Minecraft is probably one of the biggest indie games out there, and one that almost everyone knows of. It has captured the attention of many players, and even developers are either inspired by it, or just develop for it. One of these developers, Azanor, has come up with an amazing mod known as Thaumcraft, combining magic and science with a complex research system. Through this article I will be reviewing the mod, and giving opinions from a game development point of view.
The interfaces in Thaumcraft are some main of the highlights of the mod. Instead of just using the simple interfaces of vanilla Minecraft, it uses detailed interfaces representing what is being used. One of the main interfaces for the mod, the Thaumonomicon, holds all of your research, and gives all the information needed to play through the mod. It is like an in game wiki, without the spoilers. The mod also adds to the GUI of Minecraft at some points. While holding a wand, the wand’s charge is displayed above your hunger bar. While wearing one of the headgear in the mod, you are able to see more details on the local magic energies, as well as see floating indicators above your Crucible as to what you have put into it. As much as the interfaces themselves are quite complex looking, they are still quite simple, and only contain what is needed for their function.
Gameplay in the mod begins once the player has obtained gold. Using a gold nugget, a stick, and any of the mod’s crystal shards, you can make your first wand. Pointing the wand at a bookcase will create your Thaumonomicon. From there on, the Thaumonomicon will guide the player on how to move forward. Long story short, you need to do research. Items have aspects, and by researching these aspects, you can unlock new recipes, and at the same time new research. At first glance the research appears quite linear and simple, but a large amount of the research does not appear by default, and will only show once you have discovered them. The research and aspects are used to control progression through the mod, and is balanced around vanilla progression. The mod is extremely unique compared to most others, and has new and interesting mechanics to add to the game.
Although not a usual focus, I think a good thing to point out about Thaumcraft is it’s appearance. Minecraft by default uses 16×16 textures, which works well for it’s aesthetic, but for some things this causes lost detail. To make up for this, Azanor has added some 32×32 textures that add the extra detail, and make some of the items look much more important. For instance, the Thaumonomicon has a high detail sprite, which makes the book stand out compared to others. Even without this, however, the 16×16 sprites are well done, and work well with the vanilla game.
A lot of new world generation is added with the mod to help compliment it’s other features. There are multiple new rare trees and plants with hard to get aspects. There are also new structures such as dungeons, totems, and other things to find, each usually influenced by the local magic. Speaking of magic, there are Aura Nodes created around the world, although these are invisible without the help of magical tools you research. These nodes are the source of your wands power, and can later on be created, moved and merged to better your experimenting.
Thaumcraft adds a whole new layer to the item system, in the form of aspects. Each item is given different aspects representing what that item is. These aspects are used for research, as well as for creating new items, after cooking the aspects out of your items with a Crucible. Although there is a very large amount of these aspects, which can be overwhelming to players new to the mod, the large amount makes adventuring for new items more interesting and rewarding when hunting for specific aspects. The mod also adds the research system, which prevents you from using recipes you haven’t learned yet, as well as multiple new methods of crafting using magic. There are plenty of new items and tools to use with the mod, adding many more options for players as they progress.
Many of the features of the mod are unique, but the most interesting is possibly the golems. In the second tier of the research tree, you are able to create small helpers to do your bidding. Their behaviour and usage is based on their material, but they can do anything from collecting and moving items around for you, to attacking animals and monsters. They add a unique way to automate your base without requiring fancy piping systems or complex machines. They are also cute little things, and can be dressed up if you research the equipment for them. They can even be customized to your liking using different cores, which can change their view distance, strength, customizability, and other traits.
As for suggestions, the mod could probably have a few changes. Many players want less aspects, which I understand, but I like the system the way it is currently as it encourages exploration and experimenting. I actually think it would be better if you had to research items to figure out what aspects they have, instead of being able to know them right away. In that case, a fake “none” aspect would probably be needed, to indicate if an item doesn’t have any. Also, one of the recipes never quite made sense to me, the Thaumometer requires a water shard; it should be any shard. There should also be more interesting devices to use the golems with. A magical crafting machine to make a golem-run factory, or some way for golems to interact with nodes to help maintain them for you. Another common request is for some of the old features of the mod to be returned. Special “tainted” biomes with unique aspects, magic symbols placeable on walls for various effects, and teleportation. Adding forge liquids for the liquid aspects would be interesting, and allow for the transport of large amounts of aspects with mods like Buildcraft and thermal expansion. A custom “Thaumic Node” could be made for the pipes, in line with the older versions of Thaumcraft, to allow the liquid aspects to be used from the piping system. Lastly, mobs. There isn’t much magical threats in the world any more, I miss seeing Thaumic Slimes and tons of Wisps everywhere.
Thaumcraft is a large mod, and has gained huge popularity, becoming one of the biggest and best mods for Minecraft. Anyone who is bored with vanilla gameplay could benefit from adding the mod to their game. With the addition of an API, I expect to see much more from both Azanor and others who wish to add on to the experience. Next up is a jump in the other direction, Tinkerer’s Construct, a mod focused on creating custom equipment piece by piece instead of in the crafting grid.