Minecraft Legends: Hands-Off Preview
While we have known about the existence of Minecraft Legends for quite some time now, not an awful lot was known about how the game would play out. Is it an RTS? Is it an adventure? Is it just another spin on the Minecraft creator legacy? Well, thanks to Microsoft and Mojang, I got to take a good hands-off look at what is coming and it turns out the answer is yes to all three of those questions.
During the presentation, the team at Mojang went to great lengths to show how Minecraft Legends is more than just a mod to the main game and that was never more evident than in the story aspects they they showed off. The game is fully voiced and tells what appears to be quite an intersting story throughout the campaign. The game starts with Piglins invading the realm and you, the player, getting whisked away to meet the Hosts. These Hosts are the creators of the realm and they have charged you with the sacred task of defending their kingdom from the Piglin invasion. This was all laid out in a couple of opening cinematics that, despite the vector graphic style, were jammed packed with personality and really set the scene for a charming tale to come.
The actual gameplay starts with the player dropping into a procedurally generated world with the immediate need to assist a village being attacked, after going through a few tutorials first of course. Those tutorials go through the need to collect both stone and wood, the game’s main resources. Once arriving at the village, players find the villagers trapped by the Piglins and thus begins the combat. To attack the Piglins, players are required to place spawning buildings that will bring different attack units into the world (both ranged and melee.) Once sufficient units have been spawned the player then leads them into battle, where they will either automatically attack enemy units or can be directed to attack a specific target. I immediately drew comparisons to the cult classic fantasy adventure Overlord, in the way the minions are handled and it looks like it works well here.
From here, the game takes a sharp turn into more traditional RTS territory. The world is chock full of villages that will collect resources for the player, as long as they are protected. To do this players will need to build and manage a host of facilities and defensive structures such as carpenter’s huts and guard towers. As long as the villages are protected from attack, they will keep filling the player’s coffers with all the resources they need. On the reverse side of things, when attacking a Piglins outpost, building is just as important. This is where I feel the real Minecraft flavour comes into it (well apart from the whole look of the game of course.) We were shown an example of a Piglins base surrounded by lava. No problem, just build a bridge and the lava is no longer an issue. According to the presenter this sort of thing is going to be common throughout the title, with smart use of building tools essential to taking down enemy fortifications.
The final part of the gameplay that Mojang talked about is the world itself. It seems that the player can engage in some interesting ways with the traditional denizens of Minecraft. New mounts can be found that have different abilities and different traversal methods making navigation easier. Players can also interact with Creepers and Skeletons, becoming friends in the process and allowing them to become apart of your army to take down the Piglins. Of course all of this is procedurally generated so no two playthroughs will be the same and that goes for the creatures on the map as well as the map itself.
If I have one concern with this game it is the controls. There is quite a lot going on here, between commanding armies, controlling the player character and building bases and structures and I worry that it is going to be a bit of a mess when it comes to playing on a controller. A keyboard and mouse should be fine, but getting all of that functionality onto a gamepad is quite the challenge. At this point in time, it is hard to say because our time was totally hands-off and it isn’t an impossible task (see the recent Age of Empires 2 Xbox port for proof of that) but it is a tough one so it will be interesting to see how it is managed.
In all, from my brief time watching the game, Minecraft Legends is shaping up to be quite an interesting spin-off. It appears to keep that Minecraft appeal, while at the same time having enough strategy and depth to appeal to more “core” gaming crowd. It could really be that place where everyone can come together and have a grand old time. There is still a lot to learn about the final experience though, like how the PvP and co-op elements work as well as how the story and campaign unfold, but for the moment I am pretty optimistic that this is going to be a great strategy experience for the whole family. I guess we will find out for sure when Minecraft Legends hits every system known to man on the 18th of April.