Breaking blocks is just about the only thing you can’t do in Wynncraft, a total conversion Minecraft mod that turns the sandbox building game into a fantasy MMORPG. Nevertheless, I’m continually floored by all you can do, from striking out on dialogue-rich quests to forming parties and exploring dungeons.
Before I can get to that, I’ve got to choose a class. My old Minecraft avatar was a riff on the iconic creeper, and those buggers never failed to sneak up on me, so I decide to play as an assassin, passing up archer, mage and warrior. I choose one of the ten servers, enter a silly character name and load into the tutorial quest. A passing shepherd suggests I kill some pigs, but I’m too entranced by my newfound menus to listen to his blatant prejudice against the harmless porcine mobs.
Excuse me, I have a skill tree? With actual skills, no less. I was expecting abilities like ‘hit things’ and ‘hit things slightly harder,’ but by alternating mouse buttons—in this case, right-left-right—I cast an AoE spell with absurd range that instantly validates my choice of class. Those pigs never saw it coming. I can even upgrade skills—for instance, strengthening my AoE spell with burn damage and a slowing effect. My assassin class also lets me unlock invisibility, a smoke bomb and a conical explosion, each with its own unique mouse button combination.
I bumble my way through the rest of the tutorial—ignoring a chattering guard, hoovering up common-grade leather armour, and nicking emeralds for pocket change—and come out in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know where to go next, so I open the world map hoping to get my bearings, but this has the opposite effect.
Wynncraft is enormous. The tutorial mountains are mere specks on one of two huge continents separated by an island-peppered ocean. The world is tens of thousands of blocks across and replete with roads and settlements. Reeling, I zoom in and see that the closest city is Ragni, so I head east.
This time I actually listen to the guards, who point me to a bank where I open an Ender Chest-powered account. I can only store eight items, but by collecting more emeralds I can unlock more storage space, which seems like a useful goal. Quests and dungeons are the best ways to earn money, and because I feel very under-geared, I start with the former.
My first quest, ‘Cook Assistant’, is a reference to RuneScape, which, interestingly, Wynncraft’s makers cite as a major design influence. This version of the cake-baking quest is also easy, so I soon start another, more challenging quest: make it to Detlas, the next town over. I brave a spider-infested forest to get there, chugging health potions as I go and looting a pair of uncommon-grade platelegs in the process. I pay a villager to identify my shiny new pants, which gives a small boost to my dexterity, thereby increasing the lightning damage dealt by my trusty AoE. With my pockets lined with quest rewards, I also splurge on a couple of teleportation scrolls, which can take me to any city that I’ve reached on foot.
After a few more quests and levels, I net some legendary gear with decent stat rolls and decide that I’m now ready for my first dungeon. Apparently, I managed to kill a dungeon guardian in my quest-athon, and with his key in hand I’m able to waltz right into the Decrepit Sewers, the first of nine dungeons.
It’s clear I’ve once again underestimated Wynncraft. Far from the mob spawner-lined caves that I was gearing up for, dungeons are flavourful, multistage challenges enhanced by custom enemies and mechanics made possible by Minecraft’s command blocks, which can rewrite the game’s rules. I kill skeletons to collect tokens needed to open a door, parkour across a canyon, kill ghosts to collect more tokens and open the boss room, where I am promptly flattened by a necromancer. I respawn near Ragni missing a few items and emeralds, and I immediately want to try again.
Wanderlust sets in on my way back to the dungeon, and I happen upon a merchant peering into a glowing chasm. He tells me there’s a well of souls at the bottom, and that something’s got the souls in a tizzy. It sounds like there’s a new pair of pants in it for me, so I dive in.
Unexpectedly, the merchant’s innocuous request sports dungeon-rivalling depth. Until now, most of my questing consisted of idly barking, “Yes!” at the flagged NPCs, but purifying this chasm is no easy task. Technically, all I have to do is reach the bottom, but there’s an army of skeleton archers in the way, not to mention dozens of traps. Which sums up my experience with Wynncraft as a whole, really. The deeper I go, the more it surprises me.