Minecraft is what you make of it. Sure, you can build scale models of actual cities, static menageries of wonderful creatures, and twisted monuments to shadowy gods, but you can also take a sword in hand and fight nasty creatures that get up in your face.
But what if you're sick of walloping Creepers and Skeletons? What if you want to hunt humankind, Minecraft's most dangerous, most low-poly quarry?
Starting in June, headhunters who own Minecraft for consoles (Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii U) will be able to engage in PvP action via an update that introduces the Minecraft Battle mini game. Up to eight players can stalk each other across a variety of multiplayer arenas filled with traps and danger.
Split-screen local multiplayer is also available for up to four people in case you want to form alliances. Since each round's winner is determined by the last player standing, however, friendships are sure to dissolve and ultimately you'll wind up with an E-Rated interpretation of Battle Royale.
Minecraft Battle is one of several mini games Microsoft has planned for the franchise. When Battle kicks off next month, players will get three free maps. Additional map packs cost $2.99 USD each.
I got to try out Minecraft Battle last week and had a lot of fun, though I was soundly slaughtered in every match. There's a purposeful element of randomness in the mini game: When each round starts, players can make a mad rush to a group of treasure chests situated at the spawn point. A chest might contain good weapons, gear, and potions. It might also contain a single apple and a pork chop, starting you off at an obvious disadvantage.
The mad, potentially dangerous rush to blindly grab supplies that might ultimately wind up being useless is very much a tribute to the Hunger Games' "Cornucopia," an area stocked with random weapons and supplies for any fighter brave enough to grab them.
But as some participants of the actual Hunger Games came to realize, sometimes the best means of survival can be found in your environment, making that first dash for items pointless. To wit, each arena in Minecraft Battle has single chests peppered throughout the environment, and in some cases you're better off using your 30 second invincibility grace period searching for one while simultaneously hunting down a good place to plot ambushes from. Of course, reaching these isolated chests can put you at risk of a deadly fall, or within reach of anyone who's lucky enough to find a bow and arrow set.
The maps I played varied in themes, and each offered tons of places ideal for climbing, ambushing, hiding, and sniping. In my best game, I found a bow, wormed my way into a crevice at the top of a mountain, and shot down anyone who came near my lair. It was effective, though it earned me a "Camper" label at the end of the match (still better than every other "Most Ineffective Player" badge I earned in so many other rounds).
Unfortunately, you can't manipulate the environments to build your own pits, traps, or walls. Given the very nature of Minecraft, the inability to actually change the area to suit your needs in Battle is a bummer. However, Microsoft says it's listening to player feedback, and it plans to support Minecraft Battle with regular updates and new features.
PvP Minecraft mods exist all over the PC universe, but Minecraft Battle is a sleek, organized way for console players to engage in arena-style mass murder of their fellows. Look for the Minecraft Battle add-on in June, and the announcement of more Minecraft mini games down the line.
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