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Minecraft Legends review: an introduction to strategy

Minecraft Legends is another spin-off that makes some slip ups when adapting to a new genre

Whenever Minecraft branches out into other genres, I feel a lot of excitement and trepidation. On the one hand, the game’s freeform creative nature presents a brilliant opportunity for a unique take on an established genre. On the other, Minecraft Dungeons and Minecraft Story Mode have proven that creativity isn’t the name of the game with these spin-offs.

Minecraft Legends does a better job of adapting everybody’s favorite block game to a new genre than the previous attempts, but it still stumbles into many of the same issues.

Minecraft Legends running through a field

Trying to create a simple strategy game is always a tough task because complexity naturally creeps into these sorts of games. Minecraft Legends does it by stripping away all of the information that most other real-time strategy games would give you. Of course, many RTS veterans thrive on this kind of information, but this isn’t a game made for them.

During your adventure, you’re able to spawn in a small handful of different units to rise up and take down the Piglins that are invading the overworld from the Nether. The Piglins are split into three factions, all of which have their own sets of units and unique battle styles. The Horde of the Hunt tries to overwhelm you with units, the Bastion hides behind strong defenses, and the Spore slowly wears you down with chip damage.

It gives just enough variety across the eight-hour-long campaign and you have to approach each faction differently as you attempt to take down their bases by destroying the portal at the center. For some you can just rush to the portal and destroy the entire base in one go, for others you need to slow things down and thin out the herd before going for the goal.

Minecraft Legends defending a village

There are also defense mechanics, where you have to stop the villages of the world from being destroyed. Here’s where you can construct a variety of buildings to keep the testificates safe, but the Piglin invasions are rarely challenging enough to require the best buildings, like the redstone railgun.

Minecraft Legends is better than Minecraft Dungeons

Minecraft Legends adapts the world of Minecraft in a much more interesting way than Dungeons did. The story is stronger, and the visual style gives the original game some more flair. It brings a calming energy to the peaceful overworld and intense vibes to the hostile Nether.

Minecraft Legends is worse than Starcraft 2

Despite having similar gameplay styles, Minecraft Legends can’t compare to the gripping action and in-depth complexity of a game like Starcraft. Even in a match between two highly-skilled players, you’re never going to see incredible comebacks or mind-blowing strategies in this game.

Once you’ve found your rhythm, though, you start to find yourself defaulting to the same tactics for every base. It’s certainly fun to continuously charge wave after wave of Creepers into a base and watch them decimate it, but once you realize it’s by far the most overpowered strategy in the game, you no longer have a reason to do anything else. The harder difficulties negate this somewhat, and the multiplayer mode forces you to think a little deeper, but it’s still not a particularly deep strategic experience.

You don’t get any information on units’ HP, strength, defense, or anything of that nature, which stops you from getting bogged down in an overwhelming series of numbers, and besides, you don’t need to know any of that stuff to play this game. All you need to know is what a unit is best set up to do. Are they best at taking out buildings or units? Are they good at dealing with crowds? Can they resist strong attacks?

Minecraft Legends attacking a tower

This is normally what all of those juicy detailed stats would tell you, but Minecraft Legends reduces them to simple questions with simple answers, making it easy for anyone to understand. That’s the thing about Minecraft Legends (or any Minecraft spin-off) that is both a strength and a weakness – it is very heavily designed with kids in mind.

In another world, I can imagine an incredibly deep Minecraft strategy game that utilizes the game’s freeform building, letting you create massive empires and lead all kinds of magical units into battle. It’s so easy to adapt because Minecraft modders have already done it several times over – but that kind of game can never exist because children wouldn’t be able to easily play it.

That’s the reality of Minecraft. Its audience may include everyone from the very young to the very old, but the young are a far bigger portion of that audience, so they have to be catered to in games like this. It’s a shame if you’re someone who wants something more special, but it places these games as a great gateway to other genres.

Minecraft Legends building a ramp

Minecraft Dungeons may have been simplistic and uninteresting to Diablo fans, but a kid who’s never played a dungeon-crawler before might fall in love with it and eventually go on to try these heavier games. Minecraft Story Mode may be reductive, poorly written, and generally awful, but a kid who loves it might go on to try Life is Strange and grow into appreciating more complex stories.

Minecraft Legends is much the same. It can help a child understand the appeal of a genre that might’ve otherwise been inaccessible to them. In the same way Pokémon was a gateway into JRPGs for many of us as kids, Minecraft Legends could be their gateway into something like Warhammer – and there’s a lot of value in that.

Minecraft Legends Village

Plus, as I touched on before, if you’re a Minecraft fan who wants something deeper, there’s one of the biggest modding scenes in all of gaming to explore. Want a challenging Minecraft dungeon-crawler RPG? Play the Vault Hunters modpack. You can get some RTS action too with the MineFortress mod – and that’s just scratching the surface.

The simple fact is, if you’re an RTS veteran, then there isn’t anything here for you. However, if you’re new to the genre, then this might just be the best introduction there is. It gets you into the right mindset and teaches you the conventions of RTS, challenging you just enough so that you have to improvise strategies. It’s far from the pinnacle of the genre, but it will make you hungry for more.

Minecraft Legends technical breakdown

The game runs very well, although it takes a while to load into a world from the menu. Once you’re loaded in you shouldn’t notice any stutters or frame drops during gameplay, but strangely, the pre-rendered cutscenes sometimes hang for a second or two – likely due to the game loading in the background while they play.

The game is mostly bug-free too, aside from the occasional funny glitch. Spawning lots of units on a single spot can cause units to clip through each other here and there, but it sorts itself out once they’re on the move. Similarly, if something is standing on a structure while it is being dismantled, the game won’t update the gravity on it until it moves, allowing you to hover in the air temporarily.

Score: 6/10

  • Narrative: 4/10
  • Technical performance: 7/10
  • Art: 9/10
  • Audio and music: 7/10
  • Mechanics and systems: 5/10

Version tested: PC

About the author

Ryan Woodrow has been playing Minecraft since before it was cool, having seen the game grow into one of the all-time greats, and played all the spin-offs over the years. He has written for Game Rant and KeenGamer. He is also a veteran of strategy games, with a particular love of 4X strategies like the Civilization series and the turn-based tactics of XCOM.

Where to buy Minecraft Legends