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The Aether

Author: Aether Team
Released: July 23rd 2011
Download: Here

Introduction
Create a portal using glowstone, activate it with a bucket of water and prepare to explore a brand new world upon stepping through. This dimension takes place above the clouds, a complete opposite theme compared to the Nether. However, don’t be fooled by the looks of the place as these lands are just as dangerous. Exploration and adventure are the key goals here, with new mobs, ores and recipes to discover, along with dungeon bosses to defeat and reap unique rewards from.

Sidenote
Before I get started, I would like to note that this review was written based off my experience through version 1.01, while additional notes from a quick run through 1.02 can be found toward the end. I would also like to take this chance to note that I will not be reviewing every update that is released. This will be the same case for all possible future reviews of other Minecraft mods. All technical problems are to be referred to the linked forum thread.

Review (v1.01)
Now that I have got that out of the way, lets get down to it. Upon taking my first step through the portal and into the Aether, I was greeted with a giant snowball being thrown in my face by a Zephyr. Well besides from that, I was introduced to a lovely sight of various floating islands and clouds surrounding the area, large Aer Whales soaring across the sky, Moa roaming around in groups, sheep puffing themselves to be lifted up into the air, and a pleasant colour scheme all round which just screams a unique and refreshing change from the overworld. Exploring this new world will reveal so much on offer, making the nether feel that much more underwhelming than is already is. Not that I particularly dislike the nether as a world, it has that threatening atmosphere about it, but there’s not much to do there and little incentive to explore. The only possible useful thing is the materials for building and a good source for lava and mushrooms. The Aether is packed with many things to keep you involved, including a variety of new blocks for those who like building, new crafting recipes for useful tools and best of all, the dungeons.

Visually, the Aether has definitely been approached well in order to set in that heavenly and dreamlike aura while not appearing too overdone. The colour choice comes across as mystical and I absolutely love those mint-like blues and greens which several elements follow, like the grass and dirt. This colour scheme remains consistent throughout the world, using many soft tones and rarely using anything too harsh or sharp. Textures on the other hand are satisfying with enough detail to get across what they represent, my personal favourites being the pillar and carved stone blocks. There is plenty to see wherever you choose to go, especially while soaring through the skies with solid clouds scattered about and Aer Whales passing by. It is a shame they get stuck on the terrain however. Spending enough time within the Aether has actually caused myself to feel down every time I need to return to the surface world, wishing to return as soon as possible. These days I spend a lot more time above the clouds in singleplayer than on the surface.

Though I must stress that the visuals aren’t the only aspect which evokes mood in this realm, there’s a good chunk of atmosphere to be found and that can come a lot from the use of new sounds and mobs. Aer Whales and Moa both make a soothing sounds as they cry out while passing by, or the whooshing of the snowballs coming from the Zephyrs, though this may get a bit old fast for some. Simply being in the Aether has it’s own feel compared to the other worlds, which I see as an accomplishment. While the Nether can feel tense and dangerous, there’s still something missing from that place to truly feel threatening yet worth visiting. The Aether is different and despite being dreamlike, it can have it’s own share of creepiness along with personal goals you can aim to achieve. There’s more reason to explore in order to find new ores like, Zanite and Gravite, or even special loot only found in Dungeons. This hunting can speed up upon finding a flying Phyg or perhaps after breeding a Moa from an egg. There’s much to be discovered which will only help you survive in this world. I really like using a mix of blue and white aer clouds early in my experience in order to jump great heights and reach those tough spots. Quicksoil may have it’s uses for fast travel, perhaps even more so down on the surface world, however getting some of it may be a death wish as it hangs right at the edge. Once I tried a combination of quicksoil and blue aercloud for a good running jump to the next island. I found my broken body back on the surface world instead. I also love the pillar and pillar top blocks from a design standpoint, I’ve always felt making good looking pillars in Minecraft wasn’t easy, while these textures just work wonders. Even the top side is unique, appearing like a tile which can work for other building aesthetic purposes.

This new world wouldn’t be complete without several new mobs to really give the place another boost of distinction, which mostly revolve around creatures that can float or fly. Those much underused slimes make a return too, referred to as Swets in the Aether, providing three new types which will drop blocks according to their appearance. The most useful are perhaps the Gold Swets for glowstone as a means to create a portals back to the surface world wherever you please. The most bizarre type are Swets protecting the bronze dungeons, covered in a rune like texture instead of the usual transparency. And let’s not forget their tendency to explode upon contact. The birds of these plains, Moa come in four kinds. Three of these are passive while one kind are deadly. The darker coloured ones shoot poisonous arrows toward you as a welcome gift, causing a steady loss in health every few moments, faded vision and distorted movement as if drunk. This can be painful if you don’t have some food handy, or worse, close to an edge where the danger in falling will be much higher due to the random nature. Passive Moa come in blue, white and black varieties with a possible chance in finding an egg to grab. Incubating this and raising it will give you a potential buddy to soar the skies with, something I have yet to do. Aer Whales appear to be mostly for the scenery and don’t seem to get hurt or drop anything. Zephyrs are perhaps the most annoying creature, shooting giant snowballs that push you back like a great rush of wind. Sometimes this can happen too often and even worse when many of them are doing this at one time, only causing annoyance more than being a hazard, especially when you’re trying to make an outpost or chopping down a tree.

Dungeons in the Aether are not simply hollowed out cobblestone rooms with a mob spawner and the occasional rare items as on the surface world, here they are a whole other matter, actual places worth visiting and a boss waiting to be defeated with rewards waiting. Since there are three stages of dungeons; bronze, silver and gold, this allows for some diversity with their own distinctive feel between them. Each one is easily defined by their colour scheme and surroundings. Bronze dungeons are grey with rune-like Swets guarding the rooms up to the boss room. The silver dungeons are the most obvious and good looking type out of them all, big temples hovering in the distance with white pillars and a pointed roof which bring a mystical air about them while Valkyries roam it’s halls, mocking you for being a weak human. That’s where you will be proving them wrong. The Gold dungeon are easily defined by the shape of the island it resides, only tempting the player to check it out. The boss gives off a sense of dread simply from his powerful presense, as if this place is not meant to be tread into by anyone. Defeating this one may be really satisfying but I’ve yet to even get past a silver dungeon. Bosses have a large amount of hit points, so the battle will last a while and there is no escape until either one of you has fallen. Upon beating any of these bosses, you will be rewarded with a key to a chest filled with goodies which you wouldn’t find anywhere else, adding a reason to keep going back and fighting other bosses you find around the world a second or third time to reap any new rewards.

Of course, the journey can be approached as you please at your own pace much like in the regular game. As mentioned already, I rarely every go back to the surface world anymore and spend a majority of my singleplayer experience above the clouds. There’s much I have yet to discover and at the time of writing this, I still need to beat a silver boss and find any Gravite ore. Jumping between islands and clouds with the flying Phygs can be a lot of fun alone and upon do so I’ve come across several interconnected bronze dungeons. In one small area I have come across more than ten of them and in some cases, corridors even cut through the boss room. And I love instances like this, since the bronze boss will break any blocks it collides into to prevent you from trapping it. When a situation like this came about, I lured one outside of its room and into another boss room to challenge myself in fighting two at a time and seeing the carnage it can cause if it gets into the open to chase me. Hopefully one day I can find a chance to fight 3 or more at a time to really drive the difficulty.

v1.02
During the writing of this review, there was a new update released and I’ve given it a short session to check out the new features and changes. New mobs such as flying cows and Aer Bunnies have been added to provide a means to get the materials to make saddles without the need to return through the portal. Aesthetically they work well and the variety helps even more. Twisters are also another nice addition visually, a simple hazard based mob which will fling you in a random direction if it gets hold of you, which may annoy some but aren’t commonly found. I’ve also noticed an increase in the spawn rate for flying phygs and cows, allowing me to restock my transportation much sooner than I had to before this update. World generation has been modified for the terrain, decoration and slight tweaks to dungeons. In the sky now holds blue and gold aerclouds amongst the white, while on land there are now some white and purple flowers scattered around. Dungeons also no longer hold books and a few other block types, tightening the contents to be more useful for the player including one new rewards for bronze dungeons, and three new items for silver. Bosses now have a health gauge, which I have mixed feelings about. While useful, it can break some of the immersion being the only place to showcase hitpoints other than your own. A good aspect of Minecraft is discovering what works well and the best way to tackle situations, which includes fighting enemies. But this update shows the team is willing to provide support and introduce new things. Maybe one day there will be more enemies to face and possibly a platinum dungeon. Only time will tell.

Conclusion
There’s lots of incentive to explore and adventure in this new world to seek out unique treasures while fighting tough dungeon bosses. The land is rich with detail, visually appealling and offers much in the chosen theme. I keep coming back for more, slowly discovering stuff I had yet to find. Worth checking out as an expansion to your Minecraft experience, especially if grown tired of the regular game.

Version Reviewed: 1.01
Minecraft Version: Beta 1.7.3

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