There are lots and lots of Minecraft-inspired games on the XBLIG channel these days (and, in fairness, Minecraft itself was inspired by Dwarf Fortress). Most I haven’t reviewed, as they’ve added almost nothing to the formula, but a few warranted mention and/or review. “FortressCraft” started the trend, and almost immediately became the best-selling XBLIG to that date. “Total Miner: Forge” added more game to the proceedings than its predecessors (which were little more than construction kits), arguably owing more to “Miner Dig Deep” than they did Minecraft. “Lootfest: Live Design” innovated by feeling more like the Atari classic Rampart than a Minecraft game. “Murder Miners” made the review cut because it kept the block building but turned it into an innovative FPS (including the ability to build during matches, such as putting up impromptu cover to hide behind or launch a sneak attack from), and that was despite the game being released in an unabashedly alpha state (meaning, not all features yet implemented, let alone fully bug-tested).
All that brings us to “Xenominer”. What does it add that its predecessors didn’t? Read on.
“Xenominer” helps really create the feel of exploring an alien world. Yes you can modify it a block at a time, but there’s more here. You need to watch your energy, and radiation, and your oxygen levels, for instance. Since you’re (if you’ll forgive the Star Trek term) not on a class M planet, staying outside too long and risking asphyxiation is an interesting gameplay twist.
The blocky graphics work well at creating the sense of an alien world (better than they do at recreating an Earth-like experience, if you ask me). There’s equipment here, and the ability to upgrade them. Tired of doing all the dirty work yourself? Then programme bots to build for you, to your specifications. Planetary bodies in the distance add to atmosphere, and if you tire of your current environs you’re free to build a spaceship and simply fly to another locale. The game has received three content updates in its first four months, but is still adding key features (such as multiplayer). It’s 80 Microsoft Points for now, but with the apparent intention to increase (to 240 MSP, or 400 points?) once more features are implemented. For all those reasons and more, it’s worth grabbing now. That may be the space opera fan in me speaking, though.
Here’s what the developer (Gristmill Studios) has to say about the game:
“Limited Time Sale: 80 MSP! This is the third update in four months. Multiplayer is coming next. Finally a voxel sandbox game in a sci-fi setting. Features fully scriptable autonomous bots, an intense lunar survival theme, an AI companion, futuristic tools and tech, a growing community and more updates to come.”