So far I've been observing the phenomenon from a distance - partly because I assumed that (like most games) it wouldn't run on my aging, GPU-less Mac Mini, and partly because I assumed that (like its fellow one-man indie mining simgame Dwarf Fortress) its primary appeal was to a small, super-hardcore player base.
I have discovered that I was wrong on both counts.
And I can confirm that, holy crap, this game is addictive.
It's a game best summarized as "action Legos." You run around its low-res, procedurally generated world; bootstrap yourself from naked tree-punching into a huge array of tools, armor, and weapons; and then move beyond basic survival into large-scale construction, all while fighting off various hazards to life and property.
And starting fires for fun.
("I went to your house last night, Dad called me the human torch.
Got a little pissed at him, so I burned down your front porch ...")
The moment that I really realized the full potential of the game was shortly after starting my first world. My spawn point was almost literally within line of sight of a cave with a vein of coal at the entrance (coal is one of the most critical early resources - you need it to craft torches so that you can clear territory and prevent monster spawns). The cave itself went deep into the earth. Once I crafted some basic tools and a stack of torches, I decided to descend and investigate it ...
... and that single cavern went all the way from sea level to bedrock, sprawled out over an area the size of several city blocks.
It took me two days to explore the cavern. I had to make base camps. I set up a workbench and furnace in a safe room in "Camp Alpha" (elevation -26m), and a second set in "Camp Beta" (elev. -51m), overlooking a scenic (and oh-so-bright) lava sea.
The entire time, I would be advancing from light into darkness - amid the moaning of zombies, the chittering of spiders, the twang of skeletal archers firing nigh-invisible missiles, and the occasional panic-inducing "SSSSSssssss" - dashing forward to plant a torch (they don't illuminate until you do), running back to a semi-defensible position while switching tools to my sword, and fighting off the bad guys. Occasionally, I'd stumble through a gap in the ground and fall to a deeper part of the cave, at which point I would engage in a mad orgy of torch-placing as I sprinted in the general direction of Away, hoping to find (or dig) a passage back to the relative safety of my methodically cleared areas before the monsters wiped out my fall-damage-drained life bar.
It was two days of lo-rez Diablo.
That was more than worth the €10 (about $13.50) that I paid for it. And that's not even scratching the surface of the construction midgame/endgame (like the lighthouse I built with the 100-foot-tall diving board at the top), or the nail-biting sniping battles with ghasts in The Nether.
If you want to buy this indie game, now is the time. On Dec. 20, the game is officially going from Alpha into Beta, and the price is going up. Anyone who pays for it before then has been promised free updates for the life of the product.
I've also got a gift code for a free account, and I'm going to be offering it to one of you guys in a day or two. Details to follow in a subsequent post. :)