I have been thinking of trying Minecraft. I would like to know if Minecraft allows you to play with an isometric, top down view instead of the cumbersome first person view?
As stated in comments and other answers, this is really not possible without mods. However third-person view does provide a wider perspective, though clearly this is not on the scale you are looking for.
The multi-level and vast terrain that this game offers is far too complex for an isometric view to be considered "usable" in Minecraft. Even in third person, it can be sometimes tricky to get the same view that first person provides.
The difference between games like Sims/Sim City and Minecraft is the in the Sims game you are very much third party, making other people do things, whereas in Minecraft, it very much is a first-person interactive game. You are the one digging, and exploring and farming, not a Sim. It's a more personal experience in that sense.