FortressCraft-ing a Console Clone

Review of FortressCraft Chapter 1 on XBLIG: Try
These are not the blocks you are looking for…

FortressCraft is a lot like MineCraft. There is no getting around that immediately apparent fact. This game seems to be playing off of MineCraft’s Creator mode rather than starting from one of the more refined iterations but later “Chapters” will likely follow the same development paths. The inspiration was apparently both MineCraft and another game called Dwarf Fortress but looks like MC or a brighter Infiniminer.

I didn’t follow this game’s development as closely as I thought I would solely because I couldn’t see how this particular PC game could be ported to the console’s game pad. The mouse is so great at certain functions that the WASD controls didn’t bother me too much (I wasn’t too big of a PC gamer when little). FC uses the left bumper to remove blocks and the right bumper to place blocks in 1st-person mode only. The type of block to be placed is chosen with the D-pad and scrolling through groupings of eight choices by holding a direction on the D-pad and clicking one of the triggers. 3rd-person mode is used to see your avatar do emotes that are selected with the D-pad. all of that sounds awkward and almost needlessly busy but it becomes easier with practice.

There is no differentiation of worlds as far as I’ve been able to tell. They aren’t randomly generated. Nor are there natural caves below the surface level. It doesn’t matter what you dig up as you can place any type of block except for TNT right from the beginning. Above ground there is cicada-filled summery background. Below ground and under outcrops the background noise starts to sound like a drafty tunnel with occasional drips from nowhere. Actual music plays only at sunrise (the sun is already in the sky but needs to rise a bit to leave the horizon before it’s counted as “sunrise”).

Finding a number of Artifacts is the only type of actual game built into FortressCraft. This is a type of Marco Polo game where you listen for what was described to me as a “glowing” sound. Once you hear it, you try to find wherever it’s loudest or highest then dig down a bunch. The best thing to do after that is exploit one of the game’s many shortcomings to see through walls. I would block myself in so that I was in a two block high crevasse then place a block in my head space so I could see through the earth to the general direction of the Artifacts.

As usual, having random people able to come into your world to play with your legos is a crap-shoot at best. I got some helpful, some ok non-talkative guys, and a jerk I had to shut the whole world down just to boot out. I wish I could leave all permissions on but with no way to boot a single idiot I can’t recommend doing so to others.

This game has quite a number of faults. The highly vaunted graphics aren’t better than MC’s with the Painterly Pack skinning it. Figuring out what option does what is not easy and many options are gradations on poor vs poorer graphics. Loading someone else’s world takes exceedingly long and if you fall through what I’m calling “the Matrix” you get “eaten by a Grue” which is cute. Attempting to stack blocks under yourself while jumping is problematic because if you clip your feet with a block you cause a minor error where the screen gets staticky and your Avatar is reset to wherever it believes is best. That’s a quick-ish way to get out of a deep mine without the jet-pack but an annoyance at all other times.  Just be sure that if you want to go world hopping that your own personal world is saved on a USB and you play in other people’s worlds on your hard drive or you’ll lose everything you worked so hard to build.

Despite all of the problems with FortessCraft, I still think it’s a Try. You may have to run through the free trial a few times to see if you can accept the difference in controls. Anything approaching MineCraft is impossible to give a fair trial in the allotted 8 minutes. I have played this game much longer than I needed to review it simply because I can play a MC-like game on my console in about 5 seconds rather than having to go to my inconveniently placed PC and get my build-a-world fix done quickly.

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