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Cube World First Impressions: Beautiful Infinity


People have been waiting for Wollay's Cube World with child-like anticipation since it was announced with some early screenies back in mid-2011. Amidst the yells and mutterings of "minecraft clone!" were the good, decent folk who saw it for what it was, on its own merits - a beautiful, sandbox RPG that just happened to use blocks (my house is made out of blocks; my house is not a Minecraft clone).

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Cube World finally went into open alpha a few days back - and being alpha, it’s obviously far from finished and an incomplete version (though still has tonnes of features). The demo just loads a world up to make sure you can run it, so not much of a demo, but you can buy the game with immediate alpha access for $20 from the Cube World website. Do note though that due to heavy server load and a huge demand for this long-awaited, beautiful game, the website, the store and account creation are all in a state of flux. I got lucky and was able to buy it during a brief ‘up’ period, but some people are still trying.

For those of you who can't grab it yet (and those who just like reading!), here's an account of my first few hours in Cube World, as told through the eyes of my little voxxely elf rogue.

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I’m alone on the shallow slopes of a grassy hill, a few scattered trees to my west and a cavern mouth looming dark and ominous into the rockface behind me. I carry two daggers - they’re not the sharpest, but they’re better than nothing - and a handful of little glass bottles filled with a sweet-smelling red liquid. I barely have time to establish this before three large, dark creatures round the curve of the hill in front of me in a flurry of black feathers and beating wings. I freeze - panic. Are they hostile? Am I the prey here? My instincts kick in. I won’t let them get the advantage, and so I charge in, daggers poised to strike. I move quickly, a snicker-snack of my blades and one of the three creatures is down. My feet dance intricate circles as I duck and weave grasping claws and jabbing beaks and in a few moments the second creature is grounded and lifeless. It’s then, my breath coming ragged, that I realise they’re just oversized crows. I try to back off - I’m an elf, and the thought of wantonly killing the forest’s creatures sends a shiver down my spine - but it’s too late. Two of its murder murdered, the remaining crow fights for its life and won’t back down. With a heavy heart I let my blades do the work, cursing myself for my hasty actions.

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What’s done is done. I can’t change the fate of those unfortunate crows, and even though I don’t really know whether or not they were aggressive - whether or not they would have attacked me if I hadn’t launched an assault on them - I still feel bad about it. I sheathe my daggers and turn to the cave entrance. I start thinking of survival; how much light is left? What does the darkness bring? Will I need to craft a fire? But I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. Maybe the cave will have answers, its dark mouth beckoning me, tempting adventure and danger within. I walk towards it. Barely have my light elven feet stepped into the shadows when a piercing screech echoes through the velvet blackness. More wings, more dark shapes - but these aren’t crows; their eyes are red, their wings pointed and vicious. These are bats.

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Too much death. Too many bodies. The cave does not entice me now - I want to leave this place. My arms and legs ache from the fighting and my mouth is dry. I drain the contents of one of those little red bottles and my body recovers, but the weight of my actions press on. I pick a direction - a gentle valley leading between sweeping hillsides. It looks pleasant. Soon I’m skipping over grassy hillocks and flouncing down mushroom-speckled slopes. I see another creature in front of me - some kind of beetle. There are three of them. Their wings shimmer golden-yellow in the sunlight and their big eyes regard me warily. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice in one day I keep my daggers drawn, but they approach, their legs tick-ticking over the hard earth and their antenna probing my scent from the air. I pause, wary, but they rush and suddenly I’m surrounded, the sharp carapace of their legs driving needles into my skin. I fall, hit the ground, and feel my body crumbling into a thousand tiny fragments.

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There’s a light. I go toward it. I blink and there’s an angel before me, an angel carved from stone holding a glowing purple cube that pulses with divine energy. I am whole again, torn from the world and replaced at one of these mystical, ancient shrines that grant life as easily as it was taken away from me. I still have what scant belongings I found myself with, and in checking myself over I discover I have a map. It’s no ordinary map; as I move, it moves with me, and fills the edges of its parchment with the new terrain that my radius engulfs. This, like the angel statues, must be a magical device. A little way north of my position I see the symbol of a town, floating over sketched buildings. I pocket the map and with a cursory sweep of my perimeter, I set off.

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“Thalria City” - the words shimmer in front of my eyes as I pass the town’s outer buildings. The houses are empty, but I see movement ahead. Friendly faces peer at me and mouth cheerful greetings. I know the names of all of these people as if they have been my lifelong friends, but their faces are new to me. Some of them sit on benches, some wander airily through the planted fields and others tend gardens. I find some stores and familiarise myself with the goods on offer. I find I have loose change in one pocket - it’s not much, but it’s enough to buy some cotton candy; the only thing I can afford and I buy it because I want to feel connected to this place, a part of this system of merchants and townsfolk and trade.

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With the cotton candy in my hand I leave the store and run into the sheep that had been following me through the quaint streets. It seems to have no master and looks up at me with its big, baleful eyes and bleats a plaintive baaah. Perhaps moved by the sincerity of its caprine cry I offer my hand, and in it, my cotton candy. The sheep trots timidly forward on dainty hooves and nibbles at the treat. I sigh wearily and let it consume the whole thing; bolstered by my passivity it comes closer and I run my fingers through its soft, warm wool. It’s a sturdy creature.

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Sheep and I are friends now. We travel everywhere together, and Sheep joins me in battle, a fierce wooly warrior. The days in this world pass slowly and are fraught with danger, but I have begun to learn the survival tricks necessary to ease the cost of living. Cotton plants grow locally and the town’s weaver has allowed me use of her wheel and loom. I made myself a cotton jerkin; it’s flimsy, but it guards against the weaker blows. After ridding a nearby cave of rabid bats I mined out the iron deposits and with the town’s furnace and anvil, crafted a fine pair of daggers with sharper blades than those I arrived with (and disposed of as soon as I could, the memories associated with them too painful for me to bear).

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I roam the countryside killing bandits. It’s hard work, thankless - the town I found appears to be the only friendly pocket of civilisation for miles, a last bastion of hope in a land fraught with battles, men against men, creature against creature, the grass stained red with the blood of so many killed for no reason, only that they attacked first. But the loot, though slim, is enough for me to trade with the town merchants. With glass bottles and some gathered heartflower I have made more of those little red potions. Scraps of paper tucked in the pockets of the fallen have revealed recipes for pumpkin muffins, patterns for cotton boots, formulae for iron fist-weapons.

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Life here is hard, and vicious. I know I have a lot to learn, and I welcome whatever challenge the Higher Powers throw at me. With Sheep by my side, I know we will not fail.

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