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Minecraft’s Tricky Trials chambers are just the right amount of tricky

Fight me

A Ominous Trial Chamber in Minecraft's Tricky Trials update.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Mojang

Minecraft is, very often, just a nice place to potter about in. But its call to adventure rings loudly in my square ears, and now that the Tricky Trials update has dotted the underground with action-heavy, loot-filled Trial Chambers, I’m simply powerless to resist.

I love almost everything about these, including how much of a fit they are conceptually. Minecraft’s strength as a survival game has always been how it turns the gathering of its rarer rewards into a mini-adventure in itself: I was never fussed to craft a shotgun in Nightingale because the shopping list of prerequisite unlocks and schematics looked like several evenings of tedium. But a diamond sword here in ol' MC? Conquer a cave, slay the monsters within, wrench the gems from the earth and it’s yours – as is the good time you had in the process.

Trial Chambers, while more keenly focused on battling, concentrates that search-fight-loot loop into specific locations, while adding traps and a lock 'n' key system to keep them feeling new and distinct. The result is that on challenge and scope, these chambers occupy a middle ground between everyday resource-gathering missions and much more dangerous Woodland Mansion or Ocean Monument raids, delivering a perfectly measured dosage of adventuring fun without demanding hours of tooling-up prep work.

Fighting two armoured zombies in an Ominous Trial Chamber, in Minecraft.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Mojang Studios

For one thing, tracking down Trial Chambers actually does start with the same process as a Woodland Mansion quest – by plying a cartographer villager with several hundred of sheets of paper until he agrees to sell you a map – but the nearest one is only ever a few minutes' walk away. There’s no four-day trek across tens of thousands of blocks just to arrive at the door. Even so, there’s still a satisfying "Aha, found ya" moment when your pickaxe meets the metal wall, like their discovery is a prize in itself.

The real goods, of course, are kept inside locked vaults, adorned with Warhammer 40K-grade skulls and only openable with keys that drop from various indestructible mob spawners. Herein lies the 'trial' part: only by exhausting each spawner’s supply of mobs will it drop a key, and the chamber has absolutely no qualms with pumping out enemies from several at once.

Combat in Minecraft is rarely this chaotic, partly because the chambers themselves are lousy with pitfall traps and peppered with buttons that will flood the room (or blast out a fireball) as readily as they’ll flick on a lamp. It’s a properly perilous arena, and becomes even more disorderly when the new Breeze mob spawns in. These jumpy little rascals might not dish out much damage, but their airblast attacks can and will send you flying off ledges or into skeleton arrows, while setting off the chamber’s traps mid-duel.

Fighting a Breeze in one of Minecraft's Trial Chambers.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Mojang

They’re bastards, clearly, but the potential for slapstick makes fighting Breezes a right laugh. They, and Trial Chambers in general, present a level of combat challenge that to me feels juuuust right – there’s nothing as oppressive as the wall-ignoring, HP-devouring fairy things that can quickly end a mansion run, but you can’t brainlessly charge down mobs without being surrounded and chipped to death. Likewise, I wouldn’t take on a chamber with gear made of nothing but snapped trees, but basic iron weapons and armour will do the job, making the whole endeavour easier to tackle early on.

For the ideal Trial Chamber experience, however, I wholeheatedly recommend making it Ominous. Entering a chamber with the Bad Omen status effect will upgrade all the spawners to Ominous variants, toughening up the baddies in exchange for the chance of an Ominous key that unlocks even better rewards. Brilliantly, it also fills the chamber with yet more magical hazards, flinging potion bottles at you from nowhere and dropping arrows on your head if you camp a spot for too long. Standard Trial Chambers can get pretty dicey but my first Ominous chamber was the most fun I’ve had with Minecraft’s combat in years, despite eventually falling to an undead child riding a chicken.

Approaching an Ominous Vault with its key in Minecraft.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Mojang Studios

The loot’s decent too, though if have a grumble about Trial Chambers, it’s that the lockbox mechanics really play up how you’re effectively playing a moneyless gacha. In truth, I was crossing all ten fingers that those Ominous vaults would pop out the components for a mace – another Tricky Trials addition – so my inaugural Ominous raid ended on a disappointing note when it merely coughed up a few emeralds and some poison arrows. Rigged, says I. Granted, that was alongside all the other rarities I’d picked up from other vaults and smashed urns, but the odds of nabbing specific prizes aren’t great. Minecraft’s wiki suggests the part I need only has a 7.5% spawn chance with every pull – sorry, vault – and there sure as sugar ain’t a pity system.

I guess you could call that motivation to keep hunting new chambers, but I was going to do that anyway, because beating up skeletons while a dungeon detonates around you is a hoot. Just need to knock up a few hundred more sheets of paper, and the adventure begins anew.

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