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The 7 best changes in Minecraft's biggest update ever

Minecraft’s Village & Pillage update is one of the biggest the game has had. It overhauls how villages work, adds a host of new blocks, and brings a brand new raid system that acts as a high-level combat encounter. You can read about every single new addition here, bugfixes and all, but in the interest of brevity I’ve picked seven new additions that are especially cool. I say ‘seven’, but few of are loads of different things crammed together under a loose heading. I promise it’s still quicker than reading the entire changelog. Are you ready to block? *tumbleweeds*

1. Bamboo

We’ll ease in with something wholesome. Bamboo, the most hipster of all the grasses, is one of the big new additions. No longer the just the preserve of self-congratulatory oral hygiene enthusiasts, bamboo is a useful addition that can be found in jungles and in two new biomes: bamboo jungle and bamboo jungle hills. There are a few reasons it’s great. Firstly, you can chop it down instantly by hitting it with a sword, which is perfect for anyone who’s ever wanted to pretend they’re in a voxel-based martial arts epic. And secondly, it can be combined with string to make scaffolding: a quick, easily destructible building aid you can use to clamber around your mighty constructions. 

Why is scaffolding so good? Blocks cling to each other. This means that if you destroy the bottom block, the whole lot comes tumbling down—handy for quickly dismantling an entire tower. And it’s a safe, easy way to climb, too. Jump while standing inside the block to ascend, sneak to descend. 

2. New mobs

There are loads of new mobs in the update. The pillagers are interesting enough to get their own entry, so this one, if I’m honest, is the ‘pandas and some other animals’ entry. These stout, pointless bears have different personality types: lazy, worried, playful, aggressive, and so on. You can tell what type they are from their appearance, and, more adorably, their behaviour. Lazy pandas lay about on their backs; playful pandas roll; and worried pandas have panic attacks during thunderstorms. It sounds like I’ve made that up. I haven’t. 

Stray cats are another new addition. They’re distinct from ocelots, which can no longer be tamed. Just like the real thing, they’ll sleep on your bed, bring you ‘gifts’ in the morning like chicken and rotting flesh—thanks, cat!—and scare away phantoms by hissing at them. Canines also get some love: tamed dogs will now attack mobs you shoot with projectiles, like you’re a hunter in World of Warcraft. And foxes are in, too. Basically dogs, but roguish. 

Finally, there’s the Ravager. This massively powerful hostile mob has 50 hearts and looks the offspring of an angry table that’s had sex with a bull. Terrifying.

3. Villages

As the name suggests, this is one of the biggest tweaks in the newest update. Everything about the way villages are generated has changed, as has the way that you’ll interact with them as a player. The aesthetics of each village now change depending on the biome: climate and available resources make a difference. They’re also generated differently, meaning the layout and architecture has been updated. And the villagers themselves look distinct now, too, with designs that match the type of biome they were born/randomly generated in. 

The biggest surprise, however, is with professions. Villagers now learn skills from point of interest blocks we’ll look at it later entry, but right now all you need to know is that villager can learn trades like butcher, blacksmith, or librarian. They even have a routine: they’ll go to bed, work, and meet up with other residents to gossip.

Oh, and baby villagers now play tag. Cute!

4. Raids

What’s a pillager without somewhere to pillage? Just a human man. The new update makes a lot of this new type of villager, and they really do change the game. Pillagers spawn in patrols across the world and in large outpost towers. If you kill a pillager captain—the guys with banners on their backs—you’ll get flagged with the ‘bad omen’ debuff. While this is active, you’ll trigger a raid when you enter a village. The level of the raid stacks, too, so things can get exponentially worse for the poor chumps living there. 

Once the raid begins, the village will get attacked by waves of enemies: pillagers, standard villagers, witches, and so on. If you manage to beat off all the attackers, you’re treated to a firework display and a new effect, called Hero of the Village. This lowers the price of trades and causes villagers to occasionally throw items at you. Exactly which items depends on the villager’s profession: butchers, for example, will throw meat at you. An unconventional way of saying thank you, admittedly, but then it is your fault that the hordes arrived. Perhaps you deserve that chop to the head.

5. Crossbows

Forget bows—the crossbow is officially the coolest way to shoot enemies while running away. And thanks to the update, the pillagers in Minecraft come armed with the best weapon ever to be removed from the Elder Scrolls games. Crossbows have higher damage than bows and are used differently. They have a separate loading phase, and once loaded, will fire immediately. You can also use them to shoot fireworks, which is danger multiplied by two, you lunatic.

Crossbows can also be enchanted for some handy effects. They can pierce multiple enemies, reload faster, or fire three arrows at once like a medieval shotgun.

Fun fact: in 1139, Pope Innocent II banned the use of crossbows against Christians. At least, that’s what Total War told me. 

6. Traders

As well as increased trade options in villagers, the update brings a wandering trader. One of these sharply dressed salesman will pop up in every world, up to three chunks away from the player. They have six random trades, which are locked after you interact with them.

Wandering traders stay safe by drinking potions of invisibility at night. They’re still there, and you can still trade with them, but good luck finding them. They’re also flanked by two llamas, which provide an extra level of disgusting protection by spitting at hostile mobs. 

7. New blocks

Finally, we’ve got all those lovely new blocks. There are too many to go through individually—again, I’ll refer you to this handy list—but we’ll look at the most interesting ones.

Job site blocks are the most important change. These spawn in villages, and will assign trades to jobless villagers who interact with them. The smoker block, for example, will turn a villager into a butcher. You can also interact with most of these new blocks when crafting. Smokers, cook food twice as fast as furnaces, for instance (unlike actual smoking, which takes longer than a game of Neptune's Pride). Of the new job site blocks, only the smithing table and the fletching table don’t do anything yet—that’ll come in the next update.

Other nice additions include the campfire: not only is it a cosy light source, perfect for telling ghost stories, but it also prevents flames from spreading—useful if you’ve ever torched your house trying to install a feature fireplace. You can also use it to cook up to four pieces of food. It takes three times longer than a furnace, but who needs free time when you’re so rugged? Campfires also create smoke pillars, reaching around 22 blocks up. Light one in a mesa biome and pretend you’re in a Sergio Leone film. 

And finally, we’ve got the bell. You can right click these or shoot them to warn villagers of impending danger, and they’ll run inside and hide. Ringing the bell also highlights any nearby raiding mobs. Just like the real thing. 

It's good, basically

There’s loads of other stuff I haven’t had space to discuss—a host of accessibility changes, mouse sensitivity fixes, and a complete overhaul to the sound system. There’s even colourful leather horse armour, which feels like the place where fashion meets sort-of cannibalism. Again, the full list of changes is here, but for now let’s rest assured that the village and pillage update is huge, interesting, and an uplifting reminder that the Java version of Minecraft is still getting updated.