by running the server application found in the install directory. It works flawlessly on a LAN, or you can expose it to the internet and allow players to connect directly to your IP.
With another person at your side, Cube World quickly becomes a lot more fun and a lot more accessible. The classes work well together and complement each other and it’s much easier to clear out a dungeon if you’ve got someone else watching your back and feeding you pumpkin muffins every time your health is low.
Rough around the edges
Cube World does actually have one feature very reminiscent of Minecraft — you’ll literally never be able to work anything out for yourself if you don’t have the game’s unofficial wiki open in a browser. The in-game help extends as far as telling you the controls, and there’s absolutely no guidance on what the stats for items mean, which items do what, who to talk to in any given town, why this object you can supposedly interact with does nothing, or… well, practically anything.
It is, to use the colloquialism, a hot mess — Cube World is stupidly gorgeous and the voxel graphics look just amazing, especially as you explore different biomes and watch the sun rise and set, or as you scamper through a cave with your lantern out. But there’s just no instruction at the moment on what to do or how to do it, and the game’s mechanics (again, in this alpha state) just boil down to “let’s go and murder these adorable animals together”.
As the game keeps updating and new features are added, Cube World will eventually shape itself into something very special. It’s got a lot of promise and it’s a heap of fun to play, but without another person around it quickly becomes very clearly shallow. If you haven’t got a friend who would be keen to pixelate out with you, it might be worth leaving it for a while.
Cube World is available in alpha for 15 EUR, or around $22 AUD. Buy it here.
Once you’ve bought it, why not head over to our Cube World forum for a chat?
Thanks to Cas and SuBw00FeR for the screenshots.