Xbox Series X/S
Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Rating: Everyone 10+
Mojang Studios has returned to the crafting table in an attempt to take Minecraft in a bold new direction. Minecraft Legends is an open-world real-time strategy game where you gather resources, build defenses, and summon adorable mercenaries to protect the sanctity of the realm. Instead of the birds-eye perspective often featured in strategy games, Legends opts for a character-focused view, with your hero roaming the landscape on dynamic mounts, sword in hand, using resources and armies to evict factions of evil Piglins, each with combat quirks to overcome. A compelling concept in theory, but this unique take on an iconic franchise can often feel at odds with itself. Minecraft Legends feels caught between the expected complexity of strategy games and the franchise’s approachable brand.
The first few hours of gameplay felt like an awkward first date with someone who is actually really interesting. As I galloped around the gorgeous environments, I was constantly interrupted by the game’s advisors trying to shoehorn me into specific tasks, which took away some of the shine from Legends’ immediately intriguing world. It felt like a series of false starts, but after repeating the same gameplay loop and enduring an epic tutorial phase, Legends finally lets go of your hand, and this is where the fun begins.
Legends’ reasonably sized map is full of iconic Minecraft imagery. From packs of wolves wandering across the plains to turtles splashing in ponds, the overworld feels organic and welcoming. Ambient patches of landscape like the aptly named Bouncecaps invited me to think vertically about exploration as they sent my hero flying into the sky. I felt encouraged to test the limits of fall damage in search of untouched areas, making for some unexpected finds and overt slapstick failures.
Across the realm, you’ll take down Piglin strongholds with combinations of deadly mobs and defend helpless villages by building walls and towers, all while maintaining your captured bases from random raids. Various defensive and offensive scenarios pushed me to evolve my tactics and choose my upgrades wisely at the Well of Fate, the hero’s home base. The game forces you to choose between having extra mobs on the battlefield, more options for structures, or additional resources, so you fine-tune your play style as you progress.
Traditional Minecraft mobs have had a charming makeover in Legends. Where a Creeper in the wild may have previously sent chills down your spine, here, they are puppy-like underdogs with explosive tempers you can use at your will. This twist also applies to Zombies and Skeletons: earn their trust by defending their homes from Piglin attacks; they’ll aid you against the tyrannical enemies who have usurped their position as the conventional menaces of the domain.
Minecraft Legends succeeds in engaging players to investigate its world by hiding special mobs and tools throughout its procedural landscape. Still, it can struggle to make you feel present and essential in the adventure, primarily due to the perspective shift. My hero was on the ground, manually summoning troops and fighting baddies, but it was my companion sprites, the Allays, that were getting all the upgrades, gathering resources, and building structures. You may yearn to get your hands dirtier in a world that feels so inviting and interactive.
This disconnect also followed me into battle where, instead of feeling like a captain who was storming castles to free the land, I would mostly watch my army whittle away at structures while wandering the outskirts alone. Minecraft Legends’ most absorbing moments come when you fight side by side with your mobs to destroy a Piglin portal, so it feels particularly deflating when the game forces you to replenish yourself outside of the action as your troops continue without you. However, I can see some benefit in these maverick systems, as Legends succeeds in twisting strategy game traditions in a way that welcomes players new to the genre.
Minecraft Legends battles to blend its open-world adventuring with the intricacies of real-time strategy, a war that sometimes detracts from the overall fun you can have. Even so, its gorgeous environments and clever world-building inspire familiar creativity that makes up for its growing pains. Where other strategy games feature more profound complexity, Minecraft Legends has heart, and it’s hard to resist its charm. Mojang’s first expedition into this genre occasionally holds your hand too tight. But when its grip loosens, there’s a vibrant world of combat challenges to discover, ultimately making it an enticing endeavor.