Minecraft Legends is a throwback to games where resource management isn’t as important as personally leading your army into the fray. Which sounds at odds with the resource-hungry nature of Minecraft. However, the strategy elements are very much in tune with the building and crafting aspects. It’s a streamlined affair that doesn’t delve too much into either genre but capably establishes its identity in the Minecraft space of spin-offs.
The story is set at some point in the quote-unquote Minecraft “canon,” neither fact nor fiction, but warrants sharing among generations. It sees the Overworld threatened by the Piglins from the Nether, who spread their corruption. The various races, from the Villagers and Skeletons to the Creepers and Zombies, are threatened, and they’re also being mean to foxes, bunnies and cats, which always warrants swift vengeance.
"Fighting the Piglins alone isn’t the most conducive strategy, so an army of your own is necessary. The Allays help in this respect, autonomously building structures and gathering resources."
Unfortunately, the creators of the Overworld – Action, Knowledge and Foresight – can’t get directly involved. That’s where you, the Hero, come in. With a trusty steed rather forcefully pressed into your service, you explore the Overworld and assail the Piglins at every turn. You’ve probably heard this setup several times before, but as cliche as it is, Minecraft Legends makes it work thanks to some solid voice-acting and cinematic direction.
The Piglins are decidedly one-dimensional at first, but they have a structure and hierarchy, coupled with hilarious strategy meanings of violence and wild gesticulating. While the narrative plays out, the game still embodies the sandbox nature of Minecraft. Various Hordes are detailed beforehand, and major occurrences get their focus while the three Creators chime in with advice and quips. However, for the most part, the campaign involves going about things at your own pace.
Fighting the Piglins alone isn’t the most conducive strategy, so an army of your own is necessary. The Allays help in this respect, autonomously building structures and gathering resources. Position a Resource Allay on a patch of land with resources, and they’ll automatically start mining – no manual labor required. Meanwhile, you can task your Building Allay with creating Spawners for your units, towers (including those that rain down arrows), walls, Masonries and whatnot.
You have Cobblestone Golems and Arrow Golems initially, and can only gather Wood and Stone. The beginning is pretty straightforward – go here and take down some Piglin outposts. Go there and destroy some Portals. Guide units here, defend a village there, and so forth. It’s a bit slow, but you’re let loose into the Overworld soon enough.
"The complexity builds as you unlock more resources, songs and units, but it’s never overwhelming. After the initial few, you can unlock improvements as you see fit."
The Piglins’ war effort significantly increases over time, as seen with the different kinds of Hordes. For example, the Horde of the Hunt doesn’t care for defense, choosing to assail you relentlessly. Another Horde has reinforced its Portal, making it invulnerable, so you must destroy the surrounding structures before damaging it. Piglins become more aggressive in these massive Outposts, and there are also bombardiers, heavy units (including a tanky tower smasher), enemy arrow towers, and much more to deal with throughout the campaign.
It’s tough, so you should prepare first before tackling the Hordes. Fortunately, as the world opens up and you collect more materials like Gold and Prismarine, you can invest in new improvements for the Well of Fate hub. These allow for gathering materials like Coal, Diamond, Redstone and Iron, which opens up new player-building melodies that can improve existing towers and walls (or act as straight upgrades to existing structures). Some improvements also increase the cap on resources, which is necessary for unlocking later improvements.
The complexity builds as you unlock more resources, songs and units, but it’s never overwhelming. After the initial few, you can unlock improvements as you see fit. Gathering resources is also easy, thanks to the Allays, and even if your units fall, building more Spawners and generating more is a painless process.
Aside from the Hordes and Portals, the Piglins stage raids on the major villages, necessitating your building and defensive prowess before night falls. Successfully defending a village nets resources, and the Villagers will even gather some for you (including valuables like Diamonds if their region has them).
"Turning a village into a venerable fortress can be fun, and taps into that building itch, though it would be nice for ramps to be usable with structures if you want to quickly jump over walls."
Turning a village into a venerable fortress can be fun, and taps into that building itch, though it would be nice for ramps to be usable with structures if you want to quickly jump over walls. It would also be nice to tear down larger portions of a wall in addition to one unit at a time.
In the Overworld, you can assault minor Outposts to obtain resources like Gold for your upgrades. Some even provide additional Allays for your building and resource-gathering needs, though you’ll need a Piglin Key, earned by slaying Piglins in the wild. It’s also possible to visit the Homesteads of different races and rally them to your cause. Recruit some Skeleton Archers for more ranged damage or Creepers for some good old-fashioned explosions.
There are also discoveries like Power Towers, unique towers with powerful benefits. The Blast Tower, for instance, is a massive Lightning Rod that deals heaps of damage while pushing back enemies. You can only build one initially, but further additions become available over time. There are also Legendary Units, like the First of Brick Golem, which generates a forcefield to protect your army from ranged attacks.
Controls-wise, you can rally units nearby, and they’ll follow you until ordered to attack a certain point. You’ll quickly gain finer control and command different types of units separately. If you want your Cobblestone Golems, who are good at tearing down buildings, to focus on one structure while your Arrow Golems focus fire on another, it’s easy enough to execute. You can also set a path, and units will continue down it, destroying everything in their way.
"It obviously doesn’t beat Minecraft with RTX in terms of fidelity, but the idle animations of units, the details in mountains and water bodies, and even the varied biomes are visually impressive."
Each unit type is grouped via hotkeys, though you can’t set up custom groups beforehand. It’s possible to send one unit of a specific type forward if you want to leave smaller groups behind to defend points. Battles can get chaotic as you fend off enemies, back up units and rescue captives.
Some issues arise from iffy pathfinding, which is probably more due to the overall structure of the world. Since Legends recreates the blocky goodness of Minecraft, the various elevations can be tricky to navigate for your units (though building Spawners and recalling them is easy enough). There are also some AI quirks, like the time my Arrow Golems thought it necessary to go within melee range to attack a structure.
The voxel aesthetic may not appeal to everyone, but Minecraft Legends does look pretty good. It obviously doesn’t beat Minecraft with RTX in terms of fidelity, but the idle animations of units, the details in mountains and water bodies, and even the varied biomes are visually impressive. Performance is also solid – I didn’t notice any slowdown, even during super-pitched battles.
Navigating the world is also a seamless experience, especially with various plants providing boosts to speed and jumping. The music is pretty good with tense pieces during battles and cinematics and more calming tunes as you explore the world.
"Whether it’s looked back on in the same vein as other action strategy greats is a toss-up, but Minecraft Legends offers an endearing gameplay loop and plenty of charm that makes for an enjoyable ride."
I didn’t try multiplayer, which has its hooks to keep people involved, but the campaign offers plenty of fun. You can cure Netherrack that Piglins create on the land with their Outposts, allowing you to build on them. This leads to interesting scenarios like building an Outpost right in front of the enemy, bombarding them with Redstone Launchers and arrows from a distance as your army charges in.
While it doesn’t quite have Minecraft’s DIY toolset to build just about anything or the extensive research trees and approaches of real time strategy games, Minecraft Legends is a successful fusion of both genres into something wholly unique. It’s relatively easy to pick up and play while offering a healthy amount of depth and some fun battles that grow more challenging as you progress. Whether it’s looked back on in the same vein as other action strategy greats is a toss-up, but it offers an endearing gameplay loop and plenty of charm that makes for an enjoyable ride.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Charming characters backed by strong voice acting. It hones the Minecraft aesthetic and gameplay loop into an involving action strategy experience. Controls are seamless, whether it's resource gathering and army generation or ordering units. Battles range from fun to tense, and there's enough to keep the gameplay feeling fresh.
Some pathfinding issues for units. Unit variety and tactics may not be as in-depth as in other strategy games. Certain building methods, like ramps on your walls, aren't possible.
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