Minecraft Legends Review - At My Signal, Unleash The Creepers
Maximus, AD 180 (probably)
Thirteen years ago, a game was released on PC, one that allowed players to enter a cube-filled 3D world. Populated by Zombies, Creepers, cows, pigs and chickens, players were given the absolute freedom to do what they wanted within that world. After many updates to the game world and ports to seemingly every gaming-capable device known to man, The Minecraft universe expanded with 2020’s Action-RPG Minecraft Dungeons. Now, the team at Blackbird Interactive brings real-time strategy gaming to the Minecraft world, allowing you to utilise an army of Minecraft Mobs to fight back against the Piglins of the Nether as they try to take control of the Overworld.
After completing a short tutorial that gives you the basics of harvesting resources, constructing objects and combat, you are free to approach the procedurally generated world as you see fit. You can make your way around the world checking out the different biomes and creatures that populate them or you can jump straight into the Piglin fighting action with your spawnable mobs. Initially, you will only have the ability to spawn stone golems and wood golems, but after building some upgrades at the Well of Fate you will have more mobs at your disposal. The true power of the Minecraft world is the mobs that are traditionally cast as your enemies. Zombies, Creepers and Skeletons all have a home in the Overworld, and once you free them from their Piglin oppressors, you will be able to craft spawners to utilise them in your forces.
The golems and mobs are not the only forces you can throw at the Piglins either. As you travel around the Overworld you will come across animal mobs that can be recruited into your forces, though your mileage with these animals will vary. Taking a pack of wolves into battle with you is an effective strategic maneuver, but most of the animals will run from combat rather than give their lives to the cause. A special mention must go to the llamas of Minecraft Legends. Where even the Regal Tiger will turn tail and run at the thought of fighting the Piglin, the llamas will charge right up and spit in the faces of their enemies, fighting the good fight.
A lot of what you can do in Minecraft Legends is predicated on the upgrades you have built at the Well of Fate, the main hub of your Overworld. Using Prismarine, a resource gained from the destruction of Piglin structures, you can build upgrades that will allow you to harvest different blocks, hold more resources and have a greater spawning capacity for your forces among other things. Resource increases and spawn increases need multiple upgrades throughout the game, and thus you will need a significant amount of Prismarine to maximise your potential. The best place to get Prismarine is through the destruction of the Piglin bases but you better be prepared to earn it as these base battles can be a real slog.
With a very limited amount of mob spawns you can utilise at one time it is quite hard to make significant headway through the bases. Each of these bases sits on Nether blocks that prevent you from building any structures until it has been cured, forcing you to build your spawners on the outskirts of these areas before leading them into battle. These bases can be heavily populated with Piglin forces and trying to defeat these forces while also destroying their spawners can be an exercise in futility considering how long it can take your units to destroy one building. It was very much a matter of spawning in mobs, leading them into the base until they are all dead and running all the way back out to spawn replacements. Rinse and repeat in perpetuity until you finally fight your way to the Nether Portal. In exasperation, I resorted to leading a cadre of Creepers straight down the middle to take out the Nether Portal in a mass bombing strike that proved to be quite effective and became my standard battle tactic.
This leads me to what I believe is a sizeable flaw with the game as it stands right now. Unlike the resource blocks that you harvest, the Prismarine (and by extension the gold that drops at the same time) you get from Piglin structures all have a despawn timer. Several times I have missed out because my forces have destroyed a structure while I was away from the action spawning more forces or regenerating health. The most annoying time was when I somehow died during the post-portal destruction cutscene. By the time I spawned in and made my way back all the gold and Prismarine from that base were gone, nullifying the time and effort I had put into getting my soldiers to the point where they could destroy the portal.
Where Minecraft Legends could have some real legs is the PvP mode that pits two teams of four against each other. Unfortunately, due to the limited number of people that gain access to the game during the review period, it can be very hard to get enough people to get a PvP game going. Alas, I cannot comment on the PvP aspect of the game and it is something that we will all have to keep an eye on in the future. You can play the campaign in co-op, and I was able to spend some time with my nine-year-old running around and taking control of my mobs while running off in the wrong direction. I love her, but her grasp of strategy is fleeting and with the Mob spawn count restricted to the same number it would be if I was playing solo there was no major benefit to playing the game in co-op.
In regards to the single-player campaign, while Minecraft Legends has potential, I don’t know if it will have the same level of longevity as the original Minecraft has had, and while it is very simple to command your mobs to go to a certain place and have them attack whatever is in the area, kids may struggle to adapt to the controlling of the mobs in more nuanced ways that will help get the most out of combat. Time will tell if the PvP aspect will grab the attention of gamers enough to keep them engaged and coming back for more.
Mincraft Legends was reviewed on Xbox Series X with code kindly provided by Microsoft.