Minecraft 1.18 is now available. It brings with it huge changes in the way worlds are created. Minecraft's terrain has become more dramatic with Caves & Cliffs Part 2. The mountains now extend into Frozen Peaks biomes, unlike anything that was possible in earlier versions. Huge caves can be found along the surface. These earthen maws are ready to swallow you into deepslate without warning. Lush Cave interiors have filled entire mountains with hollows. Every new world I explore has landscapes that are large and unusual, but ultimately, they are fascinating, just like Minecraft was when it first came out.
In 2010, Minecraft was still an alpha version. It was well before its blocky visuals were a common aesthetic and before the crafting survival frenzy it inspired. The magic of Minecraft was evident in the 2010's. I was always excited to create new worlds.
Minecraft has evolved into a toy box with many unknowns over the years. When a new mob is introduced, we question whether it can be tamed and what it drops after being killed. A new ore often indicates new tools that we will craft with it. Mojang has had to work hard to make Minecraft a worldwide phenomenon. It's no longer as bizarre as it was once.
Minecraft 1.18 feels magical, recapturing the old tech demo feel that I had lost. In the pre-release version of 1.18, I have created dozens of worlds randomly and each one feels like Minecraft is a system that has been re-committed for surprising me.
What is the real change? There are many things. Minecraft's ceiling and floor have been raised 64 blocks higher and deeper than ever before. This means that you can see postcard-worthy mountain ranges, with more tall peaks and steeper cliffs.
Although I have seen Minecraft worlds with such dramatic scenery before, it was always in the works of World Painter and other third-party tools. Minecraft is now able to rival those builds straight out of the box.
Although they are impressive, it is possible that you won't spawn in a mountain range to create your first 1.18 universe. The new caves will be what you stumble upon, and maybe even into.
Caves are no longer chilled. Stop slyly stopping at block 40. 1.18 has me constantly tripping on giant tears in the earth, which descend seemingly unabated into the lowest layers of the earth. It is not unusual to ride a waterfall down ravines, then pass through a cavern with dripstone stalactites and spill into an underground lake. Then continue down until I am surrounded by deepslate stones that now define the lowest layers of our world, just above the bedrock. When looking down into the dark abyss, survival players have an entirely new challenge. You might be able to survive the new massive caverns filled with skeletons, creepers and other dangers.
Version 1.18 introduces a subtler change: the separation between terrain and biome. Structures and biomes can organically create on different terrain forms, so combinations that were previously created by sub-biomes such as Badlands Plateau and Desert Hills now exist naturally. Mountains can freely spawn with spruce trees climbing to their edges, while deserts can transition from hills and shores at will.
Villages are the best place to see the unleashed terrain. This is part 2 of Caves and Cliffs. Villages are a great indicator of a funky Minecraft generation. It is obvious that Minecraft has tried to understand its terrain by placing houses and putting dirt paths between them.
Villages can now spawn in any biome shape. I love dissecting the wild warped forms. Outcroppings often show isolated houses. Villages can fall into chasms or climb mountains to span rivers. Their paths wind down unorthodox cliffs and attempt to link a cobblestone temple with a library 10 blocks below. The weirdness I missed in Minecraft is exemplified by the 1.18 villages. It's still a huge sandbox with rules that is more capable than ever to create wild new worlds.
Minecraft isn't going extinct overnight, but it doesn't seem alien. There are still beautiful meadows and vast swathes of swamp, and avid builders and explorers won't have to travel far to see new views.