Guncraft – PC
Publisher: Reverb Publishing
Developer: Exato Games Studio
Release Date: Aug 9, 2013
Genre: Action
Reviewed by Arend Hart

Review Score: 4 of 5

Who would have ever thought that in an age of 3D high-definition big-budget gaming, that the world of gaming would be all but taken over by a low-budget block-building title with no clearly defined mission objectives, and pixelated graphics that put it roughly on par with Wolfenstein circa 1992?

But that is exactly what has happened, and here we are in 2013, and Swedish publisher Mojang’s Minecraft has pretty much taken over the gaming industry for the past 24 months. And if it isn’t the Minecraft that has the kids reeling, it’s one of the numerous clones (Castle Miner Z, FortressCraft, etc.) that are getting attention for one reason or another. As a result of the glut of Minecraft-inspired games already on the market – each new title needs a catch, a gimmick as it were, to separate itself from the crowd. Hence we have Guncraft from Exato games, currently available on Steam for $15.

Guncraft’s gimmick is obvious – it allows gamers to craft their own guns using the game’s Minecraft-inspired building blocks. Gamers can then use these weapons in multiplayer battles fought in arenas built completely using the in-game tools against players also built using the in-game tools. While we have certainly seen our fair share of “Minecraft with guns” releases over the past 2 years, few of the knockoffs have taken the world-building goodness to this degree and resulted in such an enjoyable experience as Guncraft.

For the handful of folks who have not yet seen a Minecraft-inspired title in action – get ready for a huge shock, because the visuals are downright atrocious compared to modern-day standards. Nearly the entire world is built using rectangular block-shaped polygons that gamers stack and arrange into primitive structures modestly resembling houses, buildings, factories, or landscapes. There is usually an overarching objective to mine into the ground and discover increasingly rare materials for use in further building, but that pretty much sums up the core gameplay.

As mentioned, Guncraft takes the Minecraft formula a few leaps forward by incorporating surprisingly well-developed first-person shooter (FPS) elements amongst the traditional user-generated arenas. The result is like a modern-day version of first-gen FPS titles like Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, with a feature-rich level and gun editor thrown in to boot.

The gunplay is enjoyably fast and fluid given the intentionally rough quality of the visuals. The level building is on par with what the typical gamer would come to inspect from a Minecraft-inspired game, although there are a few new additions that allow Guncraft to rise above the rest of the pack.
For instance, gamers have the ability to build and store pre-manufactured structures that can be generated instantly during gameplay – that is, as long as the gamer mines the correct amount of required building materials along the way. This adds a frenetic spin to the gameplay as gamers madly collect materials amid the gunfire, simply to have their wild creations appear on the battlefield.

If that were not cool enough on its own, the inclusion of vehicles and rocket packs really tends to make things interesting. Gamers can fly helicopters, tanks, even Star Wars inspired hoverbikes. It is all great fun, especially considering the ever-changing landscape that comes as a result of the fully-destructible (and rebuildable) environments. Visually, Guncraft is decidedly better looking than Minecraft with more detailed textures and surface shading; it does a much better job of emulating the various building materials. The cubes are still as blocky and cumbersome as ever, but the surfaces appear infinitely less pixelated.

It would be an epic fail to not talk about Guncraft’s amazing weapons creation mode, Gunsmithing, which works similar to the standard block stacking of the core game. In Gunsmithing, gamers are transported to large empty build area where they stack cubes about an arrow defining the firing direction. Once the initial blocks are laid out, gamers are free to determine the gun’s properties. Building outlandish weaponry is great fun, and the game does a pretty good job maintaining a balance between opponents and their weaponry.

Gameplay is not relegated simply to the standard multiplayer fare of deathmatch and capture-the-flag variants – Guncraft actually comes to the table with brand new twists in the two “Survival” modes; Lava Survival and Meteor Survival. In these modes, gamers must perform their fare while either being bombed by burning meters dropping indiscriminately from space, or by trying to reach high ground to avoid the ever-rising lava. In both modes, gamers are encouraged to sabotage their opponents by impeding their own escape.

The two Survival modes alone are worth the price of admission, but Guncraft’s greatest value for its mere $15 price tag is the veritably endless gameplay that can be enjoyed in building and creating for mass consumption from an active community of gamers. Like the PS3’s Little Big Planet series, the user created content was slow to get moving, but is now quickly overshadowing the developers’ packed-in fare.

Guncraft’s user community is growing, and with it the unique user-created levels and accessories. The more folks discover within the game, the more these tips, tricks, and hacks have been appearing on the web to be employed and enjoyed by others. It is really amazing what some users have been able to create given the relatively primitive toolset – and the fact that gamers can leverage much of their Minecraft skills over to Guncraft is bound to result in exponential growth in user technology.

I am excited to see what users will be able to come up with over the next few months.