Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
April 18, 2023
Xbox Game Studios
Blackbird Interactive, Mojang Studios
Minecraft Legends is the next anticipated game in the Minecraft franchise, though it isn’t quite the sandbox game you might be expecting. Legends is made in a new mold entirely, pulling back the game’s original freedom for a focused action-strategy experience that puts the player in control of new and familiar mobs to fight back a piglin uprising. In recent years, we’ve seen the franchise explore other genres with the standout being Minecraft Dungeons which is still receiving paid DLC updates. Minecraft Legends is a different creation entirely though, standing confidently on new mechanics as a means to prove itself amongst the roster of Minecraft games.
So what exactly is Minecraft Legends? To answer that, it’s best to peel back the cubic facade to give you the low down. Through resource gathering, the player is able to build preset spawners, buildings, and other defenses give you the ability to protect the villages around the map but also run offensive assaults on enemy hordes. Think war games. You command forces to take on enemies as you grow stronger through upgrades. And how does this incorporate Minecraft? The entire game has a pixelated coat of paint, and the textures used are that of the loved series. Instead of armies of soldiers, you command various new golems, as well as some familiar mobs from the original game. It’s quite thrilling amassing a small platoon of creepers to go mess up a piglin portal or base. Being on the same side as the usually aggressive mobs of the original game fresh and a great move for Legends’ use of the source material.
Minecraft Legends can be played as a campaign experience, with up to 4 players co-op, and allows players to experience the game’s story; versus mode, which allows 2-8 players to go head to head via random matchmaking or with friends. Finally, there’s the Lost Legends & Myths mode. This features a new monthly downloadable challenge that aims to give players something fresh to keep the game interesting. It’s a far cry from the original Minecraft, despite its focus on multiplayer servers and other games developed for use within the client.
“Legends understands that in order to be something, it needs to stand away from it’s namesake.”
With so much of Minecraft Legends being familiar, it’s hard not to feel nostalgia towards the original. Minecraft will always be it’s own beast, and while we’ll likely never see a Minecraft 2, Legends understands that in order to be something, it needs to stand away from it’s namesake. This is a far cry from the sandbox game many have devoted hours to though.
Past it’s slick coat of design paint, Legends functions in its own way. It earns the player’s attention after the initial recognition by refocusing how we approach the block world. This is a real-time strategy game after all, so the focus moves from survival to strategy yet Legends pushes that forward slightly, defining itself as an action-strategy game. While many real-time strategy games give the player god-like control from a top down camera, Legends sends the player directly into battle too, which varies how players see the action unfold.
From the get-go, Legends pulls you in with enticing visual cutscenes and an intriguing crew of NPCs that guide the player forward into the game’s campaign mode. It was actually surprising to see how developed the game’s story is. The cutscenes go a long way in contextualising your actions. You are the world’s only hope. You are tasked with fighting back the piglin horde that’s invading the once tranquil game world.
After most objectives, you’re treated to a cutscene that shows what your efforts have achieved. Seeing the original game mobs join the cause felt very empowering. The games underlying notes of teamwork and working together were quite tender and not at all the wholesomeness I was expecting from a real-time strategy-inspired game. Maybe this is due to the source material but honestly, it feels more like a conscious choice to play up your agency in what should be quite a straightforward game.
Before players can wield an army though there’s a learning curve that is plotted out with the help of the NPCs and tutorial section. Players have control of two kinds of ‘Allays’ that are responsible for resource gathering and building of structures. Each Allay can be tasked with something different or you can have all of your resource-gathering Allays collecting wood or something else if you desire. Directing them is quite easy thanks to the use of the D-pad controls to navigate the gathering/building menus on console to. The speed they work is surprisingly quick too, though once directed they become a target for Piglins forces if they’re in the immediate vicinity. Resource gathering feels easy but often it gets tricky when certain resources are more elusive in the game world. It’s to be expected but without any way of tracking these rarer resources, it leads to some very laborious sprints.
Once you have the resources it’s time to build the spawners that will allow you to summon various mobs to fight with you. In practice, it’s a fairly straightforward process thankfully that does end up becoming a sizeable portion of the gameplay loop in-between battles. Picking what mobs to spawn can depend on who you’re going up against if you’re really trying to fight at your optimal levels but for me I’d spawn a few of each mob to create a varied army. While most mobs are focused on damage, many also have other uses such as healing, stunning enemies or even shooting from afar.
“The very hands-on approach makes the battles that bit more tedious.”‘
The battling portion of Legends is where it begins to drag its feet as an experience. Despite upgrades, the army you lead into battle never quite feels like an army. Numbers never justify such a phrase even when you have rallied extra mobs in the games overworld. It’s also a very hands-on battling experience. You have to tell your army where to go every single time you rally a new group. I was expecting like other real-time strategy games that there might be an established system where targets could be set but the only systems present allow you to direct each army out or one mob out from your army. While this feels quite hands-on, it also feels like it makes the battles that bit more tedious. At times I was left wondering why I was summoning my fifth batch of mobs just to personally march them to their inevitable death. One would’ve thought that once a target was flagged that new units would continue towards this objective but instead they wait for you to direct them, going so far as to wait at their spawn for you to rally them to you. I was constantly running off from the mob spawners only to realise either en route or at my destination that I would have to trek back to get the troops.
Also being in the middle of the action would be quite fun if it wasn’t for how limiting it feels as a player in those battles. Your only means of attack is a simple sword slash that is as forgettable as it sounds. This leaves your presence in combat feeling just as powerless as those RTS games that have you as a god-like overhead camera. Traversing around on the mount is fun but this would function more as a getaway vehicle when I did dash in to order the mobs to attack a portal. Considering how Dungeons was all about other player attacks and juiced up weapons, and even normal Minecraft gives you other weapons, this feels quite restricting.
I feel as though Minecraft Legends might be more suited to fans who haven’t played a real-time strategy game before. Veterans of the genre may find this very hands-on experience jarring to other games they’ve played that might not have the same style. Legends wants to have you in the middle of the action, as shown by it’s focus on constant player input. While it can add to that sense of victory when you do take down a massive horde or a boss that’s been killing your golems like they’re nothing, it’s still a rinse-and-repeat battle style that might not be what genre fans are searching for.
Minecraft Legends’ could really do a lot more with the Minecraft angle as well. Considering this is a spin-off of a game that is super popular for its elements of freedom and exploration, it seems hesitant to overwhelm players with how it might take advantage of these aspects that Minecraft prides itself on. I hope Legends does begin to lean into it’s source material with future updates, as I feel like it’s got so much that can be expanded upon. They could really let the player run wild, and as a bonus when playing against others, you could see how their buildings differ to your own style or even just have a selection of preset builds that would add variety and capitalise on that player-driven creativity. Legends doesn’t need to go full sandbox in order to make the most of player input in the game.
The game is solid though, it just misses out on a big part of why many might be picking this game up in the first place. If you are considering buying Legends, at the very least go in knowing that this is not the Minecraft experience you may be craving. With some updates and more focus on customsation, the game has so much potential to be more of an all-rounder.
Much of my time with Legends was honestly spent questioning why its been so long since I’ve played OG Minecraft. While this wasn’t a bad thing, that nostalgia did distract me from what Legends was trying to do. While leading armies of familiar mobs into battle was fun, it still doesn’t match the sandbox nature we’ve played previously. Legends’ removes that creativity for a more cookie-cutter experience that on the surface is what we remember but with the new real-time action-strategy mechanics. Building and resource gathering is present but is used as more of a means to an end rather than a tool for the players individuality to shine. Much of Minecraft is making do with what’s available while Legends’ wants you to focus on fighting the Piglins. Everything else is secondary to that.
- A bold reshuffle of a beloved franchise
- Cutscenes are empowering and the NPCs motivate you
- Allays make the building and resource gathering a breeze
- Battling could be further optimised
- Missing creativity that is what Minecraft is all about
Minecraft Legends is a fresh spin on a classic game that isn’t afraid to boldly try something new. Come for the battles, but stay for the tender storyline that empowers the player with how their actions are affecting the game world as they take down the Piglin forces. This one feels like it’s for Minecraft fans in one way, but in another it’s all about battling and sadly this leads to player imagination jumping in the back seat. Regardless, it’s either a fresh spin that will be your jam, or you’ll be craving the freedom of the original.