Minecraft Legends Preview – Voxel based tactics

Posted on April 6, 2023

Minecraft Legends, the next big title in the gigantic building franchise is right around the corner. Featuring a spin on real-time tactics battles and storming of bases, it was obviously very different from the typical affair you’d find in the franchise. Still, a big question mark remained as to how this thing would actually work. What the hell do you do in Minecraft Legends? After an early look at the game, we’ve finally ascertained just what you’ll be doing with your time in the vibrant strategy experience. With that look alone, we’re certainly enticed.

A great portal rift has appeared from the underworld region known as the Nether, the Piglin army is spilling out and taking control of the great lands. This is what we’ve learned to be the core crux and conflict of the Minecraft Legends story. In glimpses of some (frankly gorgeous and highly detailed) cutscenes, we’re introduced to an ethereal party known as The Hosts. These characters look to be incredibly charming allies and fully voiced – an aspect that returns from franchise titles such as the short-lived Minecraft: Story Mode. In the provided clips, they appear to be essentially the storytellers of the lore and world in this niche Minecraft title, before sending you off on your merry way to take back the overworld.

Minecraft Legends is a real-time strategy affair. Quickly, you’ll gain access to a mount to make navigation of the sparse and gigantic procedurally generated world more efficient. It’s obviously less of a survival experience; you can gather resources such as wood and stone by placing little golems about, quickly making tidy work of the environment. This already looks like it’ll help move the game along quickly, spending less time in the thick of minute activities and more in the heat of action.

Your primary goal of taking back the world is largely achieved through the storming of bases and freeing up enslaved villagers and upgrading your character. Small villages, once removed from the Piglin threat can become new spawn points as you push your reach farther and farther out across the land. Destroying a gigantic barrack (the game’s version of spawners) extends this reach out further and is a great source of prismarine, a vital metal used for upgrading your character. It goes without saying but this is a very streamlined Strategy experience. That’s entirely a good thing.

Minecraft does well when it wears its heart and charm on its sleeve, and Legends looks like no exception to that. Having the title be a third-person experience that looks to not be too menu heavy and lets you also get in the thick of combat, swinging a sword about, is the right way to achieve such a feat.

While I can’t yet personally speak to the gameplay feel of Minecraft Legends, the detailed gameplay reels provided lead me to believe the experience is very straightforward. Over time, you’ll gradually grow armies of different forms of units. Skeleton archers can be positioned strategically on the top of a hill, firing down towards a base with their height and safety remaining paramount. Meanwhile, the adorable plank golems were seen as a more close-ranged unit, shooting little spears from their snouts. You direct a unit type from others thanks to a cursor with a big spread that is quick and efficient in moving about so that individual groups can tackle different parts of a structure in hopes of a breach.

This army of units is only said to grow as you retake more of Legend’s gigantic world. Already my mind is running with strategy ideas about how to best tackle the different types of structures. I’m praying there is a devastating creeper unit of some sort, where I can command them to take a sizable chunk out of a base’s wall before sending in waves upon waves of other crew members. I think I’ll need to come up with some creative solutions as the barracks in particular look like heated and climactic battle moments that even come with bosses such as… a gigantic pig with a lava cannon on its back!

Seeing these gameplay slices has me excited about the water cooler moments that can come out of the game. While there is a (playable in co-op!) campaign with a fully-fledged story that’ll take a good chunk of time to delve through, just as crucial is what you make of the game. This is one of the elements that vanilla Minecraft is legendary at doing. Co-developers Mojan and Blackbird Interactive know this. Dennis Ries, an Executive Producer at Mojang and the very individual presenting the preview spoke on just this, stating the following:

“The real story in Minecraft sits with the players and that’s something we don’t want to interrupt.”

Making Minecraft Legends a co-developed game just looks to be the best way to bring the absolute best in a product. Mojang undoubtedly is sticking to what they know, creating a vibrant, colourful and immersive Minecraft world. Then you have the tactical and gameplay mechanics and heavy know-how coming from Blackbird Interactive. I’m excited to see how they bring those chops into one of the greatest and most beloved gaming properties.

Outside of the campaign, Minecraft Legends’ is welcoming you in for more ways to kill the time in both its ‘Lost Legends,’ and PVP mode. The former is a monthly challenge mode that is said to be a wave defence affair while PVP is an all-out riot. Switch and older platforms can engage in 2v2 battles, while high-end PCs and the newer generation of consoles can expand that play to 4v4. The primary goal is the power struggle of storming the enemy’s key base. Once this base is destroyed, the other team wins.

This looks like an incredibly stimulating gameplay mode that I’m excited to see what the community will do with. Some of the visible strategies were big and shifting for the whole match. Arrow towers and extendable walls obviously make for a good defence of your own base. However such structures could even do well being used as a method of assault, popping up a wall and a tower to narrowly break through a formidable opponent’s defence. Simultaneously taking on Piglins on another corner of the map, away from all the tension is just as crucial in gathering resources to make yourself more powerful for that final assault push.

I walked away from my preview of Minecraft Legends even keener to get stuck in. The strategy foundations meshed with the picturesque Minecraft have me itching to see just how the game feels to play. I’m excited to get in the thick of things, feeling like a strategy overlord as I take back the world from the Piglins. Minecraft Legends looks very promising indeed.

Thankfully, I and other eager fans won’t have to wait long. Minecraft Legends releases April 17th on PlayStation 4 & 5, the Xbox family of consoles, Nintendo Switch, PC and Game Pass.