Minecraft Legends is a third-person real-time strategy game developed by Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive. I am not a big fan of Minecraft itself. But its most recent spin-off, Minecraft Dungeons proved that the IP could craft fun new experiences using its signature style and world. However, since Minecraft Legends is an RTS, therein lies a lot of expectations within that genre. The game would not only need to have deep and engaging gameplay, but a memorable story as well. After wrapping up my initial playthrough, I can happily confirm they not only had both. But the overall experience I had from the game left me surprised. With most of the time spent being in bliss, and other times, sheer frustration.
War, War Never Changes
Minecraft Legends starts with piglins from the Nether in Minecraft using an array of portals to conquer the overworld. To help win against the insurmountable odds, three deities, Foresight, Action, and Knowledge enlists the player. Giving them the tools to not only fight on their own but summon units to eliminate the piglin strongholds and free the overworld.
The storytelling in Minecraft Legends is done very well. The consistent usage of cutscenes throughout the game highlights the overall conflict of the game. As it captures the once peaceful realm being laid to waste by the piglins. As well as how the game portrays the Nether as well. With the legions of piglins in their respective ranks marching through the portal with their creepy leaders overseeing them. But it is not just a serious tone throughout. In some of the cutscenes, there are some comedic moments to enjoy as well. Like little piglin units getting blown away with a closeup on them.
As I kept progressing through the campaign by taking out the many piglin strongholds, there were consequences to my retaliation. Certain locations where skeletons or creepers would start being conquered by the piglins as well. This created new conflicts and earned the allyship of those factions. The consistent focus on showing me the effects of the war on my side and the piglins side kept me engaged throughout the game’s several combat scenarios as well.
Interesting RTS Combat in Minecraft Legends
Minecraft Legends has a blend of third-person open-world gameplay and real-time strategy combat. It seemed confusing at first when playing the game’s tutorial. But after exiting the tutorial and using the tools I was given in the overworld, it all clicked. You are able to harvest different resources, like wood from trees or stones and coal by using harvesters. Then use the resources to summon units to help you from spawners you have to craft with those same resources. But how I was involved in the gameplay was a unique touch.
Instead of using a simple cursor to control your units. You are at the forefront of the combat with your units. You can have them rally around you and send them in a direction where the AI detects whether they’re supposed to attack enemies in the way, or buildings at the destination. Since you fight alongside them, you can keep enemies off them and take out enemies with enough sword swings. However, certain enemy units like a giant piglin with a swinging mace or one that rolls around can never be hurt by you, just your units, so there will be a focus on delegation. You also get to build ramps to help reach locations or arrow towers to either lay siege at a base or defend villages at night.
Players will learn that the gameplay is crazily deep the more they play. Like understanding how to send waves of units in different directions to confuse the enemy instead of rolling in one massive pact. This alongside many other aspects of the gameplay was learned from attacking the many strongholds, world bosses, and outposts in the game.
Frustratingly Long Conflicts
In the overworld, there are a collection of strongholds and outposts that belong to three separate factions of piglins. One faction’s territories will either be in elevated locations, requiring the usage of ramps to begin destroying buildings or taking down enemies. While another faction would require the usage of creepers to destroy their walls to get inside the stronghold. Each of these taught me a different aspect of how the combat worked in a subtle way. I was complacent with just having the normal units I started with but had to actually unlock different units to take on the challenges ahead of me, like the world bosses.
After destroying the three strongholds of each faction, a world boss will spawn in the world with different challenges to take them down. Such as the Spore faction’s world boss being in elevated areas to match the faction’s stronghold placement that required me to use skeletons for their archery to hurt both him and the surrounding area. But in contrast to this, is the Hunt factions world boss that only spawns at night to attack villages. Both of these bosses had massive amounts of health and could wipe out entire waves of units easily, even on the easiest difficulty.
Minecraft Legends as a result has a balancing issue, as the harder difficulties become an absolute nightmare. Especially since the villages the Hunt factions world boss would destroy are very important. Since they hold unique resources you can have a hard time getting them. As well as being fast travel points. But despite the challenges each world boss had, they were welcomed, albeit frustrating a lot of the time.
The Overworld is Beautiful
The overworld in Minecraft Legend’s campaign is varied and very visually striking. The beginning area is filled with fields of lush greens and towering stone formations. But as you adventure around, you will see swamps, jungles, and snowy fields throughout with environmental details. Like the snow falling, the jungle having puddles when it rains, or lily pads in the swamp that you can traverse over. But it is not just a place that hosts the strongholds, or villages. There is plenty to see and do in-between combat.
There are hidden towers you can find deconstruct to use in combat. Such as ones that create blasts around them or ones that stun enemies that are around them. These were most useful when villages were under attack. You can also find different mounts than the standard horse. They all have their own unique traits, like the beetles being able to climb any surface at any length. As well as float down for safe landings. Or a tiger that is significantly faster than the other mounts.
You can also find super units that all bring something different to the table. Like one hurling boulders at structures for massive damage. Or one that can shield friendly units from projectiles. Exploring the overworld of Minecraft Legends is a visual treat, that also yields rewards for the long road ahead. I had tons of fun exploring it since there are patches of grass that boost movement speed and mushrooms that increase jump height. When coupled with the serenading music when you are just exploring, it more than tempted me to take those breaks between combat.
Technical Performance and Closing Remarks on Minecraft Legends
I played Minecraft Legends on the Xbox Series X and found almost no issues with the game at all. The draw distance is fantastic and atmospheric. The sound design for the music to the units and their distinct noises for attacks like the skeleton’s bows or the cobblestone golem when it punches buildings are all fantastic. There are no bugs or glitches. As well as freezes or crashes. It is a squeaky-clean experience outside of one problem.
I had to alternate through three different controllers due to having to hold down the X button for long periods of time to summon units, open chests or control my units. The excessive reliance on the X button ended up having one of my controllers have the button become sticky-locked for a few days. As of right now, there are no options to make any meaningful changes since button remapping resets when you close the game.
However, outside of that problem, the Minecraft Legends campaign was genuinely fantastic in the 15-hour playthrough I had. Between the story and the excellent usage of cutscenes that never got in the way. The very intricate yet satisfying combat and the consistently frustrating world bosses all kept me engaged. As well as having a varied open world to explore with a lot to find that felt rewarding. Minecraft Legends is definitely not going to be for everyone, but this game will solidify itself as a mainstay in the genre with how it handled all these aspects to create a memorable experience.
Minecraft Legends launches on April 18th for $39.99 for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Steam, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4|5.
Special thanks to the publisher for providing the review key.