The blocky world is expanding with a new type of experience, but does it capture the original game's brilliance?
Minecraft entered into the spin-off market in earnest with the dungeon crawler, Minecraft Dungeons, three years ago. The year before, of course, there was Minecraft Earth, an AR game that closed its doors after less than two years. Now it's time for the next attempt with an action strategy game called Minecraft Legends.
This time it's the angry mob, called piglins, who want to take over the Overworld, one village at a time. Our hero is therefore brought into the world to defeat these evil monsters and to bring peace, calm, and tranquillity back to the land. The story itself may not be the most gripping, but that's not the point either, considering the game series this belongs to. The story is instead there to help introduce the combat system, building, and so on. The biggest problem with the game, however, is that neither the combat nor the building is particularly good or interesting either.
If you're used to being able to create whatever you want in Minecraft, you'll be disappointed to find that there's not nearly as much choice in Minecraft Legends. You'll need to build to protect various villages from invasion, and you can use walls, arrow-shooting towers and more to do so. It could have been a great base-building experience where you build your own castles or something, but there simply aren't enough choices to do that. New defensive towers and structures can be unlocked, but these never really help deliver on that feeling of creating a real base.
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To help in the battles, there are a bunch of golems you can use. You summon these by placing so-called spawners and using different resources to "build" them. Different types of golems have different strengths, such as cobblestone golems doing a lot of damage to buildings and wooden golems shooting arrows from far away. After saving their villages, you can also spawn Creepers, zombies and skeletons to aid in the fight. As they say, the enemy of my enemy, is my friend.
Building everything and recruiting your little buddies requires resources, which of course is a big part of the original Minecraft. But instead of digging and hacking away at things yourself, helpers are instead placed in a location where resources are available in this game, allowing you to collect wood where there are trees, collect stone where there is stone, and so on. Initially, there are only these two resources available to collect, but as time goes on, things like coal and Redstone are also unlocked. This, put into practice, makes it feel more like we are telling the game how it should be played, rather than playing it ourselves.
This is also felt in the battles. This is supposed to be an action strategy game, but the strategy is very limited. Each battle feels more like rolling a dice and hoping for the best, instead of being a real war general who can take over the battles completely. There are two types of battles: the aforementioned defence of a village, and attacking the bases of the piglins. Attacking is definitely more fun than defending, especially as the larger bases feel like trying to invade something from The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. First you have to force your way through the gate while arrows rain down and angry piglins charge at you, and then you have to destroy as many buildings as possible on the way to the final goal, which is a portal they come out of. Destroy it and the base is conquered.
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Unfortunately, our own hero can't do much in battle. The character has a sword, but it's only effective against basic piglins, and against stronger versions it takes far too many hits to make attacking them worth your while. If you want to collect all your golems and friends, you need to use what is perhaps the game's silliest mechanic, as you can only get them to follow you if they are nearby. And since after attacking a building they just stand there - perhaps to admire their achievement - you have to run around like a madman looking for them to bark further orders at them. The game would benefit from an action where you can recall everyone at once, no matter where they are.
It is especially annoying when the battle is on a hill and your troops fall off, as you need to jump all the way down, collect them and then run all the way back up again, every single time they fall off. It is possible to recall everyone at a spawner, but these cannot be placed in the area around the bases, which means that you have to run away from the battle to gather the gang. In addition, your troops drop like flies and you'll be running back to the same spawner to create new ones. Oh, and if you run out of a specific resource, you'll have to leave altogether and come back at a later time to continue your siege.
The main attraction of Minecraft Legends is the visuals and the game world. The cutscenes that appear at regular intervals are both funny and beautifully created and the graphics are just as Minecraft-like as we would have hoped. The game world is also varied with deserts, jungles, swamps, and more, along with its own villages for Creepers, zombies and skeletons. This, along with mostly excellent co-op opportunities, means that the game is not as bad as it may seem.
The campaign can be played with up to three other players online where all resources are shared, but everyone is free to do what they want. This allows one player to focus on base building, another on resource gathering and the other two on battles. For example, multiplayer is either three-on-three or four-on-four with the goal, of course, being to defeat your opponents. Invade piglin bases for more resources for stronger defences or go straight to the attack, the choice is yours. Something that is very surprising is that there is no possibility for local co-op at all, a feature that has existed in pretty much every facet of other Minecraft projects. This feels like a perfect game to play together on the couch.
Minecraft Legends has a lot of good fundamentals, but usually doesn't take them all the way to the finish line. Defeating large enemy bases is incredibly satisfying and fun, but the lack of options to build your own large bases is disappointing. The game could have used a little more development, but I can see that many people will still enjoy the game. I mean, you can get Creepers as friends. That is just one reason why this is worth checking out.
6 / 10
Still has that Minecraft charm. The large piglin bases are fun to invade. The game world is beautiful and varied. Lovely cutscenes.
The combat system is not very great. Repetitive. Cumbersome controls.