I love Minecraft and have been playing it on and off since it hit Xbox Live Arcade in 2012, but I couldn’t care less about spin-off games like Dungeons or the Telltale-developed Story Mode. While those games were fine, they defeated the point of why I love Minecraft: building and crafting.
Developer Mojang Studios is shaking things up with its upcoming spinoff, and after my behind-closed-doors demo at Gamescom, I’m interested.
Minecraft Legends is a third-person real-time action strategy game. Yes, that’s a lot of keywords, but I promise you that the game is easier to understand than you think. You play as the hero of the game, tasked with destroying the enemy Piglin armies that have established strongholds across the world. Strategy is at the heart of the game, so while you’re capable of wielding a sword, you’re far more practical at building and commanding soldiers to fight on your behalf. In that way, it reminds me of Overlord from 2007.
Every enemy stronghold is different: some prioritize defensive structures over offensive ones, others ranged units over thugs. You must build an army capable of countering them, but first, you must scout the area for a suitable location to create a base of operations. The company representative, leading the presentation, begins farming a nearby hillside for resources, then builds a base of operations.
The building is different in Minecraft Legends. Instead of placing individual voxel blocks, create pre-made structures with different properties. It is an effective method since it is a strategy game and every minute counts. In our session, I only saw a few of these buildings, but they all fit into the traditional RTS channels: unit production, field upgrades, mobility, and defense. This moment is where everything clicks, and I realize how cool Minecraft Legends could be.
We are besieged by the Bastion Horde, a group of Piglins holed up in a base with solid walls and abyssal scatterers. Think of Netherspreaders like the Zerg’s Creep in Starcraft – it spreads a dangerous surface across the map and is difficult to navigate. To penetrate the enemy’s perimeter, the player enlists the help of Cobblestone Golems, units capable of quickly knocking down walls. Plank Golems and Mossy Golems accompany brutes, specializing in ranged damage and healing.
We charge down the hill and lay siege to the horde’s base. Your troop of friendly units naturally follow you around the battlefield, but you can also direct them to focus their attacks on specific enemies or buildings. We target a barracks responsible for spawning more Piglins to avoid enemy reinforcements. The company representative sets up a tool called an extendable platform that transforms into a moving ladder to scale a large cliff within the base, simultaneously slashing and destroying enemy units with his sword.
We make our ascent towards the Nether Portal, the core of the base. We are told that a nasty boss awaits us inside and we must defeat him to clear the base. But unfortunately, that’s where our demo ends.
I’ve been thinking about Minecraft Legends ever since my demo this morning. My mind is racing with the ways Mojang can implement Minecraft staples into the RTS genre: Redstone to upgrade buildings and structures, farms to feed and maintain an army, and railways to connect bases. There are plenty of possibilities to explore, but sadly we’re left with our imaginations until Minecraft Legends launches in 2023.