By Quintin Smith on April 13th, 2011 at 2:35 pm.
Have I got your attention? Then I’ll begin. Ace of Spades is a freeware, multiplayer Minecraft-alike that takes Minecraft’s cuboid building mechanics and drapes a World War 1 setting on top of it, with the end result being a huge, immersive, dynamic game of capture the flag.
On the one hand, you’ve got two teams of sixteen exchanging rifle fire and grenades, trying to push forward and outflank one another. On the other hand, both teams are trying to improve their position by building bunkers, bridges and tunnels. If you want to give it a shot you’ll find the game here and a guide to playing it here. If not, then I’ve assembled ten reasons why you should reconsider your position after the jump. I want to stand up and high-five RPS reader David Lake for sending this in, but alas, this is the internet. What a shame.
(1) It quietly one-ups Minecraft by having rudimentary physics. In the above picture you can see a guy building a bridge between two opposed mountain sides. As I watched him and another guy go about this commendable task, some griefer ran up and used his pickaxe to remove the first two blocks of the bridge, sending the entire thing and both players crashing into the river below. You will notice I am holding a pickaxe in the picture. IT WASN’T ME. Dammit.
(2) Building is flexible without being open to abuse. You have a limited number of blocks you can put down with each life, so your constructions must be thoughtful, yet you can change the colour of whatever blocks you put down so that foxholes, trenches and shelters can be camoflaged. Equally, you can mark enemy emplacements with lipstick-red cubes.
(3) The tunnels are nauseatingly claustrophobic. Minecraft often brings about a sense of claustrophobia, sure, but it’s that much worse here because you’re constantly terrified of getting shot or blown up and you can’t move in tunnels. Also, there’s something indescribably grim about them. They’re not built for comfort.
As I was running through the tunnel you see above I fell straight down a one-cube pit that had been dug by some saboteur on the opposing team. Digging myself out took about 30 seconds. It was among the most disturbing feelings I’ve ever encountered in a game.
(4) Combat is more akin to Red Orchestra than anything else. The range of your rifle is enormous and headshots kill instantly, and the effects of this are both far-reaching and awesome.
You get players advancing towards the enemy from behind hills, sniping from high ground and forming proper front-lines where groups of opposing players hunker down about 150 metres away from one another. The most exciting moment I had playing Ace of Spades this morning was running up to the crest of a hill only to find four of my team-mates crouching behind scrub and rock on the same side as me, occasionally standing up to send a bullet in the rough direction of a group of enemies. At the same time, I could hear the distant sound of return rifle and see tracer rounds flying overhead. It was perfect.
All this said, shots to the body are a different matter. Since it takes several of those to kill you, the game still has plenty of room for ludicrous duels wherein two of you will be playing cat and mouse, chasing one another up and over hillocks, along gulches and through tunnels, until one of you gets in that one lucky shot. It’s so much fun.
(5) Your grenades rip tiny craters in the landscape, and a few grenades in the same place will create a functional ditch for you to cower in like the
coward wise and cautious soldier you are. Since all cubes are equal in terms of destructibility, this of course means you can blow holes in enemy constructions, or theoretically level them.
(6) One of the items you carry is a spade. This makes the game’s title, Ace of Spades, a pun.
(7) Hitting “M” brings up a real-time map, from which all of your team-mates and everybody’s constructions are visible.
(8) A quirk of the game’s voxel rendering engine means that if you look down and try and move, the world begins warping around your feet in something akin to the hallucination caused by sniffing some 400 marker pens in succession.
(9) The half-finished and destroyed constructions litter the landscape both give the map a miserable kind of beauty and make it a rewarding place to play in. You’re not just sheltering behind some scrap of cover, you’re sheltering behind something someone started building. What had he planned? Why did he stop? Probably because he was shot, and- wait. You’re standing in exactly the same pl– *bang*
(10) This game only came out a week ago and is still in beta 0.22. The thought of what it could become, with artillery pieces and sniper rifles and barbed wire and God knows what else just boggles the mind. But if you start playing it now, you’ll be able to say you played it before it was cool.
Want to get involved? Of course you do. The official, awesomely bare-bones site’s here, and this excellent guide should answer all of your questions. The game currently lacks servers and griefing is pretty endemic, but I didn’t have too much trouble finding alright servers, and even found one excellent one. PC gamers? Get gaming.
EDIT: If you’re having trouble connecting or getting a grey screen or a directdraw error, check the guide above. It covers all of that.