When it comes to a video game series trying new things, developers must be a little frightened to take something that is so tried and tested in one area and steer it towards the deep waters of the unknown. In Minecraft’s case, you can always expect it to be one of the most approachable survival games out there. We’ve seen it try to take on dungeon crawling already to moderate success, but now it’s attempting the strategy genre in Minecraft Legends. What you have here is a game that has its fun moments, but might struggle to find a dedicated audience to truly embrace it.
A kid’s game for strategy veterans
When I say Minecraft Legends may have a hard time finding a dedicated audience for the long haul, its because I see a lot of similarities between this and Minecraft Dungeons. Both games try to simplify their chosen genre in a way that doesn’t offer enough depth to draw people away from their favorites, but also doesn’t incentivize new people to try it out either. Kids who are into Minecraft, such as my daughter, won’t find the experience to their liking. She has played it for about the last seven years, and when I showed her Minecraft Legends, she said, “that looks cool,” but had no desire to play it. That is because Minecraft Legends is so different from and more complicated than the experience she knows.
In Minecraft Legends, you play as a generic Minecraft person as they ride around on a mount and direct mobs to do their bidding in typical RTS fashion. Allies are used to gather resources and build, which is easy enough to do, and finding resources feels more controlled since they aren’t randomly generated around the maplike in normal Minecraft. In that game, you are forced to go digging and hope that the RNG works in your favor to let you find the ore you want. In Legends, each resource can reliably be found in a particular biome. Because there’s no digging here, everything is above the ground and you can have a better idea where to go by paying attention to your map. Need Diamonds to improve your buildings? Go to the Tundra biome. How about Coal to make an army of Creepers? Head to the Meadow. Having a vague sense of direction is very appreciated when you need to grab a particular resource.
Building and controlling your army is easy with a controller, which is a welcome change from how they functioned not that long ago. Once you come to grips with the controls, it’s pretty easy to replicate success against the AI, depending on your difficulty level. I started out on the standard difficulty, but felt like things were progressing too slowly, so I switched it to Storied mode after a while. Even on that setting, I died quite a few times, so I wouldn’t say Minecraft Legends is too easy by any means.
While the army building aspect of Minecraft Legends is good, I was let down by how pathetic your character is. For a warrior riding a mount around the world with a Diamond Sword, they are really weak. I get that the point of a game like this is to let the mobs do the work for you, but it was frustrating to find my attacks having no effect on the walls and gates keeping me out of Piglin bases. You’re merely there to direct the mobs and sometimes swing your sword at small enemies. At that point, I think I would have rather had the top-down view these games traditionally go for.
The difference between competitive and cooperative play
I really appreciate the dedication Minecraft Legends has towards teamwork, especially in PvP. There is always something to do to help your team. With teams of four, you can work on fortifying your base by building structures, go out collecting resources, attack Piglins, or take on the enemy team. Every role has something that will help your cause, but the problem is understanding when you need each thing and how to get it. There is an in-game manual to find all this information, but with so many moving parts to remember, you can spend a significant amount of time looking at that instead of playing the game. I recommend not trying PvP until you spend a significant amount of time in the campaign, and at that point, you might be done with the game.
While Minecraft Legends wants you to spend a significant amount of your time in PvP, I found the campaign to be the area I enjoyed the most. If you have a group of friends, working together to fight Piglins around the area was something that never got old. However, if you don’t have a dedicated party, things get pretty lonesome. Unfortunately, there is no matchmaking for the campaign, so unless you have a team set beforehand, you are forced to go alone.
The best these blocks have looked
Regardless if you have a team or not, Minecraft Legends is my favorite implementation of these blocky worlds from a visual standpoint. In particular, I really enjoyed the many cutscenes showcasing how the Piglins behave in the Nether when you take one of their portals down. These short breaks from gameplay were entertaining enough that I never wanted to skip them and it was interesting to see what life in the Nether is like for the Piglins. It’s a way to capture the essence of the original Minecraft world while adding its own charm. It gave me a vibe similar to the days when Lego games didn’t have voice acting. Innocent fun is caught in these moments.
Minecraft Legends is a capable attempt at making the strategy genre more approachable for those of us who typically don’t enjoy those kinds of games, but there is still a lot to know and remember. If you love games like Civilization, this will not compete with that, and Minecraft fans aren’t going to play this long-term either. It’s simply a fun playground to experiment with for about a weekend and move on. Play with a friend in the campaign for the best experience, and avoid playing PvP with randoms like me who don’t know what they’re doing. It’s a perfect title to test out on Game Pass.
Minecraft Legends was reviewed on the Xbox Series X with a code provided by the team. It is also available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Nintendo Switch, and PC starting April 18.
- Fun campaign co-op
- World looks great
- Fun cutscenes
- Loses its luster when playing solo
- Still needs a particular crowd to enjoy it