Minecraft Legends - A custscene of a zombie and villager standing together looking panicked while a tree catches fire behidn them

Minecraft Legends review

This legend leaves out Minecraft's spirit of invention and creativity.

(Image: © Blackbird Interactive / Mojang Studios)

Our Verdict

An action strategy spinoff that disappoints both genres and misses Minecraft's magic.

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Need to Know

What is it? An action strategy game where you command an army of Minecraft mobs to fight against invading Piglin factions.
Expect to pay: $40/£35
Developer: Mojang Studios / Blackbird Interactive
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Reviewed on: Nvidia RTX 2070 Super, 32GB RAM, Intel i7 8700K
Multiplayer? Yes
Link: minecraft.net/en-us/about-legends

Minecraft Legends captures the flavor of standard Minecraft well: the action strategy spinoff has a new but familiar art style, a colorful world full of creatures, and a procedural map to explore. It doesn't bring along Minecraft's substance, though, and the result is a genre mashup that's disappointing as an action game and as a strategy game.

I start out in Minecraft Legends as I would in normal Minecraft: exploring different biomes—forests, badlands, swamps, and tundras, but no caves, sorry—and collecting resources for things I want to build. I direct my Allay friends to mine coal or iron or redstone, which automatically fills my resource meters. One Allay chips away at the edge of a nearby forest to collect 500 wood logs that I'll use to build a perimeter wall around a village while another gathers a surface iron vein so I can erect a masonry building to upgrade those walls to stone.

(Image credit: Blackbird Interactive / Mojang Studios)

My main goal is to defeat three factions of piglins who have escaped from the Nether to dominate the Overworld by crafting my own army of Minecraft mobs. Each night we defend the world's villages from piglin attacks. By day I rebuild the defenses and then set out to make my own assault on piglin bases.

Building forts and village defenses is more utilitarian than aesthetic—sorry Minecraft build artists, this isn't the game for us. I distribute arrow towers unevenly to meet attacking forces, squeeze carpenter huts for repairing other structures in between the pre-built homes of each village, and toss down my air missile redstone launcher wherever it can get the most reach. I abandon any remaining loyalty to symmetry by stringing together defensive walls at ugly angles, knowing full well that they'll be battered down by piglin hordes at nightfall. I welcome that, even: the only way to remove misplaced walls is agonizingly post by single post so I'd rather leave the demolition work to my enemies.

The day ticks steadily away, faster than I realize at times because even while playing solo I'm not allowed to pause while in my menu, and each night the piglins may choose to attack one or more of the villages on my map. I prepare by building spawners for golems and skeletons which I can build new units from as needed. Waves of enemies arrive at night to overwhelm my village's defenses and it's at this point I realize how tragically bad the combat in Minecraft Legends is.

(Image credit: Blackbird Interactive / Mojang Studios)

Strategic retreat

Legends has avoided calling itself a real-time strategy game, opting instead for "action strategy" because I have control of my own hero character and command my units from the ground rather than a godlike RTS perspective. Ultimately, Legends has wound up with a style of combat that serves both action and strategy poorly; it requires intense micromanagement without actual strategic depth.

Every battle makes me less a commander of armies and more a minder of preschoolers.

The only "action" in this combat is using a single button to swing my sword back and forth, tickling piglins away from my defensive structures. The strategy bit is worse: an unending escort mission that forces me to play helicopter parent to my own armies. To begin controlling the units I've built, I need to stand near them and press Q, waving my command flag to call creatures within a small radius around me to follow. With an initial cap of 15 mobs "lured," I can direct them to attack a single target or gather at a location. 

(Image credit: Blackbird Interactive / Mojang Studios)

I can create slightly more specific orders by asking only ranged mobs to target a lava launcher enemy while asking my cobblestone golems to defend a hole in my outer wall—though both orders only apply to the handful of units I've currently lured to me. If I want to redirect them, I have to physically ride over, wave my flag to lure as many as I can reach, and ride away to point them in a new direction. There is no overhead strategy view for short-handing this process. Many small piglin outposts require me to build ramps so my mobs can reach enemy structures and I often find them standing mindlessly beneath a ramp after being knocked off a platform, forcing me to shepherd them back to their target.

Every battle makes me less a commander of armies and more a minder of preschoolers, zigzagging through my own base or an enemy fortress to hold my toddler warriors by the hand. I'm constantly losing track of where I've put them because my own defensive walls block my view of the battlefield and the HUD compass is a poor substitute for a proper minimap. 

The worst part is that Minecraft Legends didn't have the decency to be an obvious dumpster fire.

Coming up with interesting strategies feels pointless because Minecraft Legends lacks the tools I'd need to enact all but the simplest plans. I'd hoped that assaulting the largest fortresses for each faction would present an interesting challenge, and they do require that I use my Allays to turn netherrack into normal blocks I can build my own structures on, but otherwise they're just a drawn out version of every other battle: standing directly behind my units watching them plink away at an enemy spawner until I need to give them a new order.

(Image credit: Blackbird Interactive / Mojang Studios)

Unsound foundations 

I'm reminded of Kingdom Under Fire 2, a particularly bad MMORTS I played several years ago. Despite its many sins, the one thing I found admirable in KOF2 was how it blended Dynasty Warriors style mob-mowing with a pared down strategy system. I could zoom in for action hotbar combat or zoom out to quickly issue orders to my units across the battlefield. I really wish Minecraft Legends had attempted a strategy command view. Even if the tactical choices remained limited, I might've had more fun if giving orders didn't feel so exhausting.

I haven't even bothered mentioning the structure upgrading system because there's not much to it. At the center of the map I can spend resources to build structures that increase my storage capacity for different materials, marginally increase the number of mobs I can build and lure, and unlock a few area of effect towers that will freeze or knock back enemies, none of which make the action any more fun or the strategy any cleverer.

Minecraft Legends also includes co-op and PvP, so I dutifully dragged fellow PC Gamer writer Mollie Taylor in for a spot of wrecking Horde of the Bastion fortresses together. Unfortunately, co-op Minecraft Legends only alleviates the game's issues in the way most co-op does: providing someone else's company in the midst of monotony. Together we had a slightly tighter leash on our mobs but we were still stuck roleplaying beleaguered preschool teachers, and being a team didn't alleviate the grievances we both had with the simplistic combat.

The worst part is that Minecraft Legends didn't have the decency to be an obvious dumpster fire. As a piece of software, I've got no complaints; I've had no issues with framerate, multiplayer connectivity, bugs, crashes, or control layouts. But it's a disappointing game. Minecraft's values of creativity, intrinsic motivation, and player choice didn't make it into this shallow spinoff.

The Verdict
Minecraft Legends

An action strategy spinoff that disappoints both genres and misses Minecraft's magic.

Lauren Morton
Associate Editor

Lauren started writing for PC Gamer as a freelancer in 2017 while chasing the Dark Souls fashion police and accepted her role as Associate Editor in 2021, now serving as the self-appointed chief cozy games enjoyer. She originally started her career in game development and is still fascinated by how games tick in the modding and speedrunning scenes. She likes long books, longer RPGs, has strong feelings about farmlife sims, and can't stop playing co-op crafting games.