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Ace of Spades is much more than just ‘Minecraft with guns’ (hands-on preview)

One by one, the survivors disappeared. I managed to escape to the top of a tower, making sure to blow up pieces of the spiral staircase below me so that the zombies wouldn’t follow. With a couple hundred feet separating me from the bloodbath below, I was confident that I was going to make it out alive.

I was wrong.

Before I knew it, the tower came crashing down. The undead plowed through the building’s foundation in no time, tipping the tower over and scattering hundreds of blocks as I fell. They immediately pounced on my dying corpse, feasting on my cube-shaped organs with glee.

Zombie mode is just one aspect of Ace of Spades, the first-person shooter from developer Jagex that combines Minecraft’s retro aesthetic and creativity with class-based multiplayer. It’s a formula that had already proved successful, when an early prototype of the game came out almost two years ago boasting 300,000 to 500,000 monthly active users.

This version of Ace of Spades will release on PCs via Steam some time in December, with a price — according to Jagex brand director Rob Kinder – “somewhere around the $10 mark.”

Build, build, build

Like Minecraft before it, the environment is free for you to destroy or build as you see fit — except that you have an entire team of people trying to shoot you in the face while you’re doing it. Deciding whether you should dive right into the firefight or carve out a part of the map to hide and sneak through is half the fun.

Every class in the game has an assortment of weapons, at least one tool to dig with, and the ability to instantly place a (still unspecified) finite number of blocks. But some classes are better at building things than others. The Engineer has a landmine that can take out large chunks of the environment along with a spade that knocks out two blocks at a time. The Miner is the weakest class offensively, but his spade takes out a whopping 18 blocks at a time; he also has a tunnel gun (which clears a path in a nine-block radius), and some deadly dynamite (which is ideal for planting in an enemy base).

The two other classes, Soldier and Sniper, each have a lowly pickaxe good for chipping away at the map one block at a time. But with firepower that includes rocket launchers and miniguns, it’s safe to say that they’ll be the ones trying to protect the buildings rather than contribute to their construction.

All of them, though, have access to “Prefabs,” which are larger premade structures unique to each class:.The ones I saw included a raised square-shaped platform, a staircase, and a small bunker. Prefabs let you quickly build a defensive position if the block-by-block method is taking too long. While a level editor won’t be not in the game at launch, Jagex is planning to have one available as soon as possible.

Ace of Spades: lunar map 2

A changing battlefield

With the initial absence of user-created levels, you’ll have to make do with the 10 to 12 (Jagex is still deciding) developer-made maps that come with Ace of Spades. At the preview event, Jagex showed three of them: a Mayan temple map, where a handful of other journalists and I played team deathmatch; a haunted house-themed area for the aforementioned Zombie mode; and another deathmatch on a lunar base, where we had to adjust for the change in gravity.

One of the more interesting things about these maps is that the level of destruction persists through consecutive rounds. By the time we finished surviving against zombies, the house was in shambles, which left us with almost no other places to hide. In the Mayan temple, I attempted to cut off a shortcut between the two main land masses by blowing up the bridge, and it stayed that way until we switched maps. And on the moon, I kept falling into the large underground tunnels created by my fellow teammates.

Communication is key as loosing track of your opponents is really easy when they dig into the environment. If you’re too preoccupied trying to build a work of art, like I was, don’t be surprised if someone knocks it down with a well-placed shot from the rocket launcher. I died rather quickly during each match — with the exception of the undead, it doesn’t take too many bullets to kill one another.

The real satisfaction, though, comes from blowing things up or knocking them down. As I learned in Zombie mode, if you decimate a structure’s foundation, it will topple over. If anything, the destruction teaches you to keep moving whether you’re running above or below the ground. It was absolute chaos with just five players. I’m almost scared to imagine what it’s like when the capacity maxes out at 32.

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