With the success of Pokémon Go and Wizards Unite, it was guaranteed that other games would embrace the format. Minecraft Earth entered its closed beta phase and I was lucky enough to be invited to test it out.
Gameplay is pretty simple. To collect blocks, flowers, trees and mobs to place in your builds you must go out into the real world and look for them. Tap on an element within range on your map and you collect it. It’s worth noting that play from a moving vehicle isn’t possible, the lessons learned from the accidents in the early days of Pokémon Go still echoing here. I do enjoy the fact they put your character in a little minecart when you’re moving quickly, however. It is adorable.
So you’ve gone and collected your blocks, now what do you do with them? Minecraft Earth uses a buildplate system – these are small tiles that you can place and pick up whenever and build on them. They come in a variety of themes, for example a snow biome or a desert biome, and can be unlocked either with progress in the game or with in-game currency. I really like the fact you can place your buildplates whenever and wherever you want to build on them. I travel a lot so it’s like bringing a piece of my digital home with me. It also gives the game playability outside of exploration, something which Pokémon Go and Wizards Unite lacks. Unless a Pokémon or a Foundable comes along play at home is limited. The exploration and building elements of Minecraft Earth complement each other perfectly.
As Minecraft Earth is a free to play game, naturally there is some form of premium currency. This comes in the form of rubies and prices vary from £4.99 to £39.99. You can also collect small amounts of rubies from tappables in the world, seemingly at random. Rubies seem just to be used to buy bigger and more exotic buildplates for the moment but I imagine character skins will also become available for sale, as currently you can be default Alex or Steve. I haven’t felt the need to buy or use my collected rubies yet but perhaps that will change with full access to the game.
The one notable difference from the console and PC versions would be that crafting is not currently available in the beta. There is a hotbar button for it but it has not been implemented yet. For now you can find things like fences and planks and glass in chests you can tap on while you explore. It does limit your building somewhat, I like to make quite elaborate houses but I think it’s just a case of being patient until this feature is ready.
Overall Minecraft Earth is a pretty fun and different entrant to the Augmented Reality stables. I could see myself spending a lot of time with it, especially when crafting comes out. I look forward to seeing how it grows over the beta period and inviting my friends to play with me too.