I love Minecraft and have been playing it on and off since it landed on Xbox Live Arcade in 2012, but I couldn’t care less about the series’ 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 next spin-off, and after my behind-closed-doors demo at Gamescom, I’m interested.
Minecraft Legends is a third-person real-time action strategy game. Yeah, that’s a lot of keywords, but I promise the game is easier to understand than you think. You play as the game's hero, tasked with destroying the enemy Piglin armies who’ve established strongholds across the overworld. Strategy is at the heart of the game, so while you’re capable of swinging a sword, you’re much more practical building and commanding soldiers to fight on your behalf. In that way, it reminds me of 2007’s Overlord.
Every enemy fortress is different – some prioritize defensive structures over offensive, others ranged units over bruisers. You must build an army capable of countering them, but first, you must scout the area for a suitable location to craft a base of operations. The company representative, leading the presentation, begins farming a nearby hillside for resources and then builds up a base of operations.
The building is different in Minecraft Legends. Instead of placing individual voxel blocks, you craft pre-fabricated structures with distinct properties. It’s an effective method since this is a strategy game, and every minute counts. In our session, I only saw a few of these buildings, but they all fit within traditional RTS pipelines – unit production, field upgrades, mobility, and defense. This moment is where it all clicks, and I realize how cool Minecraft Legends could be.
We’re at siege with The Horde of the Bastion, a party of Piglins entrenched in a base with sturdy walls and Netherspreaders. Think of Netherspreaders as the Zerg’s Creep in Starcraft – it spreads a dangerous surface across the map and is hard to navigate. To penetrate the enemy’s perimeter, the player enlists the help of Cobblestone Golems, units capable of breaking down walls quickly. Plank Golems and Mossy Golems accompany the brutes, specializing in ranged damage and healing.
We charge down the hillside and besiege the horde’s base. Your troop of ally 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 prevent enemy reinforcements. The company representative places a tool called an Extendable Platform that transforms into a mobile staircase to scale a large cliffside within the base, simultaneously slashing and destroying enemy units with his sword.
We make our ascent towards the Nether Portal, the base’s nucleus. We’re told a nasty boss awaits us inside, and we must defeat it to clear the base. But unfortunately, that’s when our demo ends.
I’ve been thinking about Minecraft Legends since my demo this morning. My mind is racing with ways Mojang can implement Minecraft staples into the RTS genre: Redstone for upgrading buildings and structures, farms for feeding and maintaining an army, and railways for connecting bases. There are many possibilities to explore, but sadly we’re left to our imaginations until Minecraft Legends releases in 2023.