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Minecraft Legends

Minecraft Legends

Written by Eric Hauter on 4/14/2023 for XBSX  
More On: Minecraft Legends

Minecraft Legends is eventually going to be a fantastic game. In many ways, it already is. But while I love the parts of the game that are working well, and have played almost the entire campaign, some bugs and weirdness have prevented me from beating the game. No matter how hard I throw myself at Minecraft Legends, some strange implementation, pathfinding and AI issues, and flat-out broken geometry have held me back from completing it, which has been driving me bonkers. This is a game I want to beat, and it won’t get out of its own way to let me.

This is the sort of game that is so good that I find myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about it. But when I wake up and try to implement my insomnia-born strategies, Minecraft Legends behaves poorly and breaks its own rules. I’m at a standstill, and I really don’t want to be.

But before I get into the ways the game is broken, let me share all the good stuff. I imagine that many folks are wondering just what this game is; I know I was. From the trailers and pre-release materials, I was completely unable to parse even the genre that Minecraft Legends exists in, let alone any gameplay details.

Here’s the scoop: Minecraft Legends is a fabulous hybrid of RTS and tower defense games, with a little bit of Triumph Studios’ Overlord thrown in for good measure. The game design here is next-level great, and very unique. Playing in a small open world, the player hero will find themselves fending off an ever-escalating invasion from the evil Piglins, a race of goblin-like pigs that are intent on the destruction of peaceful Minecraftlandia (or whatever it’s called).

In practical terms, that means that the player must juggle the defense of several villages found scattered around the map, while simultaneously organizing troops to attack Piglin bases – which, if ignored, grow in size, intensity, and complexity. Minecraft Legends does a pretty poor job of explaining to the player how all this works, preferring to let the player figure it all out by messing with the various systems at their disposal. Luckily, the game starts out with fairly light difficulty, giving the player enough leeway to poke and prod at it without endangering themselves too badly.

The player has some little helpers, known as “Allays”. These guys can mine resources and build structures, all at the player’s command. If you find a good spot to gather wood, for example, you can set an Allay to work gathering it and just wander away, secure in the knowledge that the resource your little buddy is mining will show up in your inventory.

Resources are used for two purposes: to build structures, and to create dudes for your personal army – who follow you around in a swarm, like a murmuration of crows. The game starts out with just wood and stone, but eventually four or five more resources are introduced, allowing the creation of more complex army dudes and structures. Eventually, the player will be able to build Minecraft stalwarts like zombies, skeletons, and creepers to follow them around (I currently can have 70 guys in my troop) to assist with battle. And more complex structures come into play as well, which will level up your village defenses and make it tougher for the Piglins trying to attack.

The game runs on a day/night cycle, with Piglin presence increasing in the night. You generally learn of the Piglins’ intention to attack a village the morning before (it shows up with a glaring red circle on your map), giving you time to prep that village by building defenses. It is wise to head to the targeted village immediately and start throwing up walls and defense towers, because as soon as the sun goes down, the Piglins start swarming in waves.

The cool part about all of this is that whatever you build stays persistently in the game. That means that if you are a fastidious planner, you can run around building up defenses around your villages before you ever learn that they will be under attack. At least half of my villages now have outlandish systems of walls and towers circling them, some complete with routed traps that will guide the idiot Piglins into death traps. So for the most part, all I have to do is run around with my army of goons to clean up any stragglers. It’s a ton of fun to set up and execute.

Attacking Piglin bases (and randomly appearing outposts) is equally fun. Anyone that has played an RTS understands the pleasures inherent in building up an enormous force of dudes and sending it marching into enemy territory. I’ve developed some methods here as well, circling the bases to knock down their outer defenses while moving ever closer to the juicy core in the middle.

Beware though; the Piglin bases are grouped together in little bunches, and when you wipe the last of a bunch off the map, it unleashes a boss Piglin that will attack your villages every night until you destroy it. These boss characters are absolute brutes, ripping through masonry-reenforced walls like they were tissue paper and running roughshod all over your carefully constructed defenses. These battles are fun, and very stressful.

The game’s systems seem wildly complex at first, but before long, things pop into focus in a way that becomes manageable. Still, parents with kids that want to play Minecraft Legends would do well to find a few guides and figure it all out first, because little ones are gonna be completely bewildered by this. After watching me for a while, my six-year-old gets it, but I still wonder how he’s gonna fare when I hand over the controller.

Minecraft Legends also has robust online features, which allow buddies to dip into each other’s worlds to help out on the campaign. There is also a fabulous PVP mode that can pit up to eight players against each other in titanic 4v4 battles. I jumped into 1v1 multiplayer with a buddy, and we had a great time trying to build up our bases while simultaneously fighting off Piglins (and each other). After the game has been out for a while and people start to really grasp its concepts, I could see this mode becoming wildly popular.

But, as I said, there is still some work to be done. Some bits of Minecraft Legends are slightly frustrating; others are outright broken. And most of my grievances surround the game’s use of bridges.

Many of the Piglin bases are built on plateaus, forcing the player to build bridges between them to advance and face down enemy forces. The problem is that the interface to build bridges is incredibly finicky, with the player needing to find even ground for both the base and the other side of the bridge. This involves a lot of wiggling the right stick around until the interface randomly lands on a configuration that the game will accept. The majority of the time you are trying to build a bridge, you are under active attack, which means your forces are dwindling. The entire mechanism is very frustrating and feels needlessly complex.

Once you have built a bridge, the idiot AI and pathfinding fueling your army really rears its head. The problem is that your forces – the guys swarming around behind you that you are depending on for your intricate strategies to work – can’t seem to stop hurling themselves off the edge of the bridge. Or they just stop cold before ever getting on the bridge. Or, if they make it across, they fall off the edge of the plateau. When you get into the later game, where it becomes necessary to build complex systems of bridges and stairs, it’s entirely possible to start at the bottom with 70 dudes and make it to the top with maybe six. It’s maddening.

Pop over to the 11:00 mark to see this in action.

And then, worst of all, I started noticing that some of my guys were just disappearing. Not falling off the edges, not getting killed (you have an on-screen counter that shows how many you have alive), just…vanishing. Before long, I was showing numbers like 28 guys, and only being able to locate a few of them. Then finally I saw it; they were falling through the geometry and getting stuck on the inside of the plateaus. They were still alive, somehow trapped in the middle of a hollow mountain. Again, maddening.

In general, the AI on the swarm isn’t great. They are difficult to manage, and half of them seem to be more interested in standing around and getting pelted with arrows than they are in actually helping with whatever effort you are currently engaged in. They tend to only move when you move, and will completely ignore nearby targets even when you are standing there chipping away with your little sword. I have a few larger, late game units, and I've become accustomed to seeing them lying on their backs in lava pools, resigned to their eventual deaths.  All of that isn't great, but it's tolerable. But this thing with bridges and plateaus? Untenable. After many, many attempts to get past the area, I eventually had to concede that I would have to wait for a patch to complete the campaign.

Minecraft Legends feels unique, and the core of the game has been designed to be fantastically fun and addictive. The advancement of your abilities and armies feels great, and building your defenses and then watching them wreck opposing armies is an absolute blast. The multiplayer is a screaming blast. People are gonna be playing this thing for years.

I frankly love this game. But until more work is done on it, I won’t be able to complete the campaign. After a certain point, the complexity of the strategy required of the player is undone by the mechanics the game allows, and the bugs and issues just exacerbate the issue. A classic game is being built here, but unfortunately, the architecture in Minecraft Legends can’t quite support itself yet.

A mix of RTS, tower defense, and open world epics, Minecraft Legends feels completely unique; a strategic breath of fresh air with interesting mechanics and an amazingly fun gameplay loop. But the absolutely stellar game design in Minecraft Legends is ultimately undone by bugs and AI/pathfinding issues. There is an amazing game at the core of Minecraft Legends, addictive and compelling. I'm frankly obsessed over it. But that makes it all the more disappointing that the technical implementation of the game can't support it's lofty ambitions. 

Rating: 7 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS4, PS VR2, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here

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