Putting the world and characters from the original Minecraft, which was a sandbox block builder, into a real-time strategy game with action parts is a risky move that sounds cool. It’s a risk that doesn’t quite pay off in Minecraft Legends, though, because the simple action parts take away from the more interesting strategy options. But it has some good ideas outside of the story-driven mission that keep the game from becoming a total drag.
In the story mission, you play as a person from the first Minecraft who is taken out of his or her time and sent back to an older version of the Overworld that has been forgotten for a long time. Foresight, Action, and Knowledge, three gods, watch over this Overworld. They each add a bit of charm to an otherwise simple story of good vs. evil. The Piglins are attacking the simple people and animals. They are building portals all over the land and making machines that make everything more like the Nether. In a last act of resistance, Foresight, Action, and Knowledge ask you to use your building skills to build defenses, Golem troops, and war machines to kill the invading forces.
It’s a great idea, and the game gets even better when it gets silly. For example, you can build huge redstone-powered cannons that can destroy whole battalions of enemy Piglins with a single explosive shell, or you can build ludicrously huge wooden bridges that can carry troops safely over long stretches of mountainous terrain. It’s also silly and fun to be able to make deals with usually hostile Minecraft creatures, like the Skeletons, who are surprisingly loyal, and the Creepers, who are all too eager to die for the cause.
Despite how inventive all of that is, Minecraft Legends simplifies the real-time strategic components of the game too much for it to be enjoyable. While this emphasizes the game’s action aspect by forcing you to divide your time between controlling your mindless soldiers and actually fighting, it can sometimes feel more like a distraction than a fluid and symbiotic back and forth. You battle your enemies alongside your troops in this scenario. It’s not a completely original idea—other games have also moved away from the user as an all-powerful puppeteer who watches the world from above—but it’s not done properly in this game.
Making the player a general who travels the globe and engages in combat with their army appeals to me. And in reality, this does lead to some great battles. The beginning of each battle usually starts with you waving your banner and trumpeting the impending war, and then rushing toward the enemy with dozens of troops at your side. This is because you can only direct troops who are following you, and because you have to approach units and give them the “Follow Me!” command to get them to fall in line behind you. Galloping with a swarm of Minecraft creatures at your back toward a sea of Piglins and having both forces slam into one other with homicidal intent is a really nice experience.
But as soon as the actual conflict starts, that feeling of empowerment completely evaporates. The only other order you can give your troops other persuading them to follow you is to charge. There are a few subtleties to this command—you can expressly decide to send only one of your melee fighters forward, for instance—but there is no way to deliver instructions more precisely than that and better capitalize on each unit’s particular advantages. As a result, a tangled mess of Minecraft creatures are beating the crap out of one another, and you may join in with your reliable sword. After the first few times, it becomes tedious to repeat the pattern of calling forth troops, dispatching them into war, producing new troops, and leading them to the grinder.
Unfortunately, you cannot construct structures on the corrupted land of the Nether. As a result, the majority of every battle is spent moving between the real fighting and the more pleasant areas where you have installed troop spawners. The exhilaration of battle is stifled by the arduous process of returning Nether-corrupted blocks to their original state, which can be unlocked as a way to develop resources closer to the clash.
But the game subtly makes you deal with that boredom. Without you, your troops are mindless and would simply stand around after eliminating every enemy in a location or destroying an enemy structure until you give them another order. You must frequently enter the fray and direct your warriors to move in this direction, that direction, and over here in order to keep the battle in your advantage. Although this is how most real-time strategy games operate, Minecraft Legends has a significant variation in that you aren’t constantly hopping around the battlefield. Instead, you must gallop your horse to each group, reducing your ability to command several forces fast and making it challenging to implement strategy.
There is no method to command your men from afar or summon them to your side. You can choose to recall all soldiers to you by going up to one of the unit spawners you’ve built, which is the most you can do. And you don’t typically want to do that since, as I mentioned earlier, your spawners are typically placed a Nether field away from the conflict; calling all of your soldiers to you would merely divert them from the fight you were going to lead them into.
For those under your leadership, abandoning the combat to generate additional troops or control your redstone cannons may mean leaving them alone for an entire minute at a time, which could be fatal. You won’t be able to move your structures closer to the actual battle if you don’t take action to clear the Nether, especially around larger Piglins bases where the field of Nether that extends around them is massive. Instead, you’ll end up spending the majority of the fight simply running back and forth between the Piglins base and yours, barking out general orders to whoever is still alive every time you return to the front lines.
At the very least, the work required to take control of an enemy base is worthwhile. The only way to get the materials required for enhancing your inventory or unlocking the tools required to gather the resources required to construct new varieties of units and structures is to stop the Piglins in their tracks. It’s still difficult to build them close to where you want them, but having new toys to play with is always fun. Despite this, the problem persists.
In Minecraft Legends’ story campaign, you spend the majority of your time exploring the environment and gathering resources when you’re not fighting or enduring a siege. With identifiable bricks from Minecraft built into beautiful views, perilous canyons, murky marshes, and grand woods, the world is vivid and dynamic. You don’t have to mine each individual block in order to get its contents, as in Minecraft. Instead, you can control a limited number of little assistants to gather all the materials in a specific area and add them to your inventory. When you are out of supplies in a battle, you can escape to a nearby forest or cliff face and order your allies to harvest wood and stone while you return to the fight. This is very useful when you are out of resources and running low on supplies. Having said same, a significant aspect of Minecraft’s lengthy but individualized resource-gathering process is that it motivates you to thoroughly investigate and comprehend the environment you have fallen into because you get to know it after spending a lot of time there. In contrast, I don’t feel as connected to the environment of Minecraft Legends because the system for gathering resources in this condensed version of the original game is much less private and intimate. By no means is the system flawed; it functions as intended; nonetheless, I couldn’t help but feel that a significant aspect of the Minecraft experience had been lost.
Many of the problems in the story campaign are resolved by the drop-in/drop-out co-op multiplayer, which enables a group of players to cooperate while dividing their focus between leading troops and erecting infrastructure. There is no simple way to get around the fighting systems’ drawbacks in Minecraft Legends, nevertheless, for the player who wants (or needs) to play by themselves. Granted, these flaws are mostly a result of Minecraft Legends’ simplification of real-time strategy games’ frequently systems-heavy gameplay loop to make it more friendly and welcoming to users unfamiliar with the genre. And that is wonderful. However, the campaign doesn’t develop past these straightforward beginnings to address its flaws—whether with more complicated mechanisms or something else—causing the tale campaign’s gameplay loop to at least become uninteresting, especially if you’re playing alone.
As you wage battle against the Piglins, they carry out their own schemes and gradually expand their power over the continent. Each army is commanded by a different general, and each army employs a distinctive style of warfare, whether it is the construction of very tall walls and numerous defenders or the use of a quick-moving battle force that quickly moves across the landscape in pursuit of any perceived threat. As each army grows, it will launch assaults against the tranquil communities you are defending. The regular battle loop will be flipped, placing you on the defensive, and early warning systems will warn you of these attacks, allowing you to travel to an ally who is under attack and defend them.
Combat in Minecraft Legends performs far better in this style. Each village is small enough to keep you close to the current conflict and the buildings you have constructed, but Piglins can assault from any angle and frequently attack in waves, so you must still be tactical. For example, is it better to build more unit spawners in advance of the following wave or do you utilize the rest of the wood in your inventory to repair the wall that is due to collapse in this wave? When you have a more thorough understanding of your surrounds and the condition of the war, it is also simpler to take use of the game’s capacity to demolish structures in order to recover resources and build them somewhere else. In exchange for your defense of friendly towns, the villagers will reward you with rare Minecraft blocks like iron and redstone, which will encourage you to keep an eye on them and repel any advancing Piglin armies.
More of this tower defense style may be found in Portal Pile, the first Lost Legend in Minecraft Legends. Post-launch challenges called Lost Legends will appear once a month. In the 10-wave tower defense mission Portal Pile, you must hold off a vast Piglin horde pouring out of three different portals for as long as you can while defending a single settlement. This quest drastically ups the difficulty in Minecraft Legends, forcing you to make quick decisions and deal with dangers creatively rather than violently. It’s a lot of fun, especially if you have a companion or partners to help you complete the goal. If this initial Lost Legend is any indicator, the post-launch challenges will be much harder and more strategy-focused than the gameplay loop of the story campaign. I’m sure it’s feasible to complete all 10 rounds on your own, but I haven’t been able to. Although there is only one of these available at launch, this option quickly becomes boring for players looking for something more than the simple-to-learn but limited gameplay of the main story campaign. Nevertheless, it is by far the most enjoyable aspect of Minecraft Legends and gives hope for the game’s future.
For players looking to employ the talents they’ve acquired in the story campaign against other players in PvP, Minecraft Legends also offers a Versus mode. Six to eight players compete in Versus in teams of three or four. Together, each team must protect its tower and simultaneously attack the tower of the other team, taking into account any stray Piglins. I enjoy how Versus is set up, particularly because a player on the other team can prove to be a more cunning opponent than a group of Piglin, but too often the mode suffers from placing the opposing bases far away, giving both teams time to construct rows of walls and thousands of arrow-firing towers. The encounter may then become stuck in a standstill as both teams simply throw their respective units at one another in an effort to break the tie. Gained territory can be rapidly lost if an adversary builds another arrow-firing tower or repairs a damaged wall. Two well-defended strongholds can each last for a long time because it takes far longer to build structures than it does to demolish them, which can often cause players to become so frustrated that they decide to quit the game.
Minecraft Legends has a lot of positive aspects. The tower-defense features in both the story campaign and the first Lost Legends challenge are a sample of how the fighting system can flourish in the appropriate setting, despite the game’s occasionally hilarious ridiculousness. However, the story campaign’s standard gameplay loop of finding enemy bases and taking them over can get boring, especially in conflicts where there is a substantial amount of Nether between you and your adversary. While resource gathering is amusingly quick and simple, it also feels incredibly impersonal, which makes it challenging to appreciate the colourful world that you are slowly but surely chiseling away in your conflict with the Piglins. The components of a decent game are present; but, they have not yet been put together into a solid enough structure for me to want to invest a lot of time in it.