While Minecraft is an addictive game, its combat, and especially its melee combat, has never been considered one of its strengths. It generally involves either attempting to get into melee range with archers and striking them until they die, or strategically swatting around short ranged enemies in such a way that they can never quite reach their target. Beyond these two basic strategies, the only other tactics that are effective are to use are exploits of the game's poor artificial intelligence, such as standing under a two block high overhang so that a hostile Enderman cannot reach the player. But luckily, the wonderful Minecraft modding community has built two excellent and fully-compatible mods that add many new ways to succeed in the field of zombie-mutilation.
Dynamic Sword Skills
The simpler to explain of these is Dynamic Sword Skills, which adds a number of learn-able combat abilities to Minecraft. By default, players start with the ability to target an enemy by pressing the X key, and while locked on will deal more damage for each uninterrupted attack landed during a very short period of time. But while this extra damage is very helpful and discourages the boring hit and run style of melee combat in the original game, the main purpose of locking on to enemies is to gain access to Dynamic Sword Skill's twelve other techniques. These skills range from simple and useful tricks like a quick sideways leap, to more specialized attacks such as one that breaks through armor, loops the player around behind their opponent and strikes them in the back, and even one that flings their enemy high into the air.
But these techniques are not simply given to the player, nor can they be made through crafting. Instead they must be found in chests or taken off of the corpses of monsters. But collecting orbs is not the only way to gain or level up skills, chests can also contain rare swords that when used can increase one of the player's skills, or give them access to a new one. And when in online mode, swordsmen can generate orbs by slaying other players, which makes this mod perfect for PVP servers.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that Dynamic Swords Skills is a light-weight off-shoot of a much larger modification called Zelda Sword Skills. While Zelda Sword Skills adds several fun and combat-oriented items such as bombs, hookshots, and magic wands, it also includes a large number of dungeons, creatures, and NPCs that can conflict with other mods or add extra lag and load times to a player's game. It is an excellent modification well worth looking into, but due to the sheer amount of content the player should think carefully before placing it into their mod folder.
Mine and Blade Battlegear 2
While Dynamic Sword Skill's goal is to add in many new abilities that enhance the game's swordplay, the developer of Mine and Blade: Battlegear 2 chose to include only two skills, and focus more on introducing new items to Minecraft. But those two abilities are both excellent, and are usable from the moment the player enters their world. The first of these is the ability to dual-wield items of almost any type. Now players can equip two axes, a sword and one of the new shields, or hold a pick or other tool in their right hand and always have a weapon ready in the left for defense. Furthermore, one no longer has to keep weapons and tools in the hotbar with the rest of their items, and instead can utilize six new item slots that are locked to a new "ready" stance system. This allows players to set three pairs of items that they can pull out by pressing a button, and toggle between with the mouse wheel, letting them easily equip whatever they need for any occasion.
While these two changes alone are excellent additions to the game, Mine & Blade: Battlegear 2 also includes five new melee items. First among these are shields that, when held in a defensive stance, block all damage from a specific direction for a few seconds. These can be build from wood, leather, iron, gold, and diamond, with each tier adjusting the durability and how long the shield can be held for. Any arrows that are blocked by these shields will be caught on the front, and by placing the shield in a crafting grid the player can pry out and reuse all of those arrows. There are also four new weapon types: war-axes which pierce armor, maces that daze opponents, long spears allowing for better mounted combat and more reach in general, and quick-hitting daggers that are cheap and deal extra damage when striking an opponents backside.
Archers have not been left out either. There are now seven new types of arrows, with some of the highlights being the awesome and risky fire-arrow that generates a burst of flame around where it lands, diamond-tipped shots that can blow through multiple enemies, and even the bizarre cookie-arrow that it may be best to let players discover on their own. Quivers that can hold several stacks of arrows have also been added into the game, and when equipped will show up on the player's back, which is a great touch that helps give archers a little more visual flare. But players are not the only ones who benifit from the changes, skeletons are now equipped with quivers and can use most of the new types of arrows.
These two mods are both excellent additions to most play-throughs. They work well on their own or combined with each other, and rarely cause conflicts with other mods. While neither of them completely remakes Minecraft's combat, they do give players many more ways to handle their opponents. With Mine and Blade: Battlegear 2 players can effectively block attacks, dual-wield weapons, and use a variety of new weapons to slay those threatening their lives. And with Dynamic Sword Skills, they gain access to a number of powerful skills that can disarm opponents, flip them into the air, or move the player out of the way of any attacks. Combat may be one of the greatest complaints players have with Minecraft, and the hardest part of the game to find enhancements for, but with such fantastic mods as these installed, battle becomes just as exciting as it always should have been.