Latest 'Minecraft' update means new blocks, better villages, and pillagers with crossbows

Marc Saltzman

"Minecraft" may be one of the best-selling video games of all time – with more than 154 million copies purchased to date – but the developers haven't stopped building more into the game.

Acquired by Microsoft in 2014, developer Mojang has just launched Village & Pillage, a free update that adds a plethora of new goodies to "Minecraft," for both the Java and Bedrock versions of game, which includes Windows PC ($26.95 and $26.99 for PC and Macintosh), mobile (iOS and Android, $6.99), Xbox One ($19.99) and Nintendo Switch ($29.99), and virtual reality platforms.

Before we get into what’s new and newsworthy in this new update, take in these additional facts about the world-renowned building simulation, released ten years ago this month: more people are playing "Minecraft" than ever before at about 91 million unique players every month (across all platforms); more than 160 million people have watched more than 5 billion hours of Minecraft video content on YouTube; and not only is "Minecraft" one of the best-selling games in history, but also one of the highest-rated, with the PC version netting a 93% average “metascore” at Metacritic.com.

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Building better 'Minecraft' villages 

As the name suggests, villages have changed quite a bit and are among the highlights in this latest 'Minecraft' update.

Visually, villages will look different based on biome, or region – plains, desert, savannah, taiga, and so forth – therefore you can expect to see changes based on climate and local resources. In fact, villages are now generated differently, so the layout and architecture of the village will vary.

Along with new building types, villagers also look more unique, with clothing that matches the biome they’re in, as well as their level and profession. With the latter, villagers now learn a trade when near a job site block, such as a Blacksmith, Librarian, Butcher, Cartographer and Shepherd, to name a few.

Villagers go about their business with a specific routine – from bed to work to socializing with others – and with better “pathfinding” artificial intelligence, too. 

There are other additions, too, such as Masons and Nitwit villagers, kids who play tag, and more. 

Prepare to fend off Pillagers 

Want to pick a fight? Even if you don’t, you might be forced to defend yourself from an angry mob in the "Minecraft" Village & Pillage update.

While not too bright, the crossbow-wielding pillagers will disrupt the villagers’ daily lives, by attacking them in small groups, at fortified outposts, and will plunder indiscriminately throughout the land. Unlike skeletons, these pillagers may not be smart enough to move out of the way of your return fire; their aim isn’t the best; and they’ll often hurt each other with friendly fire (and say “Ow!”).

But what they lack in brains they make up for in tenacity. Pillagers will respawn in large outpost towers and swarm and destroy villagers in their path. So, keep a shield handy to minimize damage from an onslaught of arrows.

Once you clear them out, you can score some loot. Players who successfully defend a village from a raid will receive some fireworks and the Hero of the Village effect, which provides a deep discount on trades with villagers (see below). And if you take out a pillager captain – the ones with the banners on their backs – you’ll be rewarded with a triggered raid when you enter a village. 

Along with pillagers, there are other new mobs in this update, including chubby pandas, stray cats, Ravagers (a powerful new mob), and some other surprises.

Trading up in the 'Minecraft' update

As previously mentioned, there are new occupations in each village you visit, and that means new opportunities for trading.

When villagers make trades, they gain experience. Gain enough experience and they level up. Leveling up unlocks new trades. You get the idea.

Villagers now have a new visual-based trading system and will hold up an item they wish to trade if the player is holding something they want.

Also new is Wandering Traders, which are mysterious salesmen – flanked by a llama on each side of him – who deal items from several different biomes, often with rare materials, and offering up to six randomly generated trades. These special characters stay alive at night by drinking invisibility potions. And their loyal llamas spit at mobs if approached.

Bamboo, berries and bells 

There are dozens of other new features (and fixes) in the Village & Pillage update. Here are a few more worthy features:

•Like bamboo? Then you’ll love the update as there’s plenty of it in two new biomes: bamboo jungle and bamboo jungle hills. You can not only chop it down easily by hitting it with a sword, but also combine it with string to make scaffolding in building structures.

•Several new blocks now pop up, including a variety of slabs, stairs, and walls. New textures have been added to blocks, too, such as stained glass. And there are new job site blocks that assign trades to jobless villagers.

•As you might expect, crossbows offer many benefits over a regular bow: the weapon enjoys higher damage (and can pierce multiple enemies), plus it reloads faster, and can also shoot fireworks.

•Other additions include a bell you can ring to warn villagers of an impending attack or danger – so they run inside and hide; campfires, which serve as a light source or to cook meat; Sweet Berries, a new source of food found in taiga biomes; seven new Achievements including one for killing a pillager captain; and some accessibility features such as text to speech, which can now be enabled to read in-game chat.

Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast at www.marcsaltzman.com

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Latest 'Minecraft' update means new blocks, better villages, and pillagers with crossbows