When I think of Minecraft, I think of creativity, peace, and adventure. Minecraft Legends’ opening campaign scene made me feel as though my past accomplishments and care for the franchise were being rewarded by trusting me with a new and important challenge: save the Overworld from the greed of the piglins. Minecraft Legends is the fourth Minecraft spinoff game (Telltale’s Minecraft: Story Mode and Mojang’s Minecraft Earth and Minecraft Dungeons preceding it) and after getting an hour with its campaign and about an hour with its PvP multiplayer, it’s already building to be my favorite of the bunch.
It’s Not an RTS
Minecraft Legends is an action-strategy game, which yes, is different from an RTS (real-time strategy), though only in a few critical ways. Instead of taking a top-down omnipotent view of the world below you, your character leads mobs into battle with a sword in hand. Dennis Ries, Executive Producer at Mojang, told me that one of the reasons Mojang didn’t want to make a traditional RTS is because of the challenges they present when putting them on console. The action-strategy interpretation cuts out some of the impersonal aspects of real-time strategy and makes events and threats more focused.
Instead of commanding waves of soldiers or creatures from above, you’re using music to direct a mix of mobs to attack piglin towers or defend an otherwise defenseless village. First, you’ll start with two kinds of golems, and then as the campaign progresses, you’ll find allies in the iconic creeper and other formerly hostile mobs. Directions to the mobs are rather simple (move here, follow) but become more complex steadily over time (command one set of units following to move or focus a target). I played exclusively on an Xbox controller. It did take me a fair bit of time to get used to all the commands, and I can’t say I came away from my hour with the campaign having fully mastered them, but I think the campaign still does a good job of peppering in new layers of lessons during the early tutorial missions. I really only felt the lack of mastery because of the multiplayer session that came later – but more on that in a moment.
It’s difficult to say whether the on-the-ground perspective is more helpful than a wider view after only an hour of the campaign, but it did make my personal affection for units stronger. That being said, it’s a little disappointing I can’t cheer on my units or do more with our friendship other than sending them off into battle and reviving them again at their spawn structures. I served as a commander playing music on a lute for commands and used my sword only for hitting piglins. The cobblestone golems have to attack a piglin tower on their own as my sword (the only weapon you’ll have as far as I know) doesn’t do damage to the structures. Then, when it comes to the actual mining or resource collecting or building defensive structures like walls or arrow towers, the helpful fairy-like creatures called the allay handle that. It’s an interesting distribution of tasks that I’m curious to see how it changes and expands as the campaign continues.
Learning the Mechanics with Campaign
The tutorial mission early on was short and straightforward but served as a great introduction to the Hosts, three new ethereal NPCs. Each gave me a boon to assist in my quest to defeat the piglin invaders and defend the Overworld. I like them. They serve as just enough context for the story and as fun and encouraging guides, but also give me enough space to still feel like this story is my own – something I look for in Minecraft. The tutorial was genuinely essential and expanded well into that first hour of play, building on beginner mechanics as the piglin threat increases.
Getting upgrades in Minecraft Legends isn’t done through earning experience that translates to new levels, but in true Minecraft fashion, instead requires using resources to build toward something new – in this case, building “improvement structures” that can be made with a large collection of resources and a special stone called prismarine that’s earned by defeating piglins. Improvement structures unlock more units, new buildable defenses, or a slew of other upgrades, like the ability to mine for diamond or other ore.
One benefit of Minecraft Legends playing by its own unique action-strategy rules is its campaign’s patience with battle. Ries said that if I wanted to, say, spend more time exploring the procedurally generated map to find the new beetle or bird mounts, I could do so without the village actually being in peril. The peril kindly waits. The Hosts will gently provide reminders of the next critical task, but they won’t stop you from indulging in curiosity. I could easily see myself getting lost in seeking out new mounts or finding other secrets. Ries confirmed there are no secret areas, but enticing things like floating treasure chests in the sky, that yes, are intended to be there and are their own sort of challenge to collect. I appreciate that Minecraft Legends preserves Minecraft’s exploration and discovery.
An hour wasn’t nearly enough to make much of a dent into the full scale of the piglin threat or my forces’ abilities to combat it. Ries said Minecraft Legends’ campaign can take anywhere from 18 to 25 hours to complete, depending on how each player approaches the game. I look forward to exploring and unlocking everything in it I can when Minecraft Legends is out on April 18. It’s a rare chance to befriend creepers and other creatures I’ve admired but had no choice but to slay or run away from previously. Though there is co-op for the campaign, it’s one I think I’ll play alone. Ries did clarify too that there is no couch co-op due to screen space issues among other things, but for folks who want to play together in one household, there is cross-play.
It’s a rare chance to befriend creepers and other creatures I’ve admired but had no choice but to slay or run away from previously.
Taking on Multiplayer
The Minecraft Legends mechanics come to full force in multiplayer. In each match, two teams of four start from nothing and are challenged to destroy the opposing team’s base while protecting their own. This means starting by only being able to gather the basic resources of wood and stone and, hopefully (if your team is coordinated), gather prismarine and build enough improvement structures to unlock building the most complex buildings and tools, like the devastating redstone launcher or the protector towers that can counter the launcher. The multiplayer map mimics the campaign’s in having specific biomes where certain resources are guaranteed to be found, and like it, it’s procedurally generated for a new challenge each match. Ries said it is much smaller than the campaign’s map, but like the campaign, special and important upgrades like finding new mounts can be acquired through exploration. Everyone starts with a horse, but if you find the beetle, you’ll be able to scale walls rather than having to enter through a gate or break down a wall.
The average length of multiplayer is said to be about 20 – 30 minutes, but my team managed to push almost 40 minutes. We defeated the opposing team’s redstone launchers several times, but ultimately our uncoordinated roles and lack of a developer in our ranks spelled our downfall. Minecraft Legends is a game that requires strategy in multiplayer, but unfortunately has incredibly limited tools for it in the build I played. Ries said there’s no dedicated in-game chat for safety reasons, which I respect, but there’s no way to really call out specific actions or declare player roles either. One reason my team survived so long was because one of my teammates planted his flag at the base and stayed there almost the entire game to build improvements, building alongside me until I ran off to gather resources with a third player. Our fourth may as well have been AFK, which led to our defeat when trying to fend off a more coordinated enemy attack.
Roles like a dedicated builder or resource gatherer are crucial to success. Minecraft Legends has a ping system, but as it didn’t seem to go much further than me pinging a spot on the map or an item in a menu, I wasn’t able to convey my strategies without taking off my headset and speaking directly to the people somewhat near me. With the time investment in mind, I’m not certain I’d want to play Minecraft Legends online without having at least a friend or two by my side. Still, I did only get to try one especially long match with three others as unfamiliar with Minecraft Legends’ mechanics as myself, so I’m hesitant to entirely write off the solo queue for multiplayer just yet.
Future Support for Minecraft Legends
Any Minecraft fan knows Mojang is usually around for updates post-launch, and Minecraft Legends is no exception. Ries said there will be special challenges called Lost Legends, which serve almost as separate mini-games. Successfully completing one could earn you a skin.
One Lost Legends example Ries gave me that I didn’t play was called Portal Pile, a base defense challenge against waves and waves of piglins that’ll be available at launch. Ries said they also want to work with creators to potentially have them make their own Lost Legends challenges called Myths. There will also be a Legends Marketplace to get skins for player characters and mounts. Ries didn’t mention if they’d be any campaign DLC.
Befriending the Enemy
Even though my long multiplayer match was nowhere near the long ones Ries said they had when they were initially tuning multiplayer (almost two hours originally), the investment in multiplayer and potential challenges with team coordination has me skeptical about my chance at success. I’m not at all skeptical about my interest in the campaign, though. It seems like just the right amount of challenge while still being a pleasant reflection of some of my favorite elements of Minecraft. Sure, it’s weird to not stop and collect every resource myself, but with the help of the allays, the charming Hosts, and the potential of finally getting closer to the creepers without them exploding, I can say I’m excited to learn.
Miranda Sanchez is the executive editor of guides at IGN and a member of Podcast Unlocked. She’s a big fan of stationery and fountain pens. You can sometimes find her on Twitter.