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Minecraft Legends is a curious and charming blend of adventure and RTS

But will it have enough depth to keep players interested?

There's always been something quite comforting about loading into a brand new Minecraft world. Dropping into that first forest, punching that first tree... It's a promise of all the myriad adventures to come. And despite some fundamental changes in genre and perspective, it's something that the team behind the upcoming Minecraft Legends has tried hard to preserve.

I recently was treated to the most in-depth look so far at Minecraft Legends, in an hour-long livestream which gave us all some much needed answers on what manner of beast Legends actually is. It's a curious blend of action adventure and RTS, one that shares Minecraft's focus on exploration, but guides the player down a stricter, simpler path of summoning friendly mobs and constructing defences to repel a Piglin invasion. This will likely be a solid introduction to the RTS genre for a lot of players, but I came away unsure about whether the game will have enough depth to keep its prospective playerbase's attention.

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Like its elder sibling Minecraft Dungeons, Minecraft Legends is a very clean and polished game filled with a youthful charm designed to ensnare (predominately) a young generation. That much is clear from the cinematics we saw in the livestream, which introduced us to the idea of a Minecraft overworld where all the usual enemies - zombies, skellies, creepers - are actually our friends, united in their horror at a piglin army spilling out of a Nether portal nearby. This is how the campaign begins: a familiar world that wastes no time in differentiating itself from its parent game. Another cinematic introduced us to the Hosts, three fully voiced characters who represent the creators of this overworld, and will help guide the player through the game and its story. It all reeks of polish and a big Microsoft-fuelled budget, and despite its kiddiness I began to warm to the hosts almost immediately.

After that, the player was dropped into a lovely looking world, recognisably Minecraftian despite the light cel-shading and unfamiliar camera perspective. Our look at the game itself was heavily edited, cutting past the tutorial and diving straight into an abridged look at an early mission. It began as any normal game of Minecraft world - with gathering resources. In Minecraft Legends you still directly control your player character, the Hero (whom you can customise with different premade skins), but much of the manual work from Minecraft has been simplified. To gather early resources like wood and stone, instead of beating trees and rocks with your bare hands you place down chests, and friendly Allays will automatically gather your requested material into the chest from the immediate vicinity.

The player in Minecraft Legends rides about the outskirts of a friendly base, surrounded by allied golem minions.

This movement to simplification and automation extends to building. Like Minecraft, building is one of the core aspects of Minecraft Legends. You need to build walls and towers to defend friendly villages from piglins, as well as upgrade buildings to gain access to new resources, and spawners to generate friendly mobs which help you fight. But rather than placing every building block-by-block, you place down whole building templates, ready-made, for Allays to construct. It's not surprising from an RTS perspective, but it's a radical shift from Minecraft's freedom of expression. I was expecting the devs to have found a way to bring more of Minecraft's sandbox-y freedom into Minecraft Legends somehow, and that this would be the main point of differentiation from other RTS games. But I quickly realised that a lot of that is gone in Minecraft Legends, discarded in favour of a more linear experience with an entirely different focus.

Your overall aim being to repel the piglins, you must split your time between attack and defence. Piglins will automatically send raids to friendly villages over time, and it's up to you to defend against them, either by being there yourself and summoning minions to help you, or by erecting defensive towers and walls to repel the invaders while you busy yourself elsewhere. The overworld map is divided into lots of different regions jigsawed together, and piglin outposts will crop up all over the place as the story progresses. Destroying them will gain you precious prismarine that you can use for upgrades back home. There are other rewards to be gained from exploring the world as well, from powerups that make you run faster or jump higher for a time, to new unlockable mobs or buildings to discover. You can even discover new types of mounts such as the Tiger, which runs particularly fast, or the Beetle, which is adept at climbing. This part of the game looks like pure joy. Minecraft Legends is effortlessly charming, and the landscapes look gorgeous.

Where the RTS portion of the game comes into play is in the summoning of allied mobs. In this regard, Minecraft Legends is similar to older games like Brutal Legend or Overlord. You can spend resources to place down mob spawners which will churn out units that follow you as you raise your banner. Your player character can help out in fights, but deals no damage to enemy buildings, so you need to summon minions to help you take down the piglin threat.

The player in Minecraft Legends fights a group of piglins outside an outpost on some red rocky terrain.
The player in Minecraft Legends raises their flag to rally nearby minions.

You'll start off with just Plank Golems (good against Piglins) and Stone Golems (good against buildings), but you'll quickly gain access to new and familiar mobs like Skeletons, Creepers, Zombies, and all-new mobs like Mossy Golems, Grindstone Golems, and more. In the footage we saw, the player managed to defeat the piglin outpost they were attacking mainly through sheer numbers of Plank and Stone Golems, but one would hope that as the campaign progresses and things get more challenging, you'll be forced to think a lot more about the composition of your army.

Towards the end of the livestream, we were also treated to a quick look at Minecraft Legends' PvP mode. In this mode, two teams of between 1 and 4 players will be dropped into a procedurally generated overworld, with the eventual aim of destroying the enemy team's base. There are still Piglin outposts dotted about the map that you can choose to destroy for that sweet sweet prismarine, but overall the focus is on thwarting the enemy team's (hopefully) more sophisticated attempts to bring your defences crumbling down. Maybe this says a lot about my inherently introverted nature, but what excited me most here is the prospect of staying at home and designing an utterly unassailable fortress, armed to the teeth with amped up towers and devoted golem defenders. Come at me, you cowards.

It seems PvP is where Mojang are hoping a lot of the longevity of Minecraft Legends will lie once the campaign reaches its conclusion. It all comes down to the depth of the game and its strategies. The best and most enduring RTS games involve a complex battle of tactics, risks, and counterattacks which keeps every match feeling fresh. Will this be the case in Minecraft Legends? I honestly don't yet know. But the game looks pleasant and colourful, and does enough different from others in its genre (and certainly enough different from Minecraft itself) that I'm excited to try it for myself.

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