Minecraft Legends review: Faulty blocks make shaky foundations
(Xb/PC/PS/Switch) *** Age: 7+
MICROSOFT shelled out $2.5bn for Minecraft back in 2014, a not-inconsiderable sum that’s probably taken the best part of the intervening decade to recoup. In fairness to Microsoft, it hasn’t shut down other platforms to favour Xbox and PC and has been slow to expand the Minecraft universe beyond merchandise.
By my reckoning, Legends is only the fourth spin-off from the main game (Story Mode, Earth and Dungeons being the others). None of them set the world alight (the Pokémon Go-like Earth was unceremoniously shut down after two years) and Legends follows the trend.
It yokes the mechanics of a real-time strategy game such as Starcraft or Command & Command to the visual style of the classic block-building game. You play as a sort of hero knight defending the world of Minecraft against invaders from a kind of hell. They’re usually pesky little blighters called piglins that spawn from nowhere and threaten settlements. You command a small army of defenders and attackers in typical real-time strategy fashion – pointing your mob in the direction of the enemy and hoping they’ll win the war of attrition.
A surprising twist is that your forces include traditional Minecraft foes such as skeletons, zombies, etc. Meanwhile, you can whack the invaders with your sword in a simplistic direct intervention. And because Legends is deeply infused with Minecraft DNA, you’ll also spend a fair bit of time gathering resources to build defences and the like.
So far, so good. Alas, your army are thick as ditches, terrible at path-finding, likely to ignore enemies standing pixels away and prone to go charging off in slightly the wrong direction.
Another problem stems from that very distinctive graphical depiction of the world – it’s charming and even exhilarating to watch large-scale battles rendered in blocky tones. But just try controlling your minions amid the mayhem – frustrating doesn’t cover it. In simplifying the genre, the game fails to give sufficient nuance to selecting similar units (or sometimes even any unit in the heat of the fray).
Finally, Legends is remiss in not explaining its functions more clearly, a big let-down in a game trying to attract players inexperienced in the field of real-time strategy.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with attempting to create a simplified translation of a different genre via the lens of Minecraft. But Legends doesn’t contain enough interesting ideas to render it compelling – and some of the finished game is bafflingly unfinished.