The Minecraft video game franchise is probably one of the most recognizable in the world at this point. We’ve seen it permeate into just about every corner of popular culture over the last ten or so years. And as the franchise has grown, we’ve seen it step outside the game’s standard formula of, well, basically, mining and crafting. And while those two key elements are present in Minecraft Legends, there seems to be a lot more going on here in terms of story and action. I was lucky enough to get some hands-on time with an Xbox Series X version of the game while at GDC 2023 to find out if I had what it took to save the day.
In Minecraft Legends, players take on the role of a champion tasked with saving the Overworld from an impending Piglin invasion. You’ll have to roam the land protecting villages and taking out Piglin strongholds in order to save the day. But you won’t be taking on this epic task alone, as you’ll have plenty of skills and friends to help you along the way.
While mining for resources is still part of the game, it’s done in a much more passive way. Players will essentially lay down collection boxes for various materials and have their little sprite friends collect them while they deal with more pressing matters. Building is also a much quicker affair and players essentially just pick what they want to build and where to build it and it takes care of itself from there. Players can build things like your standard gates and walls along with archer towers, and other buildings that can give you access to more structures and units or help reinforce your defenses. The mechanics give Minecraft Legends a bit of a tower defense vibe to it, but there’s so much more going on here. And if you’re good at building in regular Minecraft a lot of those skills should come in handy when strategizing in Legends.
Saving the Overworld is going to require a lot from a champion. Fortunately, players will not be going it alone. One of the many things players will be able to use their resources to craft are buildings that spawn little allies for you. At first players will just be able to build themselves golems out of various core elements like tough cobblestone golems who can deal some hefty damage or plank golems that shoot arrows for a long-range attack option. It doesn’t seem like it will be too long into the game that players will be able to turn old enemies into friends and summon classic Minecraft enemies like Creepers, Skeletons and Zombies to fight by their side as well. Players can command groups of allies to do things like march alongside them into battle or attack specific enemies or structures.
Champions themselves cannot directly attack structures, but can hack up enemies all they want. Many of the battles I experienced during my hands-on time involved sending my allies in to take down various Piglin structures or defend village centers from enemy waves while I did my best to clean up any enemies that got in the way. Combat is definitely feeling like a solid mix of strategy and action that keeps things simple, streamlined and easy to access.
The world of Minecraft Legends is very similar to the core games, but made more for exploration than mining to say the least. The third-person perspective and wide viewing angle makes all the blocks seem smaller though. Players will travel over snowy hills, through harsh deserts, and jungles thick with sharp vines to name a few. Fortunately, there are some fast travel options and several mounts that can be found around the world map. While I started out with a pretty standard horse, I did find a beetle that could run up walls and glide down to the ground after jumping. And there are more to be found while traversing the land too.
The brief time I spent with Minecraft Legends campaign mode was a real treat, but I have to say my PvP experience is what’s really sold me on this game so far. The versus mode we played set up two teams of four on a small procedurally generated map and tasked each one with destroying the other’s central tower in order to win. Teams pool resources and allies, so everyone has access to whatever they may need.
Communication and taking on a required role are going to be essential for winning in PvP. During my own session everyone on my team took on a role fairly quickly. One person was in charge of building up our base defenses and making sure upgrades were being taken care of. Another player went off to find much needed resources. And I found myself hunting down Piglin encampments in order to supply our home base with the gems we needed to build up our army of allies.
By the time we were through, our base had a labyrinth of corridors that did not make it easy for enemy armies to just simply walk in and attack our tower. I was also able to build a smaller fort near the enemy’s base and start sending in waves of allies to break down their walls and start dismantling their base. And while I was doing that another teammate went ahead and built a giant cannon on top of a mountain that helped us easily take down our opponents. I’m a sucker for competitive team-based experiences like this and Minecraft Legends did not disappoint in the least. And even though we won the day, I kind of wish the battle had been just a little bit longer as I was having so much fun with the experience.
I am not what you would call a hardcore Minecraft fan in any sense of the word. I think the core game is great and has shown us over the years that it has a lot of potential. With that said though, Minecraft Legends is feeling much more my pace. The combination of action adventure, tower defense, and army commanding is feeling solid and approachable for a large age range without being too horribly rudimentary about the experience. Minecraft Legends is definitely feeling like it’s going to be another feather in Mojang’s cap.
This preview is based on hands-on time with an Xbox Series X build at a recent event held by Microsoft during GDC 2023. Minecraft Legends is set to launch on April 18, 2023 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Blake Morse posted a new article, Minecraft Legends brings a new kind of adventure to the franchise
It looks awesome and I’m not even a strategy game type of person. I’m buying this day one. I love the new look as well.
I desperately want an open-world survival/creative MC2 with this aesthetic and a new game engine that actually performs well. It’s insane that I barely maintain 100 FPS (and it dips below 60) with the Java version with max view distance in 2023.