In the years since Mojang's Minecraft first took the world by storm, many imitators have risen in an attempt to dethrone the king of the creative sandbox genre. While some titles have managed to carve out their little niches within the looming shadow of 2011's juggernaut, none have ever come close to dethroning the reigning champion.
Boundless was first announced in 2014 under the title of Oort Online, and was released on Steam Early Access that November. Now, after four years of continued development, the game is finally available as a complete package for both PC and PlayStation 4, with full cross-play between the two versions. Is Boundless a fully-realized vision of an endless open world of creativity and crafting, or is it just a half-baked Minecraft imitator bound for obscurity?
Upon booting up Boundless, players must create an online account. After navigating a limited character customization screen, they're quickly whisked away into either a Tranquil or a Hostile world, and the adventure begins. Hostile worlds are full of creatures who attack without provocation, which can be a real hassle for new players trying to get their bearings; plus, combat in Boundless isn't exactly compelling, so choosing a Tranquil world, with its generally docile monsters, is arguably the better choice, since it allows the game to play to its strengths: exploration and base-building. Of course, players can eventually travel to other planets and see how the game changes in various biomes.
From the very beginning, players are allowed to do what they want, go where they choose, and create their own adventures. Thankfully, for users who desire a bit more direction, the game features a ton of objectives to complete, each focusing on the game's myriad systems and mechanics. Essentially, these quests function as a guided tutorial which explains the intricate complexities of Boundless without resorting to forcing players to read giant walls of text (though there are a ton of useful text tutorials available in-game). While certainly far short of being a genuine story mode, and many players not interested in the sandbox crafting genre will likely fall off after a dozen hours or so, the "core" quests do a good job of showing the ropes and giving players clear objectives... Besides, a dozen hours of whimsical entertainment is nothing to scoff at.
Ultimately, the quests are just a way to earn in-game currency and facilitate the game's core mechanics, which are on display for any player to find; as a shared-world MMO, the landscape is littered with settlements of varying sizes, from tiny shacks to sprawling fortresses and sky-high towers. Actually running into another player is an infrequent occurrence, but the many plots of land – claimed plots cannot be damaged or altered by devious trolls – litter the landscape, and players can buy and sell items to one another, if they have enough coin to trade. Early on, I came across a large castle, created by another user, which had a set of Golden Hammers for sale at a reasonable price, along with some other gear which was several tiers above what I had currently equipped. Subsequently, chopping down trees, digging tunnels, and mining for resources became much easier, but not at all in a game-breaking way.
Despite its protracted development, Boundless is not without its rough edges, particularly in the visuals department. The Minecraft-inspired voxel art style certainly has its moments, particularly when looking down at vistas from high mountain peaks, but distant structures can look like a glitchy mess until they draw near, as if the level-of-detail system had a meltdown. Meanwhile, water reflections look like shiny glass, though they look much better at nighttime, when distant planets are reflected on the surface. Finally, it's just a quirk of the game engine, but it's inherently silly to destroy the base of a tree, only for the rest of the trunk to just hover in mid-air.
For players with an eye towards creativity and base building, Boundless will easily devour countless hours of their lives. Even Luddites who are intimidated by the vastness of the game's scope and impenetrably deep systems will find themselves helpfully guided by the gargantuan suite of bite-sized objectives. Players of any skill level or experience in the sandbox crafting genre will be able to at least dip their toes and have a jolly swim amid the incredibly deep waters of Boundless.
Boundless is available now for $39.99 for PlayStation 4 and PC. Screen Rant was provided a PS4 copy for review.