Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Chocolate and peanut butter. Chicken and waffles. Citizen Kane and Toy Story? Okay, two of the best of any given thing might not always go well together. It works sometimes with food. Films could go any direction really. But what about two of the best video games in recent memory? That's what's in store for those who play the Xbox 360 edition of Minecraft. Similar to the recently released Mass Effect edition of the game, 4J Studios and Bethesda have announced a Skyrim edition to be released on 11/20/13. Last week was the 2-year anniversary of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (remember 11-11-11?), I couldn't think of a better time. The two are among the top of my favorite games of this generation, a perfect trio with Red Dead Redemption (say, a Minecraft mash-up with that game would work so unbelievably well - Rockstar would never go for it, but a guy can dream).

Like the Mass Effect edition it will give players a slew a skins to don for your avatar, switch all the textures, and provide 16-bit renditions of the game's excellent soundtrack by Jeremy Soule (can't wait to hear that main theme!). I tried out the Mass Effect version earlier this month to get a taste of what this might entail. How big of a difference could this possibly make? A big one! I first tried my own world (Land of Yore) with the mash-up and it was like exploring an alien planet that I was already familiar with. The music from the game was beautifully rendered and even the hud, reticle and menu system was changed to something that Mass Effect-players would geek over. I then went into the world that comes with the mash-up and I was blown away again. Iconic architecture from Mass Effect was towering all around me and the texture pack was utilized to the utmost.

It's no secret that the Xbox 360 edition of Minecraft pales in comparison to its mother PC counterpart. For one one thing the "infinite"-ness that PC gamers enjoy in their worlds is brought to shocking limitations when playing on Xbox. I painfully realized this yesterday after building a mushroom tower past the clouds and taking in the view, only to realize I could see all the borders of the world. Still enough to mine for untold hours, but there's something about unending horizons that speaks to the true adventure of survival mode, the only mode I enjoy playing.

Reportedly Minecraft: Skyrim Edition will have a pre-made world bearing the likeness of Riverwood, Bleak Falls Barrow and Whiterun, iconic destinations that all Skyrim players should be well-familiar with as chances are you went there from the start and likely went back to again and again. The game will also have an overhauled UI, but surely not just like Bethesda's latest masterpiece because one of my favorite things about it was the lack of HUD and one kind of needs that when in Minecraft.

I'll report back when it has been released and after I've applied the mash-up to Land of Yore and explored the pre-made world that comes with the package. As with most things XBLA-related you can try it for free (you just can't save the game while running Skyrim edition without a purchase.) It's probably just mindware, but what Minecraft mashups would you love to see?

On a similar and final note, I also tried out the trial versions of the Natural and Plastic texture packs and the full Halloween texture pack they gave to all players for free over the holiday. The Halloween pack was quite enjoyable; everything looked different from the brown sky to the green sea. My bed was turned into a coffin, my chests had giant eyeballs, the ladders had a broken rung and the pigs looked half-eaten. While these alterations are purely cosmetic, it's a big deal when it literally changes how everything looks. Still, the Halloween pack is not one I could see me leaving on for extended game time. It's more of a fun diversion to show others and to see what your place would look like if Tim Burton were your interior designer. 

The Plastic texture pack is one of the most visually pleasing things I've ever seen. Minecraft is often compared to LEGOS, this completes that relation. The blocks are so smooth and whole (in terms of color and space). An empty field of grass looks like the top of a perfectly glazed cake. Part of Minecraft's charm for me has been the imperfections and the limitations of its visuals which this version sidestepped and/or filled. In all honesty, it felt rather empty.

Then there's the Natural texture pack which took the classic Minecraft textures and made them more realistic and lifelike (if that's even possible). This one was quite nice to behold and it did work to increase my immersion into the world itself. Colors and designs are closer to reality and the game's fidelity grows as a result. Of all the texture packs I could actually see myself playing with this one enabled.

One last thing, over on Rev3Games' YouTube Channel they've posted "Adam Sessler Learns Minecraft from a Six-Year-Old." It's an adorable way to be introduced to the game. It seems like many people call it a kid's game or they tell me they have a younger sibling or relative that plays the game. What can I say, it's a hit with the up and coming generation. I would have loved Minecraft as a kid, but I actually think I love it even more as an adult.

Words by J.S. Lewis