Minecraft Legends is more exciting proof that Minecraft can be anything

Minecraft Legends has all of the beautiful, blocky visuals and goofy humor you’d expect. But much like Minecraft Dungeons, Legends transplants those comforting visuals into a whole new genre. Instead of free-form mining and building or dungeon crawling, Legends puts you on a mighty steed to control an army of allied golems, monsters, and Creepers in a strategy/adventure mashup.

The player is recruited as the protector of the overworld. Piglins are swarming from the Nether, attacking poor villagers and corrupting the lands around them. The catch is that, while I can mow down Piglins with my diamond sword, I can’t touch their structures. In order to stop the Nether from corrupting the overworld, I’ll need to find allies to break down those structures — which requires resources. Luckily, the world is ripe for looting, and every village I save rewards me for my efforts with a big chest of goodies.

Image: Mojang Studios, Blackbird Interactive/Xbox Game Studios

The campaign opens with you digging a tunnel, only to be recruited by Foresight, Action, and Knowledge. These three extradimensional hosts are meant to represent the pillars of playing Minecraft, and they guide you through several tutorial battles to demonstrate the game’s colliding genres. They then give you some tools to tackle the Piglin threat. I have a diamond sword, a lovely lute, and several helpful golems.

These golems are critical to my success. I can create spawning centers for them, and then rally them to my banner. Because I don’t have many methods for fighting the Piglins directly — besides riding my horse and swinging my sword — I distribute most of the work among my new allies. There are golems called the “allay,” which help me mine resources and turn them into defensive structures. When I run into more sophisticated fortresses and army camps, my starting troops may not be up to the task. Luckily, I can find more soldiers and even sway enemies to my side, including explosive Creepers.

It can be a bit unintuitive to actually use my army, and it takes several steps to execute a strategy. I have to create spawning centers for the helpers, stand by and manually spawn each ally, rally them to my side, and direct them into battle. It’s a lot like a real-time strategy game, but pared down. It makes for an approachable strategy/action mashup — Minecraft Legends is on consoles and, like most things set in this universe, is meant to be a game children can enjoy — but it does mean I have to carefully repeat a sequence of small and easy-to-forget actions to set a big army in motion.

While my new friends are the star of the show, the structures I can create prove to be handy as well. When a Piglin camp is on the other side of a lava moat, I can simply create a stone bridge to allow me passage. If I find a mysterious chest full of resources on a cliffside, I can build a ramp up there to enjoy those riches. I can also reinforce villages, throwing up defensive towers, walls, and gates. Over time, the Piglins get more sophisticated in their tech, and so do I — we’re now embroiled in a blocky arms race. Minecraft Legends starts as a very simple challenge, but the battlefields get increasingly crowded, and I have to figure out new ways to herd my armies like lemmings through enemy territory.

As it turns out, there are almost no concrete consequences for ditching the overworld battles for a bit. In fact, there’s ample time to explore the wilderness, discover treasure, and generally screw around. I found that rushing to an outpost and leisurely taking my time had the exact same effect; there are no penalties for being tardy.

The player raises a banner atop their horse to rally the army to their side while Piglins swarm around the scene in Minecraft Legends.

Image: Mojang Studios, Blackbird Interactive/Xbox Game Studios

The problem is, my three hosts would rather I stick to the task at hand. So, they incessantly harp on the fact that another village is under attack. This nagging eases up the further you progress in the campaign — but it was frustrating for the game’s systems to allow me to explore a forest, and enjoy the light dappling through voxel branches, only for its overseer characters to consistently berate me.

The campaign of Minecraft Legends is around 20 hours long, give or take, so it doesn’t feel like too Sisyphean a task to explore the world, defend villages, and shake the biomes down for ores and gems. There’s also a cooperative option. But Minecraft Legends’ legs come from its multiplayer mode, in which two teams of four players vie to destroy the other’s base.

Multiplayer matches take place in procedural worlds, so players have to relearn the landscape each time, collect wood and stone, head to the right biomes to find prismarine and other valuable ores, and ward off attacks while launching their own. This is where Minecraft Legends feels the most like an RTS, and although communication was paramount during my sessions, there’s no in-game voice chat. Discord sufficed, but it’s a bummer that the developers didn’t provide an avenue of their own.

Minecraft Legends is a charming portmanteau of genres that manages to simplify the RTS formula while still demanding a fair amount of concentration and strategy. I’m interested to see where the game goes in the future; players might use its mechanics to create truly terrifying multiplayer strategies that escalate in amazing ways. Or they might just enjoy the campaign and then go back to their own realm, to tame their own wilderness away from the chimes of quest givers. Legends is a charming and colorful adventure, and it’s nice to finally befriend the humble Creeper.

Minecraft Legends will be released on April 18 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows PC. The game was reviewed on Windows PC using a pre-release download code provided by Mojang. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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