It takes a lot of nerve to take on Minecraft at its own game, but little studio Wonderstruck (made up of ex-Lionhead and EA folk) look like they've taken a serious shot at the king with Boundless. It's a massively multiplayer take on the blocky sandbox genre. Controlling brightly coloured alien explorers, players dig, craft, build and fight with critters across multiple planets. Players can band together to form organised towns or cities and even build and maintain costly portals to other worlds, expanding their domain. It's out now after years in early access and the launch trailer is below.
Formerly known as Oort Online many moons ago, Boundless was picked up by Square Enix's 'Collective' indie incubator program. It is now published by the international giant, which should help ensure its servers stay running for the foreseeable future, especially as PC, PS4 and Mac players are sharing this universe. On the subject of servers, each planet is one in Boundless, and last I checked, they were roughly arranged across language lines. You could create a portal to a far off alien world and find it inhabited by people speaking a foreign language, which is neat.
Being an MMO, you're not free to build anywhere you please, at least around player-built civilisation. A currency called Cubits can be used to expand your plot of land, reserved for personal use, and prevent industrious rivals from casually paving over your beautiful lopsided mud shack. Boundless seems slower-paced than Minecraft, too, with a character progression system determining what you can do and build, and the higher tiers of crafting being designed as communal goals - there are no hermit architects, after all. Oh, and in case anyone was worried, there's no PvP.
Boundless is out now for £33/€40/$40 on Steam and Humble. While there is no mandatory subscription, the more expensive Deluxe Edition of the game includes some permanent in-game perks, and an optional "Gleam Club" subscription provides auto-refuelling beacons and more customisation options for your character model and chat text.