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Minecraft Earth Preview: The New Face Of AR

Minecraft Earth offers everything players have come to expect from Minecraft, transplanted into the real world.

As a general rule, popularity fades over time. This is especially true in gaming. As technology evolves, sharper graphics, cleaner mechanics, and more immersive experiences are produced—leaving once-revered games on the shelf collecting dust. Games that were cutting edge just five years ago now seem amateurish and underdeveloped. But no matter how far studios come, there’s one game that defies this rule in stunning fashion: Minecraft.

Since release, Minecraft has sold 170 million copies, making it the best-selling game of all time. With the introduction of Minecraft Earth, the world’s most popular game extends its reach even further. Mojang seeks to wed Minecraft’s universal appeal with the winning formula of mobile AR games. If the multi-platform success of Minecraft’s past says anything, it’s that the game’s latest rendition is unlikely to bring anything other than triumph to mobile platforms.

One Country At A Time

Minecraft Earth's early access began in October after a brief stint in open beta. The game is still only playable in select countries but is going global quickly. As of October 31st, the game is available for download in the United Kingdom, Canada, South Korea, Philippines, Sweden, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and Iceland. Everyone else will just have to wait.

From the surface, you may mistake Minecraft Earth for other games in its class. Pokémon GO and Harry Potter Wizards Unite are two of the most popular AR titles on the market, but they lack the real-world AR capability that developers have promised for the last ten years. Minecraft Earth finally lets AR spread its wings, delivering an experience that opens a door into the technology's future.

With Pokémon GO, for instance, the AR facet of the game is really a gimmick that stands in the way of catching Pokémon. It’s interesting to see a Mudkip standing on your back patio for a minute or two, but that charm quickly dissipates. Most PGO players opt to turn their AR interface off. With Minecraft Earth, AR is the game. You don’t have an option to disconnect Minecraft from your real-life experience.

This would be a problem if the execution wasn’t spot on, but Minecraft Earth took the time to make sure they got it right. Instead of having in-game objects float on a moveable backdrop, Minecraft’s objects are anchored to specific points of contact, which makes gameplay inextricable from real life. The entire world becomes a playground.

An Authentic Minecraft Experience

Technical execution means nothing if the developers don’t stay true to the game’s spirit. Minecraft’s success lies in its variability. There’s not one way to play the game, and it’s this freedom of expression that makes Minecraft so fun to play. If all of the game’s core elements aren’t translated, the mobile version will likely feel a bit off.

Just like classic Minecraft, the mobile rendition of the game uses the Bedrock engine. At its core, it’s still the same game. Every mechanic works the same way, but as Digital Trends pointed out, there are a few new blocks, items, and creatures to find. A new, long-awaited block that is being introduced in Earth is Mud, which is accompanied by Muddy Pig. 

Most of these blocks and items are dished out as "tappables," which you can click on to collect resources and rewards. This works in a similar fashion to PokéStops, but unlike PGO, Minecraft Earth separates itself with its adventures.

Adventures are mini-quests that are tethered to the real world. They’ll show up in many forms, but are easy to spot and often champion teamwork and cooperation with nearby players (there’s no PvP element to the game). Fight your way past obstacles, engage in combat, and collect your rewards.

Once you’ve completed an adventure or are tired of exploring the blocky version of your neighborhood, you can even have scalable experiences while relaxing in your own home. Building takes place on building plates that can fit on nearly any available surface. Once built, blocks can switch between mini and full-scale sizes, giving players the ability to explore their creations in an up-close and personal way.

Is Minecraft Ready For Mobile?

The developers have stressed that they don’t see Minecraft Earth as a spin-off or evolution of Minecraft. It’s the same game. Only now, even more players will have access to it. There are, however, some aspects of the game that simply won’t translate to AR. For example, there are no caverns deep beneath your feet to be explored. You can’t really mine into the parking lot of your closest public park, after all.

While mobile does present its own set of complications, Minecraft Earth takes AR further than it has ever gone before. It accomplishes this while staying true to the game’s defining principles. Minecraft is the most popular game on Earth for a reason, and considering the recent success that developers are seeing on mobile platforms, Minecraft Earth’s global release couldn't be timed any better.

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