The reveal of Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive‘s Minecraft Legends, a strategic take on the beloved blocky franchise, was a surprise last year, not because the series isn’t popular, but because the genre it will take in its latest form is not exactly the most welcoming of all. While players might be comfortable building their own creations and fighting off mobs, it is a whole other story regarding base building and overworld saving.
However, after spending some time with Minecraft Legends at a preview event, those worries have lessened significantly, not just for the single-player portion of the game, but also for the multiplayer aspect of things.
The Genesis of Minecraft Legends
While some knowledge of how the original game works will help, Minecraft Legends is a new experience that requires a different set of skills to flourish, and the best way to pick them up is to play the campaign mode and fight back against the Piglins.
“In the beginning, it’s a little bit more structured, because we want to make sure that players understand how to navigate through the game. So some of what we’re trying to do is teach the player like how to spawn mobs, and the bases are usually a little smaller, so you can kind of get through that,” explained Executive Producer Dennis Ries.
As players get up to speed with gathering resources with the helpful Allays, constructing defences, and spawners that help build up an army, it becomes more of an understandable process as they journey across the world, somewhat similar to real-time strategy games, but also not.
“We actually don’t like to refer to Minecraft Legends as an RTS because it just doesn’t feel the same, it’s more of action strategy. And part of that is you are really in there with your troops and you matter, helping defend your troops from Piglins or other players if you’re doing PvP.”
This shift in direction is not without a strong foundation, with core tenets of Minecraft making their way over to this new project.
“A procedurally generated world was something we wanted to hang on to from the beginning, as well as leveraging existing mobs within vanilla. One final thing, which ended up being a narrative element is we believe from vanilla Minecraft, there are three kinds of main characteristics that a player has,” ” Reis said.
“Number one, they need the foresight to see the future and how they want to approach the game. Two, they need to take action and go out and build something or whatever it is. And then finally, they also need to have a lot of knowledge and the more they play the game, the more knowledge they get. And it’s no coincidence that the three hosts who bring you into the world are named Foresight, Action and Knowledge. These are things from vanilla Minecraft, we wanted to bring over.”
Minecraft Legends is also designed to be “a lot more approachable than your standard RTS,” with support for gamepad as well as keyboard and mouse straight from the off. The idea of accessibility runs strong, and the developers want the game to be “easy to pick up” and for a “much larger, much more accessible audience.”
We can certainly attest to that, with gamepad controls being intuitive enough as our avatar went from battle to battle, constructing buildings, and leading armies of golems with ease against the Piglin threat. The inclusion of crossplay may usually be stacked in the favour of those on PC, but at this stage, it seems like an even match when it comes to ease of control.
Between defending villages and gaining new abilities and resources, to diving into combat against the Piglins with allies and mobs, there is often things to do, much to see, and plenty to explore in each part of the campaign.
Multiplayer Clashes in Minecraft Legends
All of that important knowledge gained from the campaign in Minecraft Legends will be integral for players hoping to duke it out against other players, and the studios have made sure to make specific and beneficial changes to the formula to encourage a better flow overall.
While the Piglin threat remains with the lure of vital Prismarine resources for upgrades intact, the maps for PvP have been made smaller, and the procedural generation ensures that no match will ever play out the same way. A strategy that relies on Redstone can be scuppered when a map has little of that, and being flexible and supporting your teammates become even more important in PvP.
And if a team is particularly skilled at making the most of whatever resources are available in the game, matches in Minecraft Legends can go by quite swiftly. “That’s what I really enjoy about this PvP experience is that it really is so different every time you play and then based on the people who you’re playing against,” the producer mused.
With room for up to four players, opposing teams must strategise and plan out their responsibilities. Who’s building up defences? Who’s gathering valuable resources? And is there someone good at harassing the opponents to break their momentum? It can go back and forth in entertaining ways, and having made a stirring comeback from two Redstone Launchers’ attacks on our base to bring down the enemy’s walls with a surprise invasion, there is much fun to be had.
It is truly a risk for the teams to be taking the Minecraft franchise in this new direction, but it seems that early fears are unfounded. What Minecraft Legends brings to the table is something familiar but fresh, and while it may take some getting used to, it promises to be an enjoyable time not just for fans of the blocks, but also for those seeking a strategy experience with some Minecraft flair.
Minecraft Legends will launch this 18 April on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and the PC.