Minecraft has come a long way since the days where the addition of wolves was enough to set server forums ablaze. In addition to bigger and more complex updates like the Nether’s recent overhaul, the introduction of the Minecraft marketplace has allowed modders and developers alike to throw their own additions into the game as DLC. Since the marketplace’s introduction, the Minecraft team has made DLC packs for movies like Jurassic World, Frozen II and even The Nightmare Before Christmas. The latest media franchise to find a place in Minecraft is Star Wars, and while the franchise’s translation into the game features some impressive builds, it never breaks out of its blocky mold nor feels worth the cost of admission.
Minecraft’s Star Wars DLC comes with a custom map, 36 custom Star Wars skins, a texture pack, unique Star Wars mobs, and yes, Baby Yoda. The map features 12 dioramas from the original trilogy and The Mandalorian, with scenes from Tatootine, Hoth and Endor ready for the player to explore. Players can take an X-wing or TIE fighter from one diorama to the next, and it is pleasant seeing rebels and stormtroopers wandering around the map. One of the Tatooine dioramas features a Jawa sandcrawler which looks exceptional by Minecraft standards on the outside, and on the inside has the rundown yet charming atmosphere these landships are known for. When it comes to the look of these dioramas, the Minecraft team nailed it.
But because the 12 scenes are treated as dioramas, there’s not much to do outside looking at them. On Hoth, the player is treated to a scene featuring a snowspeeder about to shoot its tow cable at the legs of an AT-AT. But, of course, it never happens. The AT-AT and snowspeeder are both made of placed blocks, blocks that can’t and won’t move. You can only look at the scenes for so long before the urge to play an actual Star Wars game kicks in. That being said, there are scenes that are a bit more lifelike. You can use a rendition of the gatling gun from the first episode of The Mandalorian to blast a hole in the base holding Baby Yoda and afterwards have The Child follow you around. But moments like this are few and far between, and more often you’ll run into Jabba the Hutt who does nothing but sit there, even as you swipe at him with a lightsaber.
The Minecraft Star Wars DLC suffers where all the movie DLC packs do in that, at the end of the day, they’re wrapping a 1998 Honda Civic to look like a 2020 Lamborghini. Sure, it will look good on the surface, but try to push things and it’s clear what’s underneath. Both the X-wing and TIE Fighter are mobs of some kind, and prone to dying mid-flight. Stormtroopers are zombies, astromech droids are chickens and speeders are horses. Clearly there’s only so much the Minecraft team could do to translate Star Wars into the game, but their attempt seems to have both started and stopped with how things would look, rather than how it would feel to play the DLC.
Of course, Minecraft’s target audience for both the game and DLC packs like this is children, a group that may be more willing to overlook the lack of gameplay for the spectacle of being in a Star Wars universe. But this just makes the pack feel worse as a product, and calls into questions why a game like Minecraft — a game where imagination and creativity is supposed to guide the player — sells DLC in the first place.
The addition of the Minecraft marketplace back in 2017 was supposed to be a way to bring the game’s thriving, PC-based modding scene to every player of the game. Since 2011, the game has had multiple versions: a Java edition featuring the game’s original code for PC; a C++ version called Bedrock edition built with Windows 10, Android and IOS platforms in mind; and console editions that would eventually be rolled into the Bedrock edition. Out of these editions, the original Java version was the only one that natively supported modding right out of the box.
The modding scene for Minecraft’s Java edition was integral to the game’s success and future, with mods like “Piston Patch” by Coal Miner and “Mo’Creatures by DrZhark eventually being added into the game by the developers. Other mods, like the Technic Pack, would grow to a size where they rivaled the content offerings in the original game, and needed entirely separate launchers to fully work. Mods like these, custom skins and maps were all regularly and freely shared across the Minecraft community. But these mods were locked to the Java edition, with console and phone players being cut off from this pivotal part of the Minecraft experience.
The marketplace was the Minecraft team’s solution to bringing at least some mods to the console and phone versions of the game, but with the caveat that creators could charge money for their additions. It’s great for modders to be compensated for their work directly, but it’s weird to see Minecraft team themselves charging close to $10 for lackluster DLC featuring numerous custom mobs while at the same time asking players to vote each year for a single mob out of three to be added to the base game.
There are so many great additions that have been made to Minecraft over the years, with consistent updates from the Minecraft team. At the same time, the Minecraft team has created more in DLC like the Jurassic World and Star Wars packs than they have for the base game. The introduction of the marketplace seems to have slowly shifted the Minecraft team’s priorities from updating the base game towards creating easy-to-sell DLC packs. Minecraft is the best-selling videogame of all time, and it would be nice to see some of the money made put into efforts like adding more than one new mob a year instead of churning out another $10 retexture.
Minecraft is developed by Mojang and published by Microsoft. Our review is based on the Xbox Series S version, but c’mon, it’s Minecraft—you can play it on basically every device known to humanity at this point.
Nicolas Perez is an editorial intern at Paste and opinion co-editor for New University. He’s rambling on Twitter @Nic_Perez__.