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 lovable mercenaries to protect the sanctity of the kingdom. Instead of the bird’s-eye perspective often featured in strategy games, Legends opts for a character-centric view, with your hero roaming the landscape on dynamic mounts, sword in hand, using resources and armies to drive out factions of evil Piglins, each with combat oddities to overcome. A compelling concept in theory, but this unique take on an iconic franchise can often seem 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 play felt like an awkward first date with someone who is really, really interesting. As I galloped through the gorgeous environments, I was constantly interrupted by in-game advisors trying to nudge me into specific tasks, which took away some of the shine from the immediately intriguing world of Legends. 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 that’s where the fun begins.
Legends’ reasonably sized map is packed full of iconic Minecraft imagery. From packs of wolves roaming the plains to turtles splashing in the ponds, the overworld is organic and welcoming. Ambient landscape pieces like the aptly named Bouncecaps invited me to think vertically about exploration as they sent my hero soaring through the sky. I felt encouraged to test the limits of fall damage in search of untouched areas, which resulted in unexpected discoveries and egregious failures.
Across the kingdom, you’ll clear Piglin fortresses with deadly mob combinations and defend defenseless villages by building walls and towers, all while keeping your bases captured in random raids. Various defensive and offensive scenarios prompted 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 extra resources, so you hone your playstyle as you progress.
Traditional Minecraft mobs have gotten a makeover in Legends. Where a Creeper in the wild may have sent shivers down your spine before, here are puppy-like underdogs with explosive tempers that you can use to your heart’s content. This twist also applies to zombies and skeletons: gain their trust by defending their homes against Piglin’s attacks; they will aid you against tyrannical enemies who have usurped their position from conventional threats to the domain.
Minecraft Legends manages to entice players to investigate its world by hiding mobs and special tools in its procedural landscape. Still, he can struggle to make you feel present and essential in the adventure, mostly because of the shift in perspective. My hero was out in the field, manually summoning troops and battling baddies, but it was my fellow sprites, the Allays, who were getting all the upgrades, gathering resources, and building structures. You can yearn to get your hands dirty in a world that feels so inviting and interactive.
This disconnect also followed me into battle where, instead of feeling like a captain storming castles to liberate the land, I mostly watched my army drift away from structures while wandering the outskirts alone. The most gripping moments in Minecraft Legends come when you fight side-by-side with your mobs to destroy a Piglin portal. So it’s especially deflating when the game forces you to replenish outside of the action as your troops carry on without you. However, I can see some benefits in these maverick systems, as Legends manages to twist strategy game lore in a way that welcomes players new to the genre.
Minecraft Legends struggles to mix its open-world adventures with the intricacies of real-time strategy, a warfare that sometimes detracts from the overall enjoyment you can have. Still, his gorgeous environments and clever world-building inspire a familiar creativity that compensates for his growing pains. Where other strategy games feature deeper complexity, Minecraft Legends has heart and its charm is hard to resist. Mojang’s first expedition in this genre sometimes holds your hand too much. But when its grip loosens, there’s a vibrant world of combat challenges to discover, which ultimately makes it an enticing undertaking.
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