For everything that Minecraft has done over the past decade or so, it’s surprising top realise that the franchise has not yet touched the strategy genre. That is, until now. Minecraft Legends looks to fill that gap, providing fans and newcomers alike with an RTS spinoff that feels accessible to both younger and older gamers alike, while providing depth through multiple gameplay options and procedurally generated environments. While Minecraft Legends struggles to further any boundaries from a narrative perspective, and lacks a certain progressive challenge at times in terms of difficulty, but still feels solid step in a fresh direction.
Block by Block
Those pesky Piglins are at it again. They have left the Nether to disturb the peace, leaving you with the task of sending them back to the depths. For as interesting as Minecraft’s general lore has become over the years, Minecraft Legends makes it clear that it’s not trying to confuse players, instead opting for a traditional tale of good against evil. it’s admittedly tough to criticise such a franchise for the lack of narrative chops, as it’s never necessarily focused on providing in depth and memorable stories; even if we still believe that Telltale Games’ Minecraft: Story Mode is criminally underrated.
As a result, you’ll spend most of your time in Minecraft Legends exploring procedurally generated environments in order to take on groups of Piglins, exploring bases, freeing and protecting allies, and collecting resources for crafting and defending settlements from trouble. You’ll get the chance to select your own hero from a handful of templates, but given Minecraft has prided itself on creativity and choice, it’s a bummer that this portion lacks any real customisation. While I admire Minecraft Legends for its simplicity, progression can also feel a little stunted at times. It’s lack of any structured levels and objectives means much of your time spent is solely focused on clearing out waves of Piglins, so that you can begin again on a new and procedurally generated map.
Building a Battle
If you’ve never played an RTS game or aren’t a fan of the genre itself, Minecraft Legends does a great job at establishing this experience within a familiar world, tailoring much of the experience to its existing tropes and mechanics. Most fans of the franchise and newcomers to the genre alike will be able to latch on with a level of comfortability and accessibility, a rare feat for RTS games. Be it the blocky aesthetic, familiar environments and loveable creatures, Minecraft Legends certainly takes notes from it’s mainline experience. Thanks to a brief tutorial, you’ll also learn how to collect resources and call upon troops, each with their own purpose and function in battle.
Along for the ride are Allays, small fairy-like creatures that either focus on gathering resources and building structures within each environment, be it for you to progress past an obstacle or defend yourself and your troops. This system is incredibly easy to learn, as you hover your cursor over a particular resource to collect it, or over a spot in the open world to build, all with the tap of a button. Minecraft Legends also puts players in the thick of combat as you control your character on horseback from a third-person perspective out in the battlefield, as opposed to handling things from a mystical vantage point above. This gives players the chance to create troops and have them follow you to various points of interest, making for some incredibly frantic moments as you scurry from point to point to set up your troops. You’re also much more powerful than any of the troops you summon, equipped with a large sword for clearing out areas of enemies at any given time.
Players will be able to call upon units and troops from S, A, B and C tiers. While they each require specific resources in order to be summoned, you’ll usually need to collect a wealth and variety of each resource to stay afloat, from wood and stone, to diamonds for more powerful troops. Certain troops like Skeletons and Zombies prove great for defensive tactics as they withstand a flurry of attacks, but you’ll also need to summon Warriors and Golems, which provide both close and ranged damage. It’s incredibly fun to balance hunting for resources and calling upon troops as you navigate the battlefield. That being said, Minecraft Legends’ simplicity can also hold it back at times. It feels like natural after a few hours to want to mix troops within larger units, which is unfortunately not a choice, as only identical troops can stick together. Commands for such units also usually result in ‘follow me’ or ‘stay here and defend’, which wears thin after a few hours when you’re managing a few units at once.
The Allays certainly provide a level of variety within battles, as they can be used to creature structures during combat while units are summoned and mobilised, which feels incredibly satisfying when you’ve collected enough resources to fire on all cylinders, as you attack and fortify a settlements’ defences all at once. The Well of Fates also serves as your home base, where you’ll start from each time you are killed in battle. It’s here that you’ll use the Prismarine collected from destroyed Piglin structures in battle, to upgrade your own structures and crafting abilities.
Fun With Friends
Minecraft Legends can be played both solo and cooperatively, but is likely to succeed in the long run thanks to the latter. It plays out very much like the solo experience, although resources are split between 4 players. You are each able to conduct business as you usually would beyond this point, even if it usually leads to whipping about from point to point to help a friend in need as you each decide how and what to craft with your shared resources. PVP matches also pit teams of 3v3 and 4v4 against each other to take out waves of Piglin forces before clashing themselves. It’s incredibly tense as you race to collect resources and build the strongest army possible before the opposing team does.
Minecraft Legends finds its footing relatively early thanks to familiar aesthetics, characters and mechanics, while mixing it with something that feels new and approachable. While it lacks any meaningful narrative, its RTS gameplay is constantly flowing and evolving; even if the feeling of the progression is somewhat lost to favour the endless replay-ability of procedurally generated maps. It’s in this sentiment that Minecraft Legends is best experienced with or against friends, brining out the most of both the strategy and mechanics available.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Solid RTS mechanics; Easy enough to pick up and play; Fun cooperative and PVP modes
Lowlights: Lacks a grander sense of progression at times
Developer: Mojang Studios, Blackbird Interactive
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC
Review conducted on Xbox Series X with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.