Minecraft Legends – a full-on strategy game spawned from the blocky build-’em-up franchise – won’t tax the biggest of strategy fans around but it will open up the genre to a generation that may not have considered it before. It’s also a lot of fun with the charm that has worked so well for Minecraft and Minecraft Dungeons in the past. Shame it’s not as gripping as it would like to be.
If you were being flippant, you could call Minecraft Legends ‘my first strategy game’. Legends wraps up the core elements of strategy in a welcoming parcel that is sure to entice younger gamers new to the genre, as well as anyone else hankering for something more tactical. Minecraft Dungeons did the same for hack ‘n’ slash adventures while Minecraft: Story Mode tried similar for adventure-driven narratives. Minecraft Legends succeeds. Co-developed by Mojang Studios and Hardspace: Shipbreaker‘s Blackbird Interactive, action is undertaken from a zoomed-out perspective with you instructing your hero on their trusty steed to explore the typically Minecraftian world out there. Procedural generation mixes up the world differently each time, but aesthetically the key thing is that whichever player model you go for, you look adorable.
During the story mode, you’re guided through a fairly extensive tutorial that puts you through the paces. Movement is easy enough with a controller. For the most part, you’re selecting unit types through the shoulder buttons and it feels intuitive. The idea is that you’re using melodies (spells, basically) to either gather resources, build structures or create units to help you in your conquests. Picking types is down to the d-pad with the triggers and shoulder buttons navigating your options. You’ll never miss a mouse here.
Once you’ve got some units formed together, you can then use a rallying button to gather them together, send them out to battle or get them to focus on a certain area to flock to. It never quite feels as comfortable to round up the staff, so to speak, as it does to perform all other actions. It works but there’s a lack of tactile feedback here so you never quite feel as confident as you do with other actions.
Look past that lack of confidence and Minecraft Legends is intuitive. Its tutorial guides even the newest strategy gamers through things in a way that you just know your much younger cousin is going to end up adoring.
Combat is satisfying. An early tutorial mission has you taking down some enemy outposts while you learn the ropes. The enemies are known as Piglins and are overly cute but peskily aggressive pigs. Setting out for their outposts gives you some time to explore the luscious world of the game. It’s gorgeous. Minecraft has always had that delightful style to it but this world is intoxicating. In reality, there’s less life going on than you’d think but it’s still pretty.
Head over to said outposts and you start your mission by crafting spawn points. These spawners create golems that will assist you. Each golem type has a different role with some better at taking down buildings while others handle fending off the Piglins. The one type that everyone needs is mossy golems thanks to their healing abilities. Mostly though, a mixture of a few types is usually ideal, especially on harder difficulty levels. There’s actually less building involved than you’d think. The focus is squarely on cute combat. You can place down many towers such as arrow towers early on, along with walls and other structures to defend your villages or even your spawn points. Indeed, the game encourages it when you’re defending a particular area.
All of this requires resources though so you’ll need to make sure to set aside some time to stockpile with the nearest hint to traditional Minecraft going off in that direction. Once you open up the world, one moment of glee comes from acquiring a new mount — a flying giant bird that is adorable and offers slightly better travel time as you explore the vast map. More mounts steadily become available. There are ways of upgrading certain parts too, ensuring there’s always steady progression here even if the general principle is the same — smash the Piglins.
While the single-player campaign is diverting, it’s the multiplayer side of things that’s likely to see long-term success. The Lost Legends mode comprising of a monthly challenge sounds intriguing even if we didn’t get to have any time with it before launch. No doubt online co-op will make the campaign more exciting too because when did a teammate ever not help?
The Versus mode is where the action’s at though with battles likely to be tense with the right bunch. It’s hard to accurately gauge before launch but it effectively turns the game into a more imaginative and open-ended time. Matches can last between 20 and 45 minutes with different players approaching things differently. There’s still all the resource gathering and contemplation the story mode offers, but teams can potentially divide up actions well. One player could create a tower defence-esque layout to keep opponents away while your team could always just go for a full assault en masse. The game offers a ping system that’s rudimentary but does the job of encouraging players to get things done. As always, it’s going to come down to who you play with but it’s satisfying stuff with small teams providing intimacy if you have a strong group.
This is also where Minecraft Legends‘ staying power has its best chance. In truth, the single-player is fun but if you’ve played strategy games before, you’ve seen what it has to offer. It just now has a cute Minecraft twist. You’ll enjoy your time but it’s not exactly deep. After all, it can’t be given its target audience isn’t the traditional strategy gamer. The variety that’s likely to come from multiplayer, however, is where the fun will be had. It’s cute, charming, and just the thing for everyone to get to grips with quickly.
Minecraft Legends is out now for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PC, Xbox Series X|S. We played it on Xbox Series X.
Minecraft Legends is a highly accessible strategy game that won’t challenge fans of the genre. For those who have never quite gelled with it before though, this is a great intro. Online co-op is a fun diversion but it’s the game’s PvP that will offer you the variety needed to keep you coming back for more.
- Highly accessible strategy
- Looks gorgeous
- Potentially very enticing PvP
- Lacks the ‘wow’ factor
- Could end up a flash in the pan