Cube World: It's Hip to Be Cube
The latest internet darling making its YouTube rounds and gaining popularity and availability to rank and file gamers is Picroma’s Cube World. On the verge of going viral earlier this month Cube World is, according to its creators, a “Voxel-Based exploration RPG” that is currently in an Alpha release. You can buy Cube World direct from Picroma for €15 which is roughly $20.
At this point you may be asking, “If it is not a MMORPG what is Cube World doing on MMORPG.com?” One of Cube World’s ultimate goals is to have Massively Multiplayer servers. In addition to that it already shares a number of standard tropes with current MMOs and it is already a multiplayer RPG so it seemed like a natural fit.
The next question you might have is, “What is a voxel?” I did too, so I looked it up. A Voxel is a volumetric pixel element. It is in essence a 3 dimensional bitmap. Another example of a voxel based game is Minecraft. It is important to note that you can make smaller voxels than what Cube World is using. The game designer made the game this blocky as an artistic choice, not a limitation of voxels. Picroma has a set of procedures that randomly generate your world based off of a seed number you provide it. You will never reach a border in Cube World, the world will continue to grow as your explore it. You will also never reach a level cap. As you continue to grow stronger so too will the enemies you encounter.
I decided to begin my adventure as a skeleton warrior but quickly decided I wanted to play as a ranged class and started over again as a frogman ranger. In addition to the warrior and ranger you can choose to play as a mage or rogue. There are also 6 more playable races besides Frogman and Skeleton for a total of 8 to choose from; Human, Elf, Dwarf, Goblin, Lizardman, and Orc. I spent the first few minutes getting used to the controls. Pressing F1 will bring up a simple on screen layout that will show you what skills are mapped to what keys. You also have inventory, crafting, and equipment screens that are very similar to what you would see in any modern fantasy MMO.
It took me a bit to get used to kiting at first. Cube World has action based combat which requires you to manually aim at your enemies. You cannot just run around in circles and let your auto attack do your dirty work. Because of this I was going through my heal potions very quick. By chance I ran across a pineapple field just outside of town. I collected as many pineapples as I could, as it turns out the cap is 50, and then continued to explore toward the next mountain range. Along the way I ran into a random campfire and interacted with it. It was at this point I found out I could cook all the pineapples I had collected into pineapple slices that would heal me for 100 hit points each. I also had some ginseng which I could make into potions that would heal me for 200hp. Cooking is not the only crafting skill in the game either. Cube World currently has Alchemy, Weapon, Armor, and Jewel Crafting, as well as Weapon Customization. You will run into a number or collectible resources as your explore your world. It pays to discover.
The crafting skill that truly stands out from the rest is Weapon Customization. This skill allows you to increase the potency of your weapons by adding cubes to them. Adding cubes to your weapons not only increases their strengths, it also allows you to customize the look of the weapons. Each cube that you add to the weapon you choose where it is placed. In the end this level of customization could be one of the primary features that keep players engaged with Cube World.
Cube World does not currently have a questing system but they do have one planned. The questing system will not put the game on rails either, so all of you theme park naysayers can breathe a sigh of relief. These quests will be procedurally generated, like the world, to key off elements that are in your environment. They will be random but they will play into the world’s story. Picroma also intends to develop lore by creating a back story for Cube World. Currently Cube World has missions that spawn every Cube World day. These missions task your player to hunt down named monsters in the area and kill them for a higher experience payout than normal monsters and a chance at enhanced item drops. This mission system is different than the planned quest system because the mission system will only task you to go kill a boss monster in an area. Quests will include more than that. There are also dungeons that randomly spawn throughout the world housing monsters that are tougher than those found in the outside world.
Cube World also has a pet system. Throughout your adventures you will find food items. You can use these food items to tame pets. You have to find which pets are attracted to which food through experimentation (or you could always use a wiki). Once you tame a pet you can also use it as a mount. Your pet will also assist you in combat. Once you've made them your own, you can then store them in your inventory. You can only have one pet active at a time but you can store as many as you can fit in your inventory.
I had a lot of fun playing Cube World right from the start but there are a couple of things that concern me. The first thing that struck me as odd is the leveling curve at the beginning of the game. In order to go from level 1 to 2 you have to gain 50 experience points. Most of the creatures you can kill at level 1 will only reward you with 1 experience point. That means the typical player starting off will have to kill 50 creatures before they can gain their first level. I cannot think of another current RPG or MMO that takes a player that long to gain their first level. To get to level 3 you have to gain an additional 97 xp. When you are level 2 you can earn approximately 3 xp per mob that you kill. This means you are down to killing 33 creatures to gain your next level. I would suggest flattening this early curve and making it steeper as the game progresses. This makes the game more approachable for new players and more challenging for veteran players. The game is predominately about exploration and it does not need to be a grind fest at the start.
My second biggest concern with the game is longevity. Most people are curious by nature and I can see the lure of a game that is all about exploration. However, people like to leave their mark on things and say this is mine. What happened when we went to the moon? We put a flag on it. It might be easy to look at Cube World and compare it to Minecraft but other than a few stylistic qualities they are very different games. In Cube World the game is making the world for you. In Minecraft you are making the world. It is that level of customization that has made Minecraft the success that it is. This is why I believe weapon customization is so important and I hope to see it spread to other parts of the game. Cube World could continue to let the world build its self but what if Cube World had a system that allowed players to build their own houses or villages. This would require players to explore even further reaches of the map to collect resources. It could also provide players a nice place to hang the heads of the boss monsters they have fought.
Picroma has the beginnings of a wonderful game in Cube World. It's is an excellent example of games not needing the flashiest graphics to be fun. It's the ingenious and engaging systems that make games fun. The biggest challenge Picroma faces as they progress through alpha, beta, and approach to their eventual release is keeping players invested in their worlds for the long haul. What players find cute and fun now they could find old hat by the end of next month. Creating even more systems that keep players coming back to revisit their world, or even create new ones, will determine whether or not Cube World will be a success or if it will be just another fad like too many MMOs these days.
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com and RTSGuru.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can chase him down on twitter @Grakulen
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