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Minecraft Mod Examination: The Twilight Forest
Much of Minecraft's fame is due to the wonderful structures that the player can build, but exploration and dungeon-crawling are also huge parts of the experience. Without the game's deep and twisting caves, impossibly warped mountain ranges, and other randomly generated places in which the player can build, live, and die in, many gamers would not have stuck with Minecraft long enough to even begin building any major structures. This fact has not been lost on the game's community, and there are several mods that add new biomes, dungeons, and monsters to Minecraft's Overworld. Other mods instead compartmentalize their additions by adding in entire dimensions full of new lands to explore, monsters to fight, and ruins to conquer. And what is probably the oldest and most popular of these last is The Twilight Forest, a mod that adds a beautiful and magical world designed around adventure.
Accessing the Twilight dimension is simple enough: players need only toss a single diamond into a small square pool of water surrounded by flowers, and then jump into the portal this forms. They will generally emerge into a fairly peaceful land of permanent night covered by the shadows of enormous trees, with new forms of wildlife like deer, squirrels, and boars running about, and lit by the lights of thousands of large fireflies. There are multiple varieties of these calm and welcoming lands, including savannas full of massive oak trees, regions where giant mushrooms reach towards the sky, and odd groves of rainbow-leafed trees. Such tranquil areas cover roughly seventy percent of The Twilight Forest's dimension, and while they may not be as dangerous as the Overworld often is, there is plenty to see.
But the remaining portion of The Twilight Forest is far less pleasant for the casual adventurer. Mountains covered in thorny vines and whose caves are inhabited by hostile trolls tower above the woodlands, and frozen forests in which yetis and giant wolves prowl in the midst of a perpetual blizzard dot the landscape. There are also horrible swamps full of mosquitoes and flame-producing gas packets, and black forests in which a horrible spell blinds unwelcome intruders. Most of these regions are home to several types of monsters, and have environmental hazards such as sharp thorns, deep shadows, or slick glaciers to discourage travel.
Each of these zones can be conquered by those willing to struggle their way through them, but only after clearing a specific dungeon within another area. Most of the time if you enter a region you are not prepared for you will be afflicted by some kind of unpleasant status ailment, or outright damaged by the zone itself. In such locales you will often find strange little big-eared creatures carrying journals from previous adventurers about, and these give information about which ruin or dungeon type you will need to clear out to progress through each part of The Twilight Forest.
Not that most players would want to skip any of these dungeons, as many of them are among the best randomly generated ruins and caves that the Minecraft community has made so far. They come in several shapes and sizes, such as impossible towers that can reach nearly two hundred meters into the sky, or difficult to find underground labyrinths that extend almost all the way to bedrock. Some may be built of simple stone brick, but most are constructed of new materials that are often hard to break, forcing players to explore them normally instead of digging their way through the walls. But this is not required, and in fact one memorable tower is built almost entirely out of flammable wood and filled with new variations of Minecraft's original fire-shooting blazes and ghasts, meaning that those who do not act quickly may discover half of the dungeon burnt down around them.
Speaking of monsters, almost all of the new dungeons have their own set of creatures indigenous to them, many with their own special ways to attack. Minotaurs prowl the mazes of the swamp-lands, ready to charge down intruders at high speeds, and ridiculous goblins wander the halls of the dark forest labyrinths, stacked on top of each other with a shield and spear in imitation of human knights. Floating spellbooks guard lich towers, firing magical blasts that slow those hit, and occasionally breaking off sheets of reusable paper when struck by a sword. Special varieties of Minecraft's ghasts defend the wooden tower, freezing in place and watching players for several seconds before firing out powerful bursts of flame that can quickly turn the tower into an inferno.
And each dungeon has some kind of powerful boss fight ready to challenge players, such as powerful liches that conjure up swarms of zombies, and enormous fire-breathing hydras who grow more heads as the fight continues. These boss battles are generally well thought out, and are both fun and quite manageable by most players, though nearly all of them will require a ranged weapon of some sort. There is a lot of variety to these fights as well, and some of them have multiple stages or grow more difficult as the battle progresses, forcing the player to adapt to new situations throughout the fight.
And the main dungeons are far from the only reason to explore the Twilight dimension, there are all kinds of smaller areas that are also worth conquering. For instance, while players can mine for ores in the forest normally, there is far less total underground area in most regions, and much of what there is is composed of simple dirt. Instead they might search for Hollow Hills, special mounds with a hollow interior that have a ridiculous amount of ores embedded in the walls and ceilings. The types of ore that generate are based on the size of the hill, and diamonds and other rare materials are only likely to generate in the largest hills. Hollow Hills can also include chests that themselves contain ores and various other useful items, and the chance of encountering these chests increases with the mound's size. But each hill is guarded by various monsters, and the beasts in larger caverns are often more dangerous than those in smaller mounds, so entering one unprepared often ends with the player respawning back home. There are several other types of small areas such as these to explore as well, and nearly every one has some kind of unique or amazing type of treasure hidden within.
Much of The Twilight Forest is build around exploration, dungeon-crawling, and fighting, so it is fortunate that it also includes so many useful items to aid adventurers. There are several new sets of armor, most with useful pre-set enchantments that can be found or made, and a huge number of new bows, swords, and tools can be constructed as well. Special magnets can be found within chests that drag all nearby ores to players, even through solid stone, making mining ridiculously easy, and extremely rare saplings can be found within a certain type of minor dungeon that grow into a tree that constantly does the same. Players who wish to find hollow hills or dungeons in the Twilight dimension would do well to construct a magical map, which will show all dungeons within an enormous radius, well beyond sight-range. There is also a special insect queen that can occasionally be found that can fire glowing insects a long distance away, allowing players to easily light up dangerous areas. And those who are really lucky can find two powerful charms that can heal the player when they reach the point of death, or at least allow part of their inventory to respawn with them.
But as great as The Twilight Forest is, no mod comes without problems. There are occasionally some nasty bugs such as bosses not spawning when they should, which when combined with the progression system can be horribly frustrating. Speaking of that progression system, it discourages large areas of the mod from being explored by players at the start, which can feel very odd in an otherwise extremely open-world game such as Minecraft, and be downright infuriating to deal with when the player cannot find the next dungeon type they need. But the biggest issue is simply that the mod is not complete: while you can explore the highland biomes and clear most of the areas within, they are often extremely buggy in their current state, and the castle on the final plateau is completely devoid of life, with its only notable feature being a sign at the top saying a boss should be there.
Despite its problems, The Twilight Forest certainly deserves its popularity. It adds a gorgeous dimension that is ripe for colonization and full of interesting places to explore. The new monsters are well thought out and fun to fight, and the dungeons are exciting to visit and full of challenging enemies and amazing treasures. Many of the items within this new world can be used to great effect by builders and adventurers even long after they return to their homeland. And what is shown in this review is not even close to the total amount of content within the mod: even if players avoid side areas, know the location of each dungeon type, and handle each area with minimal issues, they can expect to spend upwards of ten hours wandering the wilderness and fighting their way through each boss's fortress. While it is not complete, and the progression system might not be liked by every player, those willing to work with these issues will enjoy what might be Minecraft's greatest adventure mod.