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Minecraft Legends (PC) review: A refreshing take on the much-beloved series

By Captain Grover - 30 Jul 2023

Minecraft Legends (PC) review: A refreshing take on the much-beloved series

Note: This review was first published on 19 May 2023.

For more than a decade since its initial release, fans have loved the Minecraft franchise for its games that let them explore dungeons, fight monsters, and build almost anything in its blocky, voxel-like world. Now, game developers Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive are hoping that fans will like their all-new take on Minecraft as a real-time strategy (RTS) game, with the release of its latest offshoot title, Minecraft Legends.

As an avid Minecraft fan, I must admit that I was pretty sceptical when I first heard about Minecraft Legends. It was hard to imagine a much-beloved open world, sandbox-survival game being morphed into an RTS title. Now that I have played the game, I am happy to say that I was not entirely disappointed.

In Minecraft Legends’ main campaign mode, you play a hero who is tasked to save the game’s Overworld from an invasion by Piglins, a race of comically evil monsters that look like… well… pigs. To do so, your character will have to protect the Overworld’s inhabitants and their villages by gathering resources to build troops, as well as construct bases and fortifications.

While the above gameplay mechanics are all hallmarks of a classic RTS title, Minecraft Legends is by no means an Age of Empires or a Warcraft-like game, so don’t expect to be spending lots of time building elaborate bases or training entire armies. Instead, Minecraft Legends employs some pretty refreshing gameplay mechanics that have successfully captured the charm of the RTS genre, while integrating surprisingly well with the Minecraft universe.

The first of these gameplay mechanics is the gathering of resources. While most classic RTS titles would have players constructing resource buildings and then commanding work units to gather resources over time, Minecraft Legends speeds up the process by giving players a number of fairy-like creatures to help with the job. Called Allays, these magical resource-gathering assistants can be assigned to automatically gather and store specific resources in any area of the map at the hero’s command.

This change not only makes for a much faster-paced gameplay, but also eliminates the need to create a single large, elaborate base on the map. Instead, players will likely find themselves consistently on the move, gathering resources while building their troops and constructing smaller bases, as they go from village to village to stop the Piglin invasion. This nomadic style of gameplay would probably not score well among fans of classic RTS games, where base-building is part of the charm. But it gels surprisingly well with the game’s rapid style of combat.

In Minecraft Legends, troops come in the form of golems that the player’s hero can craft using gathered resources. There are several different types of these combat units, and part of the fun is in assembling the right combination of golem types to defeat the enemy Piglins.

Once created, the golems can be commanded by your hero to follow, head in a specific direction, or charge an enemy. While this simple command system works well with the more rapid pace of the game, I am not a fan of the disorganised mob-versus-mob type of battles that ensue, especially when fighting a bigger group of enemies such as a large Piglin fortress.

Your golem troops will always travel in a single, large group when asked to follow your hero into battle, and you cannot split your army into different groups for a more strategic or tactical approach. As someone who loves playing classic RTS games, I felt that Minecraft Legends’ combat system was left quite wanting because this grouping feature was left out.

No Minecraft title would feel quite right if players were not able to construct buildings and structures in-game. In Minecraft Legends, the building aspect of the game has also been adapted to suit the RTS genre. Just like resource gathering, your hero can simply command the Allays to magically construct the buildings you want, anywhere on a map, as long as you have the resources for them.

The Allays are pretty good at it too, and most structures are typically built in a few seconds, meaning that new buildings, defensive structures, and even golem spawners can be created on the fly and deployed on the battlefield to aid in your conquest. While this style of rapid construction did somewhat dilute the charm of in-game building, I did find it quite refreshing and appreciated the additional layer of complexity it can add to a battle.

However, the mob battle style of combat in Minecraft Legends does not work very well with this build-anything-anywhere construction system. One of the basic battle strategies that players will learn early on is to build ramps that can breach the Piglins’ defences, or help the golem troops to walk across barriers so that they can reach their Piglin enemies. But the AI that powers the golem troops is often glitchy, resulting in more than a few golems falling off ramps with each attempted crossing, and often drowning in pools of lava.

When playing on the PC, the keyboard commands may require a bit of getting used to as well, so the first couple of battles may be a bit more frustrating, as players try to familiarise themselves with these non-conventional gameplay mechanics, all while trying to adapt to these AI and movement issues.

In all, Minecraft Legends is a generally fun game that offers a refreshing take on the much-beloved Minecraft series, while trying to introduce a new generation of gamers to the RTS genre, albeit with a slightly different take. While the game has some inherent issues, they are not deal breakers.

With the word “strategy” as part of its gameplay description, I would have loved for Minecraft Legends to be a little more tactical and less action-heavy. But despite this game being a different breed of RTS, it is still plenty of fun.

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