Anna Taylor/Microsoft

Mining fatigue: reflections on the ‘Minecraft’ 1.18 update

As we roll into 2022, Minecraft enthusiasts everywhere will be gearing up for the 1.19 “The Wild” update due to drop this June. The update will feature new ‘Mangrove Swamp’ and ‘Deep Dark’ biomes, the much-anticipated arrival of the hostile mob ‘The Warden’, and a variety of new blocks. Whether you like an action-packed, combat-heavy style of play or prefer a peaceful life of building and farming, there’s something new coming for everyone.

With 1.19 fast approaching, now feels like a good time to reflect on some of the big changes we’ve already seen in the game over the last year. Have the changes and additions of the long-awaited 1.18 “Caves and Cliffs” update changed the way we play as significantly as they were anticipated to? 

 

Most players can relate to the frustration of going for your first mining session, tediously tracking down enough iron to make full armour and weapons, only to fall back down a ravine or get lost in a cave and starve to death.

 

Released in two parts across 2021, the Caves and Cliffs update added multiple new mobs, a new set of blocks, and completely remodelled cave and cliff generation. For builders like me, the new biome aesthetics have made for hours of fun redecorating established builds with glow-berry vines and amethyst clusters or updating my gardens with azalea bushes and moss carpet.

The new mobs are fun, if practically useless. Axolotls make charming pets (and look adorable in their little buckets). Goats add something to the previously barren cliff landscape but are ultimately useless (…at least llamas drop leather…). Glow squids are pleasantly mesmerising, with glow ink finally making dark wood signs legible, even if it causes intense lag. They’re not the menacing boss mob we were promised, but they’re a fun distraction until 1.19 drops.

Perhaps the most significant change, however, is the mining experience. Most players can relate to the frustration of going for your first mining session, tediously tracking down enough iron to make full armour and weapons, only to fall back down a ravine or get lost in a cave and starve to death. There’s nothing quite as depressing as watching everything you own spill out onto the ground, floating in that liminal space between the champion you could have been and your sad little avatar standing naked and alone at spawn again.

 

What’s not so fun is finally emerging from the darkness, climbing towards the sweet glow of natural daylight, only to realise you’re at the wrong cave entrance and be promptly shot by 12 skeletons at once.

 

Now I’ve been known to give rescue missions a go in the past. You remember the cave entrance? You were smart with your torch placement? Zip-zoom to the remnants of your fatal accident, those precious diamonds might just still be there. Post-1.18, though? Godspeed if you want to try.

The new cave set-up, while grand and awe-inspiring in comparison to the standard caves we’ve had for so long, is nigh-on-impossible for a casual player like myself to navigate. While I wish I could parkour and fight with the best of them, I’m about as coordinated in Minecraft as I am in real life: I’ve just about mastered cliff-edges, hostile mobs, and flowing lava in isolation from each other. Post-1.18 I seem to be up against all three at once, plus an extended drop descending down a negative y-axis into a labyrinth of cavernous atriums, darkened into perpetual shadow by the new deepslate surroundings and sheer distance from the surface.

These huge cave systems were exciting for approximately one (1) hot second. The multiple entrances, variety of textures and surprise amethyst geodes make for some fun exploration sessions – if you’re mining for the sake of it, it’s a riot. What’s not so fun is finally emerging from the darkness, climbing towards the sweet glow of natural daylight, only to realise you’re at the wrong cave entrance and be promptly shot by 12 skeletons at once.

 

The thrill of these gargantuan cave systems is starting to morph into dread at the thought of facing the belly of the beast again, after yet another embarrassing fall to my death.

 

This would be fine normally: it comes with the territory of playing survival Minecraft. If mining was easy then what would the point of the game be? The frustration comes with the changed nature of the mining trips. They’re longer: the cave systems are massive and often take 10 years to extract yourself from. They’re darker: deepslate camouflages almost everything, including the coal you need for torches to un-camouflage the deepslate (also, where did all the coal go? I didn’t mean what I said, coal, please come back). The thrill of these gargantuan cave systems is starting to morph into dread at the thought of facing the belly of the beast again, after yet another embarrassing fall to my death. Sometimes you just want to get in, get full iron armour, get out and build a house, and for that, 1.18 has not, in fact, been the vibe. 

Mining fatigue is real, y’all.

Time to switch on /gamemode c…I didn’t want achievements anyway…

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