Minecraft is all about freedom. It’s about finding your way, making your own fun, and building your own space in the world. It’s a game in which you, the player, have the power to do pretty much anything. It might start out as punching trees, but eventually you carve your own path through the procedurally generated world, free from guidance and instruction. This total freedom is a joy for many players, but for others it leads to disinterest, and if you’re someone who prefers a hint of direction then we might have just the game for you.
Core Keeper, which is threatening to break through into the top Steam games, retains a lot of the key components found within Minecraft, like crafting, creating your own home, and exploration, but they’re baked into a structure that’s easy to follow without having to resort to tutorials. If you’ve bounced off survival games like Minecraft before, you could find that Core Keeper is the one that finally sticks.
When you start a new Core Keeper save, it opens up with a cutscene that explains who you’re playing as and why they find themselves underground. Now, that’s not a big deal for some people, but if you like to know what’s going on in a game, then this will be a huge boon. After this, you’re dumped into a subterranean world with only a couple of basic items at hand, but there’s another important distinction: you’re surrounded by three strange devices you can interact with, each representing a major boss you have to go and kill. Et voilà, you have a purpose.
Those two basic features provide more guidance and context than you get in the vast majority of crafting games. You know you’re stuck in a weird underground space, you know that your broad goal is to escape, and you have a few pointers on how you can achieve that.
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It’s robust enough that you’re never at a total loss for what to do next, but it’s not so restrictive that you can’t just feel your way around and enjoy Core Keeper at your own pace.
How did you first find out what you needed to upgrade your pickaxe in Minecraft? Or how to reach The End and fight the Ender Dragon? Countless Minecraft players rely on wiki-style guides, advice from friends, or sheer determination to progress through the game. Core Keeper’s approach is to limit what you’re exposed to, but never how you approach it. You’ll always start close to the same early game biome, which contains the same basic enemies, resources, and materials.
All of the items you can craft early on are made up of things you can find in the first biome, and when you have enough resources you can craft a better workbench, which opens up crafting recipes that use materials available in the next biome. You can progress through each area however you like, but if you get stuck wondering what to do next there’s a pretty obvious clue in the crafting menu – it’s a great way of subtly leading players towards the next goal.
Minecraft is also full of arcane processes and mechanics, like earning and using experience. While yellow and green XP orbs pour out of every Minecraft mob you slay, it’s never clear what you can do with them. Core Keeper treats XP like a traditional RPG game, so if you run around a lot or play evasively, you’ll gain points that make you faster.
Mining makes you a more efficient miner, melee combat experience makes you handier in a brawl, and practicing with a bow will give you ranged abilities that would make Legolas jealous. There’s a reason to pursue a particular type of character build in Core Keeper, and it’s always clear how you’re progressing towards that goal.
All of these relatively minor features result in a game that – like Minecraft – is built around crafting and survival, but offers a clear path forward for players who need a little more direction.
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