Minecraft Legends Review
A Glorious War For the Overworld
Minecraft travels outside its usual borders once more to tackle the real-time strategy genre with surprising results. In GameWatcher’s review of Minecraft Legends, we get into why it’s another successful spinoff for Mojang’s juggernaut of a franchise.
Minecraft as a game already has the ability to be all sorts of things. Its creative D.N.A. allows it to be flexible in a way few game franchises could dream of. So it should be no surprise when it jumps into spinoff territory and delivers. Minecraft: Story Mode told great tales within the ruleset of Minecraft and Telltale’s choice-based adventures. Later, Minecraft Dungeons did a family-friendly Diablo take that was genuinely good, and now it swans into real-time strategy with an almost unnerving swagger.
Minecraft Legends is all about swagger. I’m genuinely surprised by the confidence on display. Sure, I’ve literally just stated it shouldn’t be surprising, but there’s getting by and looking almost supernaturally casual at switching genres. It’s also got high production values, sumptuous cutscenes, humor, and an acute understanding of the RTS genre’s traits. It’s probably as successful a genre switch for a Microsoft keystone as Gears Tactics was. For me, that’s high praise.
Driving this tale is an invasion. Piglins have broken through to invade the Minecraft overworld and are laying claim to the land. The player is a seasoned Minecraft adventurer chosen by a higher power to lead the overworld in a battle against the might of the Piglin army.
Minecraft Legends takes place on open-world maps where you are in a constant power struggle with the Piglin menace. You only ever control your player character as they roam the overworld, but you can recruit all number of Mobs to join the fight. Yes, that’s right. Mobs good, bad, and indifferent unite to save their shared world. Now the Creepers are skeletons fighting alongside you against a common enemy. That alone is a pretty cool moment whenever it happens.
As you roam the overworld, resources can be gained by Allays. You need resources to build an army of golems that act as the ‘bedrock’ of your army. These aren’t like the regular golems in Minecraft, and each type does something different. Wood golems act as ranged attackers, while stone golems are diminutive but highly aggressive smash units that are great for destroying Piglin structures. You can only spawn a certain amount at a time, so you’ll need to take the right ones to fight alongside other Mobs. The kind of biome you’re fighting in plays a part, but there are soft factors like where the target area is, what’s between you and it, and if there are enough resources nearby to keep you well-supplied for a long-haul battle.
Unlike Minecraft Dungeons, learning the combat system for Minecraft Legends isn’t especially kid-friendly. Real-time strategy tends to require a bit of complexity and it might take a little while to get into the swing of things during the campaign. For instance, learning how to break up your squad of soldiers into groups best suited for a particular job is tough to remember when the action is chaotic. Hold down the right trigger and use the analog stick to direct attacks in a specific direction and with the desired intensity. Straightforward enough, but when there are dozens of characters bustling around, it can sometimes be challenging to determine the location of your troops. This does get easier though. It’s just a bit of culture shock.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of leeway to learn the ropes before dragging yourself into anything too hot to handle. Co-op is available to ease the pressure by having multiple generals working together to delegate roles more evenly. But even alone, the game is pretty forgiving about your screwups until you require a greater challenge. Minecraft Dungeons could be referred to as ‘Baby’s First Diablo,’ and it wouldn’t be intended as an insult. So it’s not insulting to say Minecraft Legends acts as ‘Baby’s first Command & Conquer’. Using the power of Minecraft to get its fans invested in an entirely different genre is exactly what Mojang should be doing with its monster IP.
If I had a complaint, it would be that Minecraft Legends loses a little focus in trying to present an open-world RTS. There’s a lot going on and even though reminders pop up that a village might be in trouble soon if you don’t go help them out with defenses, it’s not especially clear how vital it is to go do that at first. Once you understand that the early hours involve a constant ebb and flow as you gain control of the land by taking out key Piglin defenses, the gameplay becomes smoother. However, some aspects can feel too stretched out, diminishing the sense of freedom that the game initially promises.
I express these concerns from the perspective of a child, which is, after all, the target audience for the game. My son spent time with the game and made these points somewhat. Kids who love Minecraft have a clear idea of what it is about the ‘brand’ they like, and giving something a Minecraft skin and calling it Minecraft is not enough. It has to contain the essence of Minecraft. Mechanically, Minecraft Legends might be a little too far from that, but make no mistake, this is absolutely a Minecraft game in every other way. Minecraft Dungeons felt more immediately like a Minecraft spinoff, but my son and I both found something about Minecraft Legends that got to the heart of the Minecraft experience a bit better than Dungeons.
It’s that it incorporates the gathering of resources and the creation of things. If you’ve ever built a fortress in plain old Minecraft, it translates very well into what Minecraft Legend offers up when protecting villages from a Piglin invasion. A PvP mode also allows players to create bases to defend against each other and that’s a perfect synergy between Minecraft and RTS PvP if I’ve ever seen it.
I think Minecraft Legends may be a harder sell for Minecraft fans than Minecraft Dungeons, but it doesn’t stop it from being an impressive RTS game aimed at a fresher audience. It may require some patience for the target audience to get into the groove of the game, but it has the potential to attract a significant number of new fans to the genre.
Microsoft provided GameWatcher with a review copy of Minecraft Legends for the Xbox Series X. This disclaimer ensures transparency and compliance with ethical standards.
MINECRAFT LEGENDS VERDICT
Minecraft Legends is a genuinely impressive RTS effort that has the potential to convert Minecraft fans into enthusiasts of the genre. Although it’s not always a seamless blend, most of its issues can be resolved through understanding and patience.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Having those age-old adversaries such as Creepers and skeletons fighting for you.
Good vs Bad
- A very solid RTS
- Has a delightful infusion of Minecraft spirit
- Co-op and PvP enhance the experience
- Great visual presentation
- A bit overwhelming to begin with
- The open world draws focus a little too much