Minecraft Legends is the genre blend I didn’t know I wanted. Real-time strategy games are generally considered “dad” games and Minecraft is generally considered a game for kids and young teenagers. So who exactly is Minecraft Legends for? Your guess is as good as ours. Luckily, it’ll technically be free-to-play for some people. What we do know is that while Minecraft Legends is an exciting prospect, its success is numbered and its flaws are fatal.
Rally the Troops! – The Gameplay
What is Minecraft Legends?
Minecraft Legends takes real-time strategy from games like Age of Empire and Starcraft and open-world action from games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and puts it all in the world of Minecraft. It’s an ambitious crossover that is tantalizing, but a bit underwhelming. There is a Campaign Mode that teaches you the ropes and has you playing through the story solely in PvE, a Versus Mode that puts two teams of up to four players against each other with the objective being to destroy the enemy’s base, and a Lost Legends and Myths Modes which are purchasable monthly missions with specific objectives and rewards. While all these exciting game modes offer the promise of variety, they can all be boiled down to the same standard gameplay represented in different forms. In each game mode, you’ll use your Legendary Lute to command your Allays to gather resources and build structures. You’ll use your Banner of Courage to command your army of Golems to attack Piglins or enemy bases. And that’s the long and short of it.
One thing Minecraft Legends does get right is how smooth the gameplay feels. Traversing around the world and collecting more Mobs to join your ranks is an excellent experience. Add to that the ability to ride different mounts, some of which can glide through the air, and an expansive Overworld to explore and you’ve got yourself a surprisingly addicting adventure. The controls are complex and can take a while to get used to, but once you have the mental map of what each button does, collecting resources, building defenses, and attacking your enemies is well-polished and satisfying.
Something that doesn’t feel great is controlling the Golems. In Minecraft Legends, instead of sending a steady stream of enemies toward your opponents like in League of Legends, you need to constantly spawn your own Golems, rally a handful of them to you, and position them in defendable positions. You can’t create a self-generating system of Golems spawning and protecting a specific spot. You can’t bring your full army’s worth of Golems into battle. The micro-managing of Golems pulls you away from the role of commanding an army and grounds you in the trenches of monotony.
While the gameplay itself is smooth, the level of progression is shallow. In the Campaign and Versus Modes, the objective is to gather the starting resources, build your Improvements, put up some walls, and build Golem spawners. Do that three or four more times while attacking Piglins and the enemy base and you’ll win the day (or die trying). Instead of having a way to improve your personal character, bolster your army with unique items found from exploring the nooks and crannies of the battlefield, or create tunnels or sky bridges as you’d expect in a Minecraft game, Minecraft Legends sticks to a straightforward gameplay loop that is fun the first few times but doesn’t have much staying power.
Along with a lack of staying power, Minecraft Legends has a few quirks that hold it back. One of the smaller quirks is that when you recall your troops at a Golem spawner, it recalls the entire army which can hurt your teammates by leaving them defenseless as well as leave your base unprotected. One of the bigger quirks is that the only way to understand how to play the game is to play several hours of the campaign. While small quirks that gatekeep potential strategies in Minecraft Legends can be fixed and improved in future patch notes, not having an established tutorial mode to teach players who want to jump straight into the Versus Mode with their friends how to play is disappointing. On the bright side, the campaign has up to four player co-op which means you can learn how to play at a relaxed pace with your friends.
The Ornate Overworld – The Art Design
The Overworld of Minecraft Legends is a highlight. It feels very familiar but carries its own distinct identity. The colors pop thanks to the strong outlines and color palettes. The whole world is brimming with movement and detail found in the little creatures, the wind swaying the flowers, and the dust kicked up from your galloping steed. The day and night cycle is tranquil and adds an epic dosage of randomness. The field-of-view allows mountainous rock formations and giant jungles to bloom on the screen. While the systems and controls aren’t the best, the Overworld is extremely welcoming which makes exploring during the Campaign a blast.
Reap and Repeat – The Strategy
While Minecraft Legends nails the action part of the game with vibrant vistas and a great third-person feel, the RTS side of the game is lacking. After playing the Versus Mode with other players and messing around in the Training Mode, the winning strategy of Minecraft Legends became instantly clear: whoever gets the Restone Launcher first, wins. Racing against time to beat your opponents to a specific advantage is typical and fun, but usually, RTS games have multiple winning formulas. Minecraft Legends does have multiple ways to fight and win, but it usually involves a select group of the best Golems and a Redstone Launcher. While the meta, or “most effective tactics available,” will likely change with patch notes and updates, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room when it comes to actual defenses, whether that be in a lack of attack towers, terrain modifications, or Golem variety.
The launch of Minecraft Legends is a bit ambiguous — is it a full game? Is it a live-service game? Will we get future “seasons” of new content and updates? In its current state, with new content being an unknown, Minecraft Legends lacks depth and replayability. The winning formula has been found and it involves not needing to step foot into the enemy base. This brings up my next point: for a game that’s an offshoot of Minecraft, building is astonishingly inconsequential.
Minecraft Legends commits the biggest Minecraft sin: building isn’t creative or fun. First, there’s no way to manipulate the environment. As fun as crafting a moat or raising your base higher up onto a mountainside would be, Minecraft Legends restricts what you can do which goes against what makes Minecraft amazing. Second, the layout of your base only matters to a certain extent. Getting creative by building an elaborate labyrinth doesn’t matter at all if your enemies have Creepers or a Redstone Launcher. Third, you’re under a time crunch, so spending time building something fun isn’t advised. Building in Minecraft Legends is a letdown in almost every way. What is the driving force of fun and freedom in Minecraft is the biggest chore in Minecraft Legends.
When looking at the foundation, Minecraft Legends has the potential of being an innovative action RTS genre blend, but ultimately, it sets its sights a little too high. Without a multi-layered system of deep and accessible strategy, Minecraft Legends is fun to frolic in but fails to fulfill.
The world is beautiful and the gameplay feel is great, but the core of Minecraft Legends lacks flavor, depth, and purpose. Though it’s unclear who this game is for, what we can take an educated guess at is those who play it will likely enjoy it for a week or two and then bounce to something else.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
- This article was updated on April 14th, 2023