With the inherent success of Minecraft, we were always going to get plenty of spin-offs of all kinds that explore a diverse array of genres and experiences within the IP. 2015’s Minecraft: Story Mode and 2020’s Minecraft Dungeons have marked the beginning of this with varying levels of success, but there’s no denying their originality in comparison with vanilla Minecraft. The next title in this slew of spin-offs is Minecraft Legends, a self-described action strategy game that’s most comparable to the Dragon Quest Builders series, with a unique Minecraft flavor.
After my brief hands-on preview with the game in Tokyo, I mentioned that I’d had a good time with Legends, despite being worried about game length and how it would keep things fresh throughout its runtime, and that my brief hands-on with the multiplayer mode was a blast. After spending much more time with both of these modes, it’s clear that the preview I played had barely scratched the surface of what Legends has to offer. The end result is the best Minecraft spin-off yet that, despite some niggling issues, offers a satisfying and moreish gameplay loop and an intensely engaging versus mode.
The narrative here is about as deep as you’d expect from a Minecraft experience, but it is positively bursting at the seams with the charm the IP is known for. A dangerous threat from the Nether known as the Piglins have been spilling over into the overworld with plans of conquest and domination. Their bases poison the natural landscape with noxious gasses and Netherrack creeps further out as more Piglins pour in from protected Nether Portals found within each bastion. It falls to you to expunge the Piglin threat and send the three distinct factions back to the Nether.
Overall, it’s a feel-good narrative that employs plenty of slapstick humor and Minecraft trademarks to get you onboard. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t chuckle at a few of the visual gags, and the cutscenes on offer here have incredibly high production values that expand the sense of scope within Legends and mythos of Minecraft. It’s ultimately a good time, one that kids will likely get more of a kick out of, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing here for older fans.
Gameplay is where Minecraft Legends differs the most from its source material, offering the same core tenets of mining and crafting, in an entirely different format. Everything you do in Minecraft Legends comes back to the Allays, which are your main tool for gathering materials and building structures. A quick button combination can send these little guys out to harvest resources like wood, stone, coal, and more. Gathered materials can then be used by Builder Allays to form structures, mechanisms, and much more.
It’s a more passive way to engage with what’s effectively the core loop of Minecraft, but this is only to make room for all the extra stuff Legends brings with it. It’s through the gathering and utilization of these resources that you can push back the Piglin threat. From setting up defences around liberated villages to constructing a Redstone Launcher to blow open the gates of a Piglin base, everything eventually comes back to mining and building.
This core loop of gathering resources in order to bolster your own defensive and offensive capabilities is incredibly moreish. Where flexibility isn’t afforded in the structures you create, it is in the way you place them, the way they interact with each other, and in the way you pick and choose how best to use certain materials when trying to overthrow a particularly difficult Piglin base. It helps greatly that there’s an immense variety of things to build here that steadily unlock over the course of the campaign, constantly offering up new strategies and game plans to employ against the Piglins.
Your main method of siege comes in the form of Golems. These little guys can be amassed from crafted spawners, and brought along with you to tackle Piglin outposts. Each one specializes in different abilities, from healing and de-buff cleansing to stunning enemies or bringing down structures. You have to consider what kinds of Golems you want to bring with you on a siege given the obstacles, and that’s without talking about the ability to employ hallmark mobs.
Creepers, Skeletons, and Zombies are here in full force, united against the Piglin threat. You can also spawn these mobs alongside Golems, each one costing a little bit more in terms of resources in trade-off for extra power. The Skeletons, for example, excel at ranged combat and taking out enemy units, where Creepers make incredibly short work of enemy structures, making them useful in a pinch if you need a last ditch assault to bring down a Piglin base. While your army is initially limited to a total of 20 units, you can expand that number further, and simple commands can be issued in combat to have them focus on particular enemies or structures.
Clearing Piglin outposts and liberating villages rewards you with Prismarine, a resource that’s key to upgrading your capabilities, resource capacity, and total army count. Prismarine is doled out often enough that there’s always something new to invest in upon returning to the Well of Fate, which almost always leads to meaningful player progression. It’ll have you constantly eyeing your Prismarine count so you know when you can get your next upgrade.
The general flow and progression of the campaign is also something I really enjoyed. After a brief tutorial and some opening objectives to get you to grips with the many systems of Minecraft Legends, you’re let loose to tackle the Piglin threat as you see fit. Three unique factions have setup three bases throughout the overworld, each one varying in difficulty and rewards. You’re encouraged to tackle the easy ones first, but there’s nothing stopping you from knocking on the doors of the most fortified of forts if you really want the challenge.
It’s this non-linear structure in combination with some extra-curricular open world activities that makes Legends so easy to play. You’ll stumble across mob outposts that have been taken over by Piglins, abandoned towers that can be deconstructed and tucked away for later use, and huge golems that’ll join you in your fight should they be resurrected. There’s always incentive and reward to explore outside of just gathering resources.
It comes to a head when all three of a faction’s bastions have been felled, and one final outpost makes itself known. These provide some of the best strategy Minecraft Legends has to offer, and are punctuated with explosive boss fights that test every skill you’ve learned during the campaign. It makes for a solid difficulty curve if you tackle bases in the right order, though I’m sure you can circumvent that order with some cheeky tactics and ample use of the game’s more powerful structures and minions.
Another thing to consider is the way that Piglins will launch attacks on allied villages when night falls, incentivizing you to build up defences around each one once liberated. You’re always warned in advance which village is going to be attacked, and it’s rewarding to see all your efforts pay off when a village successfully pushes back the Piglins without your help. One irk I had with this, though, is that if a village does fall, you have to retake it from the Piglins, which got tiresome in the second half of the game, especially when it means rebuilding defences.
While the campaign mode is able to be played in co-op, where I think Minecraft Legends is really going to take off, is in its versus mode. It’s a simple 4 versus 4 affair with either team trying to siege the other’s base and destroy their Fountain. All of the systems from the campaign are intact here, from Prismarine progression and Piglin outposts to resource harvesting – it’s all here in full force, and is of great importance.
While you could absolutely band together and launch an all out assault on the enemy base, there’s just as much value in spending time gathering resources and Prismarine to gain access to more structures. I can’t begin to fathom the kinds of long-winded matches that will come out of this mode once players jump into it. It has a MOBA-esque quality to it that instils an inherent tension in the experience, and it’s easily some of the most fun I’ve had with Minecraft Legends so far. While it’s a great time with friends, the mode does struggle with the inherent limited communication brought by matchmade games, as a lot of the enjoyment comes from planning and collaborating with allies.
As mentioned in my hands-on preview, everyone knows what they’re getting into when it comes to the visual presentation of anything related to Minecraft. Legends doesn’t shock or surprise in this regard, offering a tried-and-true art style that’s bolstered by a diverse range of biomes and some snazzy particle effects that tie the whole experience together. There’s plenty of new stuff to see here in the broad scope of Minecraft and the game always looks great, but don’t expect Legends to reinvent the wheel in this regard.
Performance on PC is similarly reliable, and I experienced very few technical issues aside from one notable audio bug. I’m not sure if it was something to do with the mixing, but some sound effects and dialogue lines were extremely quiet during my time with the game. This made it hard to get properly invested in cutscenes and did create a bit of a disconnect in battle as my sword swipes didn’t yield much feedback. It wasn’t enough to rip me out of the experience entirely, but the absence is notable enough to mention it here.
I’ve come away from my time with Minecraft Legends pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The campaign is a tightly paced jaunt through a new Minecraft experience that doesn’t outstay its welcome and offers a fresh spin on the strategy genre with a distinct Minecraft flavour. Despite having my fill of the campaign, I have no doubt I’ll be returning to Legends over the coming months to play its outrageously fun versus mode with friends, and I can’t recommend enough that you check it out to do the same.
Minecraft Legends is the best Minecraft spin-off yet, offering a wholly unique experience, lathered with a lovingly crafted layer of Minecraft infused paint. From a moreish campaign to ridiculously enjoyable versus mode, Minecraft Legends has something for everyone, and I suspect many will love what it has to offer.
A fun and easy going narrative with on-brand slapstick humor
An engaging twist on a typical strategy framework
Moreish player progression and structure
The versus mode is a ridiculously good time with friends
Loads of visual variety and solid performance
Retaking villages and mob outposts can get tiresome
Versus isn't quite the same without friends
Audio issues made it hard to get invested in the story properly