Despite the visual similarities, however, Cube World and Minecraft are extremely different games. Minecraft is a crafter's paradise, a world where you can build anything you can imagine. Cube World is an adventure game, and fans of MMOs will find it far closer to World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2 than it is to the game that threatens huts with Creepers and allows you to build full-scale replicas of pretend spaceships.
Cube World is unique, and even in alpha, it's something quite special.
Bright colors, big world
Cube World's aesthetics are charming and warm and will no doubt be the first thing you notice upon logging in. The voxel-block design creates a world that is simultaneously simple and complex. Characters range from adorable to downright ugly, and environments run the gamut from swamp to lava to forest. Perhaps the most impressive part of Cube World is how it manages to pack so much interesting visual data into so limited a package; you wouldn't think that clouds and trees made out of cubes could be pretty, but Cube World offers solid evidence to the contrary.
In Cube World, you will find a freedom that isn't readily available in many other RPGs.
Swim, climb, jump, run
The primary reason Cube World feels so free is the inclusion of what Picroma refers to as "adventure skills." Each adventure skill is situation-based and enables you to complete a deeper exploration of a particular part of the game world. Some will be familiar to MMO vets -- the ability to swim in rivers and lakes is nothing new -- but some provide a new avenue of movement that dramatically change the way you explore and access the environment.
Stabbing and shooting
Combat is active and simple. Your abilities go on a hotbar, and your primary attacks are activated with left and right click. You attack wherever your mouse is pointed (just as in Guild Wars 2 or TERA), so you must actively face your opponent when fighting. You can also roll out of the way of danger and dodge projectiles if you're fast enough. Each of the game's four classes (Mage, Rogue, Warrior, Ranger) has a selection of special abilities that unlock as you level.
Certain classes feel better than others. Tagging mobs with the Ranger's bow is pretty tough since you have to aim and account for travel time, and the Mage's nukes are very hard to land due to their oddball design. Rogues and Warriors, however, have simple-to-learn melee attacks that work just fine for the task of laying out bad guys. Enemies move frenetically as you try to avoid them, and sometimes the cube-y terrain makes it hard to line up hits as you go. Still, combat is functional enough to get the job done if you're willing to suffer through a slight learning curve.
Building the RPG
Cube World is a role-playing game, and the genre's influences are apparent at every turn. There are eight races from which to choose (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Undead, Frogmen, Orcs, Goblins, and Lizardmen), and the four classes fit directly into your basic RPG archetypes. Enemies killed reward you with experience points; earn enough experience points and you'll level up. Naturally, this results in the acquisition of talent points, which you can then spend to enhance your abilities as you see fit.
Finally, there is crafting. No RPG would be complete without it, and Cube World has plenty of gathering nodes to pick at and skills to master. The crafting formulas fit into the same basic RPG archetypes as the characters. Weaponsmithing, armor crafting, cooking, alchemy, and jewelcrafting are all there. However, crafting items in Cube World currently seems like the best way to acquire them (or purchasing them from other players). You'll find items as you adventure, but crafting is the best path for fitting yourself with high quality gear.
Work in progress
Cube World is delightful in many ways, but is also very clearly still in alpha. While it runs very smoothly and suffers surprisingly little from glitches or bugs, there are problems with the game that stem mostly from its being in development rather than being finished. There's nothing game-breaking (though the only way I can exit it is to crash it), just a collection of niggling issues that leave Cube World feeling like something that needs a bit more time in the oven.
Additionally, functioning servers are hard to find. Most of the listed servers I could track down either functioned as special game modes (King of the Hill, PvP, etc.) or returned errors when I tried to connect. The few I was able to connect to offered lots in the way of friendly players and chaotic action, but they were also rife with cheaters who had hacked their way to impossible HP totals and exceptionally high levels. Because there are (as of yet) no public, official Cube World servers, the alpha leaves you out in the cold when it comes to playing with other people.
The official Cube World website expresses interest in experimenting with "the possibility of higher populated multiplayer servers," though these massively multiplayer servers have yet to surface.
The future, cubed
Cube World is an interesting concept with tons of potential. It will trigger that element of your brain that loves adventuring in new worlds and its beautiful design will inspire you to explore, level, craft, and fight. However, in its current unfinished state, it isn't likely to hold the extended interest of the large majority of MMO gamers. Without a server browser, cheat-proof tech, more narrative, and perhaps a few tutorials, Cube World may be too rough of a ride.
The Cube World alpha is good. Let's hope the beta will be great.
Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?