REVIEW: A deep dive into Minecraft’s new Caves and Cliffs update


Justin Farris

Some beautiful glowing vines and a nice ambient lavafall? Let’s try this with natural lighting, shall we?

Justin Farris

I’ve always been a bit of an “undergrounder” in Minecraft. On servers with friends in the old days, people would get lost in my strip mines and marvel at how much land I’d mined out looking for diamonds. I’d find cave systems and take the extended time and effort to mine, light, and remember every tunnel. Even in the Nether, I was the first in my group to find netherite when it was added. So Caves and Cliffs was right up my alley. Let’s take a peek into what lurks below the surface of the new Minecraft update.

Pretty cool, right? I gathered these screenshots from five different Minecraft seeds, but they were all sequential. I was running into new content left and right, and I enjoyed the time greatly. But perhaps you’re not here for the photo gallery, and want to know more about how this changes the way the game is played.

In short– watch your back. The new update, and the caves especially, renew a sense of danger and fear in the game that I hadn’t reliably felt for a while. I’ve twice now accidentally mined into the roof of a cave fifty blocks tall and narrowly avoided death by gravity. Sometimes you still get Minecraft’s old winding tunnels, but there are much larger caves now, and they’re fairly common. I didn’t have to search far to find any of the caves in this gallery. These giant caves are very cool, but also make caving much more dangerous.

Previously, most caves in Minecraft felt narrow and cramped, and now there are a lot more open spaces to find underground. The upside would be room to maneuver, but the downsides can be very deadly. With more blocks uncovered by stone and unlit, mobs spawn pretty frequently, and you can’t always rely on them only coming from specific directions like the narrow chokepoints of old caves. Large open caves are usually pretty rich with resources, but also quite deadly for the ill-prepared. Mobs spawn frequently and on all sides, and there’s a new threat. If you’ve ever, like me, had the unfortunate experience in Minecraft of a Creeper jumping down a ravine to land right in front of you for an immediate kamikaze, you will know that it is very deadly. Events like this happen more often in Caves and Cliffs. With increased verticality in caves comes increased risk of mobs jumping on your head when you think you’re safe. In addition, since caves are so much taller, fall damage can sometimes be a real threat. An unexpected creeper or overlooked hole in the ground can send you plummeting to a quick death if you don’t act fast. Overall, that’s my takeaway for how the feel of the gameplay has changed with Caves and Cliffs part two. The underground is much more open, with resources there for the taking, but much more dangerous to compensate.

As for changes to the mechanics, a lot of them came with the first part of the Caves and Cliffs update back in May of this year, but there are notable exceptions. For a big one, world height has been increased both above and below ground, now spanning from y=-64 to y=320. There are new biomes, including jagged mountain peaks, lush caves, and dripstone caves covered in stalactites and stalagmites. Ore veins can now spawn with larger amounts of ores than the past and ore generation has been reworked with the new height limits. Monsters will now only spawn in “complete darkness,” or what the game defines as a light level of zero. There’s a new music disc, and a few new achievements. It should be noted that the update will increase the file size, and therefore the storage usage, of your Minecraft worlds.

If you’ve been out of the loop, you might have noticed that there’s something missing from this review that was promised when Caves and Cliffs was announced. I’m referring to the Deepdark and the Warden. The Deepdark is an upcoming biome with sound-sensitive blocks that is home to the Warden, which is a new mob that has been shown to be extremely deadly in the footage we’ve seen. I haven’t mentioned it until now because it’s not in this update. The developers announced that it would be delayed again, to Minecraft’s next update, the Wilds update. They gave good reasoning- the plans with the Warden have apparently expanded to developing some new underground city to go along with it- but it does somewhat worry me. 

This isn’t an attack on the Minecraft devs. Far from it. From everything I’ve seen, they’ve done their best to be transparent, and are willing to do something few other game devs will– delay things when they need more time to work on them. I’m concerned because it’s a second delay for the same content. There are other bits too– archeology, for example, has been pushed back as well, and is not mentioned in Minecraft’s FAQ about this update. I’m concerned because it’s beginning to look like the scope of what is demanded of the Minecraft team is eclipsing the reality of how quickly they can create quality content. I’m still very excited for the Warden, the Deepdark, and whatever secrets they may hide. I’m also worried because I’ve seen many companies fall into releasing content before it is ready to meet deadlines, and having the final product suffer as a result. I don’t want that to happen to Minecraft.

Overall, Caves and Cliffs is definitely worth a play if you even remotely care about mining, caves, or arguably even building with the new height limits. My concerns about the game’s future don’t change the fact that this new cave system is insanely impressive from a both technological and visual level. The update is the closest I’ve ever gotten to the feeling of playing the game for the first time again– and I’ve been here since the nether was accessed with a buildable reactor and armor didn’t exist. It is well worth your time.