This past year or so for the Switch has felt like something of a golden era for the strategy genre. With games such as Triangle Strategy, Fire Emblem Engage, and Valkyria Chronicles all releasing over the last twelve months, there’s been no shortage of intricate and exciting tactical experiences to dive into. As we reach the release of Minecraft Legends then, it would be easy to feel somewhat burned out on the genre after such a bumper year. However, Legends has one thing going for it that the other games I mentioned do not: it’s much more accessible.
That’s not to say a complete newbie to the genre couldn’t jump straight into a game like Fire Emblem – I previously wrote in these very pages about how accessible that particular series has become – however it’s definitely a lot to take in all at once. Minecraft Legends on the other hand is much more simplified and streamlined. This is certainly a detractor in some regards, yet overall, I would say the game is a welcome introduction to the genre; one that expertly uses the well-established Minecraft IP to full effect.
Minecraft Legends takes the blocky universe that we all love so much, and completely turns it on its head, focusing on action and combat over Minecraft’s usual creative philosophy. Though building mechanics do naturally come into play, they’re stripped down to their most basic form. It would be easy for the resultant game to feel too far detached from what Minecraft is, however, the clever use of existing characters and a procedurally generated world means the spirit of Minecraft feels present throughout.
Where this game differs most is through the story it tells. Minecraft itself doesn’t have much of a story per say; the onus is on the player to carve out their own adventure, yet here we have a timeless tale about a quest to save the world. It’s nothing ground-breaking for sure, but it is enjoyable enough. We’re introduced to some creative new characters and it’s certainly exciting to watch the overworld band together to fight back the scourge of the Piglins. It’s the kind of epic storytelling Minecraft fans have been yearning for, so it’s fantastic to see it realised so well. Improvements could certainly be made. Whilst the enemy Piglins certainly feel at home in Minecraft’s world, the newly introduced ethereal entities that task you with saving the world feel slightly out of place, giving off a vibe that doesn’t quite gel with the game’s simplicity.
Simplicity, I might add, is key! Minecraft Legends very much feels like a beginner’s guide to strategy games. Nothing feels too overwhelming, and the key mechanics are slowly doled out through an easy-to-understand introduction before the world opens up. No single mechanic is too complex, though the younger players this game is no doubt attempting to reach may struggle once everything is in play all at once.
The basic premise of Minecraft Legends sees you defending your world against the invading Piglins. To do so, you take on outposts and defend villages from waves of attacks. Different outposts contain different enemy types and structures that alter the way you plan your strategy. For example, one of the early moments sees you come up against a structure called a Nether Spreader. This contraption unleashes puffs of toxic air that damage you and your allies, so ranged attackers are the way to go in this situation. The game doesn’t go far beyond that in terms of complexity, but then it doesn’t really need to.
That said, there are times when I found the whole experience to be quite underwhelming, and tactics such as the one described above weren’t even necessary. A lot of situations (in the campaign mode at least) can be easily powered through with just the slightest direction and your army filled out to the max. It’s as though, in the effort to broaden the game’s appeal to a wider audience, it also had to take away from what makes the genre so enticing. Most real-time strategy games are known for their chaotic and exciting nature. With both enemies and players moving at once, you really have to think on the fly and plan your moves wisely. Minecraft Legends overlooks this by making most encounters a breeze to play through, in turn lessening its charm. The variety of play options and strategies available should work in the game’s favour, but it just never feels necessary.
Performance on the Switch is also less than optimal. It’s far from egregious, however noticeable pop-in and long load times plague the game throughout, and things certainly start chugging along in moments of high-intensity action with lots happening on screen.
Minecraft Legends is a serviceable introduction to the real-time strategy genre. The charm of its IP shines throughout and elevates the game from merely mediocre, however, there’s an underlying lack of substance to the game that prevents it from standing out. Fans of Minecraft and those wanting a gentle introduction to a tricky genre will find plenty to enjoy here, but unfortunately, this game is far from legendary.
Minecraft Legends £33.49
Minecraft Legends takes a beloved and familiar IP and tries to extract something new from it. The results are arguably mixed, however, as an introduction to the Strategy genre, Legends provides enough fun to get by.