Today is the type of day where I look back on the week and go holy moly, I’ve spent most of my time recently doing one thing. In this case, that one thing has been playing the PC voxel exploration game, Cube World.
When I’m not writing I’m thinking about what I’ll do next in the game — where I’ll go next in its infinitely generated world, how I’ll spec and customise my character, what sorts of lands and creatures I’ve yet to see. And when I get bored of my adventures, I’ll watch other people embark on their own. I’ve also spent a ton of time on the Cube World Wiki pages, trying to figure out how things work — Cube World is a very mysterious game, with poorly explained systems. I don’t know if that’s because it’s just because in alpha right now or what but…wait, this is all happening right now and the game is far from finished? Yikes. I can already tell that the full release will be a menace for my free time.
The first time you boot up the game, it’ll ask you to make a character. I was almost tempted to go with the Reptar Lizardman but I went vanilla: human warrior. Really, all the races are adorable, but the choice is cosmetic. After you make a character, you’re dropped into a map and… well, whatever comes next is up to you. While it always makes sure to drop you close to a major city, Cube World never really gives the player any direction or explanation.
Admittedly, that makes the game feel daunting at first: what am I supposed to do? How does anything even work? We’ll have some tips for you later this week, but for now I’ll say that the aesthetic of the world is so arresting, I didn’t mind having to struggle through my first hour or two in order to figure stuff out. That, and I rather like the liberty Cube World affords me. This is definitely not a game for those who need constant direction, though.
It’s not just the lack of clarity that works towards your demise, though. It’s also the many creatures in the world that can destroy you right when you start the game. I spawned next to a turtle my first time around and quickly went from marveling about how cute it was to running away to save my life. Adorable little buggers are scattered everywhere — from bees, to horses, monkeys, peacocks, and who knows what else that I’ve yet to see. Some will be friendly. Some will be terrifying monsters that trick you with their cuteness. You gotta be on alert.
But if you find the right treat, you can tame these creatures — and eventually, even ride them. It doesn’t matter what you choose, they’re all extremely helpful in combat — even if you’d think they’d be useless. My first battle buddy was a sheep, which bummed me out, but that’s only because I wasn’t yet aware that this was the face of terror:
Let me tell you, there are few joys like watching a sheep mow down an ogre. Now I’ve upgraded to a turtle, though.
At the start, combat is mostly a matter of repeatedly clicking on an enemy until it dies; left click is normal attack, right click is special attack. Kind of boring. As you get more weapons, and gain levels — and therefore more skills and abilities — you’ll learn more complex attacks. It’s a lot like the combat in Diablo in this regard, especially since there seems to be a lot of randomly dropped/generated gear (but also because there’s a ton of clicking). I don’t know if the complete randomness in which gear drops is intentional, and I can see how some might be irritated by that. Most of what appears in the game and how it gets there seems to be random, which makes sense: it’s a procedurally generated world. You might find some witches in a cave battling a bunny. You might find a horse on top of a tree. It’s really amusing, actually.
Notably, if you spend time looking for ore, you can customise your weapons and gear to look and work just the way you want by adding extra cubes. These cubes can add more material to the weapon — a blade can become serrated or longer — or you can add elemental effects. While the crafting system is also not explained, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring for specific materials just so that I could fashion better gear.
Not that I mind that — the main thing Cube World appeals to is your sense of exploration. Those with wanderlust will find it easy to get lost in Cube World. It’s a visual thing to a degree — surely, you’ve noticed the graphics on Cube World are beautiful? I’ve gotten addicted to seeing what sorts of new terrain the world can generate, and this is that I’ve only experienced one biome so far: grasslands. There are snowlands, deserts, jungles, lavalands, oceans, savannahs, along with other biomes that the developers are planning for the game down the line. I want to see it all. I’m about 9ish hours in and I’m still seeing new stuff in terms of terrain and enemies — again, this is just the alpha.
One of my favourite things to do is to find the steepest mountain I can find, and set off on my glider — no particular destination in mind. And this is that my gliding stats aren’t even particularly high; I can’t do it for very long. I salivate at the idea of one day being able to take off like spidermew does here.
Jesus. The game could be just gliding and that’d be fun. Mostly, though, I take to exploring to seeing what sorts of secrets the world holds. There are many dungeons and mini challenge areas with enemies and bosses to fight peppered randomly across the world. Sometimes, these areas will give you a quest — defeat so and so at such and such place! It took a few hours of grinding before these parts of the game opened up to me — I was only able to get through my first dungeon yesterday, after about 5 hours of gaining enough levels to be formidable against groups of enemies — but now that it has, I’m doubly excited to see what awaits me and what I can take on.
The first few hours of Cube World, admittedly, are as follows: explore, find a mob of some sort, go, “hey! I should take those on!” before realising no, no you can’t. Not yet. Thankfully there’s no penalty for death. I can see how this design might feel jarring to some people, especially since the first couple of hours are a slog of grinding and figuring out how things work, but personally I thought it kept things interesting.
I never feel like I can rest on my laurels, as I might run into some crazed, overpowered squirrel that can kill me at any time. It reminds me a little of exploring in Skyrim at early levels, and coming across a giant for the first time. Still, few things compare to finding a ruin you can’t take on, going off and seeing more of the world and powering up, then coming back and trying it again. Victories feel earned.
The biggest issues right now are the starting levels and the rough edges. In a way, it’s difficult to hold this against Cube World — again, it’s just in alpha. That makes it easier to forgive when most NPCs seem to say the same couple of lines, or why the game is so bad at telling you how things work. The slow pace at which you gain your first few levels can be agonizing, too — especially since it’s a necessary pain if you’re serious about being able to take standard enemies on. Part of me wonders if it’s a pain in these early levels because the game expects you to play with other people; I can easily see how stuff would be more manageable then — gaining a battlepet was a godsend. Still, I would not blame you for not having the patience to go through the first hour or two of Cube World’s alpha. But if you do? The stuff that awaits you feels magical.