Minecraft Legends Review
Out of all the video games ever created, you’d be hard pressed to argue that Minecraft isn’t one of the most influential. The block-based Lego-em-up is in some part responsible for the rise of early access games, the popularity of Fortnite, the incomes of most major gaming YouTubers and Microsoft’s perpetually decent stock price. It’s the game everyone in their mid-20s grew up playing, and even over a decade after it first launched, you can easily find everything from Twitch streams to tutorial books about it. For better or worse, Minecraft is going to be remembered by not only gaming historians, but actual historians, too. Sadly, the same can’t be said about Minecraft Legends, because even though it’s a decent enough title, it simply isn’t nearly as good as its predecessor.
Before I say anything else, I want to be clear that it’s impossible to talk about Minecraft Legends without repetitively mentioning its progenitor. If it was using any other title’s branding, this wouldn’t be the case, but, well, it’s not. Even if Legends was a beautiful story-driven detective title, the fact that it shares a name with the game that I (and everyone else above the age of 20) has been playing almost non-stop on every platform known to man means comparisons between the two will inevitably, and constantly, be made.
Just to prove my point, Minecraft Legends is not a sequel to the best game ever created. Unlike in its predecessor, you play as a proper protagonist in a predefined open world with the very clear objective to save as many villagers as possible. You’re locked into a third-person camera angle on a horse, can’t construct anything unique and are forced to engage in quasi-generic hack-and-slashing while completing story missions and collecting non-natural element-based loot.
To say this is a strange concept for a game that’s based on a title that defined player freedom during the Obama administration is strange to say the least, but thankfully, it generally works. The gameplay loop in Legends is generally akin to Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord. You spawn in, and after completing the prerequisite tutorial, raise an army of monsters to save a series of villages and towns. You can command your friends with a generally simplistic and straightforward set of controls or dive horse-first into the fray, there are side quests to complete and MacGuffins to find, and the actual story takes about ten hours to finish.
For the most part, then, the gameplay of Minecraft Legends is perfectly satisfactory. Melee combat is easy but not mind-numbing, ordering your troops around has a certain elegance to it, and the items you collect almost always have a tangible effect on your character’s stats. You can also construct prefabbed objects like a bridge or wall to help you navigate the open world, deconstruct the environment to get resources, and the entire game can be played in four-player co-op if that’s your thing. While the lack of any true freedom in the gameplay is somewhat off putting, as long as you realise that you aren’t playing actual Minecraft, it isn’t a huge deal.
The inclusion of an actual story to sit through also helps alleviate any annoyances you may find in the gameplay. While Minecraft Legends’ plot isn’t anything to write home about, its cast of characters and dialogue are self-aware enough to warrant a few giggles. It’s no Goat Simulator 3, but it also isn’t the strange mess that was Minecraft: Story Mode, and the fact that it was clearly created with both kids and adults in mind is refreshing if nothing else.
However, the problem with Minecraft Legends’ narrative, and its gameplay, is that it doesn’t do anything to help you forget that you could just be playing actual Minecraft instead. There are mods for the O.G. survival simulator that let you do almost everything you can do in Legends, and those mods don’t strip away your ability to make a cool house or go mining for diamonds. This wouldn’t be an issue if Legends was simply a sequel to last year’s iteration on the franchise, a la Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, but it isn’t. Legends is one of the only takes on the Minecraft formula, and even though it’s inoffensive at worst, it makes the entire experience feel completely forgettable. If you’re desperate to waste a good meal’s worth of money on a quasi-indie title, Goat Simulator 3 exists. If you want to save some cash, though, just play actual Minecraft instead.
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