Minecraft Legends review - A wholesome but simplistic take on the RTS genre

If nothing else, Legends is an unprecedented take on the Minecraft formula that has room for growth (Images via Xbox Game Studios)
If nothing else, Minecraft Legends is an unprecedented take on the sandbox formula that has room for growth (Images via Xbox Game Studios)

Minecraft Legends is yet another intriguing spin-off taking place in the iconic sandbox survival game's universe. While 2020's Minecraft Dungeons introduced players to an isometric ARPG, this offering switches up the genres once again. Developed by Mojang Studios in collaboration with Blackbird Interactive of Homeworld fame, it is an "action strategy" title. In other words, it is reminiscent of RTS titles like Little King's Story and Pikmin.

But is it truly a successful blend of two different worlds? Or a recipe for disaster? Let's find out.


The Overworld seeks a new hero in Minecraft Legends

The story campaign puts you in the boots of a hero summoned to protect the Overworld. The evil Piglins have found their way out of the Nether region and invaded the peaceful realm. As such, three entities, known as Foresight, Knowledge, and Action, entrust you with magical powers to take on this unrelenting menace. Riding atop a horse, you must lead the Overworld forces into action-packed battles against the Piglin mobs.

It is a surprisingly wholesome story about uniting forces against the baddies. Armed with the musical power of melodies, you must gather different unit types and command them around the map to take down Piglins and any outposts that have cropped up.

At the same time, they must avail the magic of Allays to supplement their efforts. Forming the basis for the core mechanics of Minecraft Legends, these fairy-like creatures will help build structures and gather resources.

Unite the Overworld's denizens and defend them against evil (Screenshot via Minecraft Legends)
Unite the Overworld's denizens and defend them against evil (Screenshot via Minecraft Legends)

After all, since the Piglins have ouposts and invasions of their own, you must retaliate with your own tactics. This is done with the help of some basic actions. You can command mobs to follow you, wait or attack/charge at a target.

This sees the your troops relentlessly attack a structure or foe until they are defeated. In standard RTS fashion, however, allies can and will fall into battle, so you must acquire more and more units to keep bolstering their numbers to fend off unrelenting Piglin forces. At face value, battles are fast-paced and hectic as you manage mobs around enemy hordes.

The secondary objective is to protect Villages around the map from occasionally attacking Piglin hordes. This is done by building structures as well as protecting them using the hero's personal army.

In return, they will reward you with Chests that periodically grant precious resources and aid further progression. These can be invested in at the Well of Fate by building structures that have different effects, like increased resource income and increased population cap.


Gathering, crafting, and fighting

There are many biomes to explore (Screenshot via Minecraft Legends)
There are many biomes to explore (Screenshot via Minecraft Legends)

While it initially seems to be an awkward combination of genres, Minecraft Legends does click at times. Interacting with the world in new ways as a player is certainly exciting. For one, the game retains a sense of wonder and exploration as the hero gallops through meadows and scorching deserts. While much of the open world is empty, you will come across surprising discoveries.

These range from brand new mounts like the beetle that can climb nearly anything and brand new mob unlocks, to treasure chests and new structures to build. The latter includes different types of towers to add to your defensive repertoire, like one that freezes incoming foes.

Various upgrades await discovery at the Well of Fate (Screenshot via Minecraft Legends)
Various upgrades await discovery at the Well of Fate (Screenshot via Minecraft Legends)

Before you can freely explore the outdoors though, you will first start off at the Well of Fate. This is the location at the heart of the Overworld and the ultimate target for the Piglins. It is also the default spawn location and also where most of the progression upgrades take place.

You first learn to harvest stone and wood from the biomes around by simply placing an allay gathering box within range of the resources. Do note that these worldly resources are finite, so you must travel around the map to look for different spots across biomes.

Then there's the builder allays, which craft structures. These include portals to summon golems and other creatures that will fight for you. Units are spread across melee, ranged, and support (i.e. healing allies). Familiar faces like zombies and creepers return as well, with the latter exploding to deal huge damage to enemies. Since there is a limit on how many mobs can be spawned, having a few of each is paramount to tackling Piglin Outposts.

Piglin outposts of various sizes are dotted around the open world (Screenshot via Minecraft Legends)
Piglin outposts of various sizes are dotted around the open world (Screenshot via Minecraft Legends)

However, other structures can be built too, including upgrades and defenses. The latter is handy in protecting villages and manifests in the form of walls and towers that hurl volleys of arrows and eventually even redstone launchers.

The former helps sustainability with the Masonry, for example, that turns nearby wall structures to stone for increased defensive capabilities. Or the Carpenter Hut heals structures within range. Environmental uses for structures is also smartly implemented as you can create ramps to cross gaps and chasms.

If you want more upgrades, the Well of Fate also offers Improvements to unlock new abilities, like being able to harvest diamonds or summon Legendary Golems. However, these require rare materials like Gold and Prismarine and can only be established within limited spaces. So, there is some decision-making to be done as to whether you wish to prioritize resource management or combat-enhancing upgrades.

Prismarine is acquired by defeating Piglin Outposts, while Gold may spawn in random chests within these locations. On that note, many of these strongholds are daunting to challenge, with powerful enemies residing within them. This is on top of treacherous structures like arrow towers and Piglin spawners. As such, you must be well-prepared for the inevitable war to come.


Battles and problems, ad nausuem

Dismantling these large-scale Piglin strongholds can eventually grow tiring (Screenshot via Minecraft Legends)
Dismantling these large-scale Piglin strongholds can eventually grow tiring (Screenshot via Minecraft Legends)

While its core elements work fine, Minecraft Legends has a big problem: it lacks depth and variety. To summarize, there is not much to the gameplay loop besides attacking Piglins and building structures and upgrades to help you take them down faster and more efficiently. This would be fine if not for the fact that you will dip in-and-out of deja vu every day-and-night cycle.

While initially novel, there is only so much Piglin-cursor-targeting and sword-slashing that can be done before combat devolves into mindlessness. The Piglin hordes are plentiful, especially in the outposts.

But tackling them becomes cumbersome when you take into account the often inaccurate pathfinding and babysitting of mobs that needs to be undertaken. The golems and other close-ranged creatures do not seem to attack enemies out of range, so you must herd them and manually have them assault the target.

Given how large some of these fortresses can be, filled with a massive amount of Piglins and their varied structures, combat can get tiring very quickly. This is further emphasized with shallow interactions and worse, poor pathing leading to ally units falling off ramps and cliffs.

It is not possible to command specific formations of units either as everything falls into blobs of their unit types in Minecraft Legends. Furthermore, it is hard not to get frustrated with the repititive nightly assaults. This is a problem as the game cannot be paused, ala Dark Souls, which is a baffling decision for the campaign mode.

It should be noted that there is no character progression either. Unlike the base Minecraft game, you begin with a large number of hearts and even have a diamond sword. These cannot be upgraded or changed, nor can you create armor to increase your defensive abilities. On the offensive side, you have no attacks besides a basic swing either.

This is made worse due to the fact that the sword barely feels like it does any damage, nor does it have any effect on structures and larger boss enemies. It is also a shame how creativity takes a backseat in so many ways. While you do build structures to protect Villages from Piglin harm, you cannot dream up elaborate fortresses due to structure limits.

It is also surprising how you cannot craft consumables to heal amidst battle or potions to grant bonus effects either - both of these are core elements of the true Minecraft experience. For such a combat-heavy game, all of these feel like missteps as they could have added more depth to Minecraft Legends' barebones gameplay.


Better with friends

Minecraft Legends also features co-op and multiplayer. The former can be seen as PvE with up to four players tackling the Piglin menace together in the campaign with a shared resource pool. This should make the repitition bearable for some and may entirely be the reason for the purchase. The latter is PvP that allows you to go head-to-head against a friend in exciting battles.

This is where the game arguably shines the most as players will face the unpredictable nature of human cunningness.

Minecraft Legends also features an in-game store where you can buy cosmetics using a premium currency called Minecoins. This is the standard exchange for the Minecraft Marketplace and has carried over to Minecraft Legends as well. However, it can only be purchased using real money. Given how basic and limited the skin variety is, it feels pointless to invest in.


Visuals, performance, and sound

It goes without saying that Minecraft Legends is a beautiful game. Built upon the same Bedrock Engine as the main title, it makes for sprawling, proceedurally generated vistas. There are various biomes across the Overworld, from lush forests to cold tundra, each distinct from one another even down to fauna and flora. It also has no performance issues, even when things get hectic in larger outposts with multiple enemies and structures.

However, the controls do feel stiff at times, especially when mass-commanding mobs, and the poor pathfinding does not help either. The sound is mostly ambient, which makes for a very chill experience in Minecraft Legends. The voice acting for the three overseers is decently done too. When the soundtrack does kick in, it does a good job of imitating the sense of awe and adventure the series is known for.


In conclusion

Minecraft Legends seems promising at first. The combination of resource management with the vibrant world of Minecraft is certainly appealing. Unfortunately, the execution falls flat in ways that are often baffling.

Whatever joy you have in the initial hours of Minecrafts Legends is sapped away by repititive and shallow battles against the Piglin mobs. Furthermore, the passive upgrades that you spend so much effort collecting resources for, feel more like side-grades than anything else when the depth-less core structure is factored in. At the very least, co-op should make the experience bearable for many players.

Throw in pointless microtransactions on top of that, and it is unclear what audience Minecraft Legends is aiming for. The game seems to be catered towards younger gamers but it may not grab their attention for long. Veterans, on the other hand, will be sure to decry the countless missed opportunities for more in-depth mechanics.

This could have further elevated the shallow gameplay loop and brought it closer to the authentic Minecraft experience - because if nothing else, there is a good amount of room for improvement here.

Final verdict (Image via Sportskeeda)
Final verdict (Image via Sportskeeda)

Minecraft Legends

Reviewed on: PC

Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5, XB1, XS X|S, and Nintendo Switch

Developer(s): Mojang Studios, Blackbird Interactive

Publishers(s): Xbox Game Studios

Release date: April 18, 2023