Credit where credit is due MojangIt has made smart bets about expanding its business. Minecraft franchise. Back when MicrosoftIt announced that it had purchased the studio and its monolithic IP. I struggled to see what Minecraft could do beyond its base game. Sure, that would continue to expand and grow – but did people really want to do anything else in that universe?
At the time, I reasoned that it didn’t matter if the universe could expand or not. Minecraft was enough of an important and valuable product to be worth the $2.5 Billion Microsoft spent on its development. Then, Mojang created amazing partnerships that expanded the universe while providing unexpected opportunities for growth.
Lego MinecraftIt was no longer a geek toy. It was a beloved series of toys that kids all over the globe love. Minecraft Story Mode released its first episode not long after the acquisition, and then 2019’s Minecraft Dungeons, which was a truly brilliant pairing of the established traditions of Minecraft with a kid-friendly Diablo clone. The Pokemon Go-like Minecraft Earth was a swing-and-a-miss – but that was an AR mobile game that launched right before a pandemic locked everybody indoors – so I’ll give them a pass.
The upcoming Minecraft Legends is a refreshing change from Earth. On paper, it’s does what Dungeons did for catacomb-crawling RPGs but for real time strategy games. And after seeing a half hour of the game in action, I’m super pumped to play the final thing.
As a real-time strategy game, Legends isn’t perhaps what you might first imagine. There’s no Command & Conquer style birds-eye view of the battlefield, and you’re not a disembodied leader marshaling troops with the hand of god. It looks more like an adventure-game at first glance. It actually looks more polished than the PC version of Minecraft, with some strange mods.
Impressively, Legends is running in the same Bedrock Engine technology that powers the main game, though structurally it’s quite different. You’re both mining and crafting, but instead of picking apart individual rocks, you’re doing it on a more macro level. To get wood, for instance, you don’t have to go punch trees – you just point handy automatic mining buddies at a specific tree, and they’ll quickly dismantle the whole tree for you. The same applies to all other resources. As I mentioned, micro is better that macro.
The camera is drawn back to match that – so while much of the game looks superficially similar to Minecraft, you can instantly tell this is a game on a different scale. The world itself is still procedurally generated, however, so there’s still that element of random Minecraft magic.
As this singular hero, you’ll be galloping across the world and gathering resources in an effort to raise an army that can quell an army from the Nether that’s attacking a world that has never been at rar before. Minecraft doesn’t really have a canon, of course, but the developers are selling this story as a ‘Legend’This was long before the status quo we know from other games. Sometimes zombies can be friendly.
Scattered across the procedurally-generated world are bases and other objectives for you to take down in order to advance the war effort. And how do you do that…? It works in a surprising manner that allows you make a gaming comparison.
By which I mean… it’s like Brutal Legend. With a pinch of Pikmin. Keep it simple.
So, yes, that’s right, Brutal Legend – the Jack Black vehicle that begins as an action-adventure game that part-way through takes an interesting but perhaps ill-advised turn into a real-time strategy game played from a third person perspective. Minecraft Legends allows the protagonist the ability to build different buildings using the resources available in the world. Like mining, this crafting is macro rather than micro – so you build whole prefab structures with a single click, rather than brick-by-brick, but you retain complete freedom to place these structures where you like. Each spawner can create different types of units. The spawners are then available for use in your army. The population limit determines how many troops can be deployed at any given moment.
Your minions will follow your lead into battle when it’s time. Then you can use rudimentary commands to direct them to a specific thing. You might have a certain subset of troops attack something they’ll be strong against, while others hang back to protect them and you, for instance. This is where the Pikmin Feeling can help. You can also take part and ride a horseback with a sword to defeat enemies. This is very effective, but it can be overwhelming. In all of that, it sounds quite a bit on paper like Brutal Legend’s RTS segments.
Its playability is what sets it apart from Brutal Legend. Even watching one of that game’s RTS battles revealed its cumbersome, fiddly nature – and Minecraft Legends looks the opposite. It’s slick, fast-moving, and good-looking. It is simple enough to use with children, but offers enough strategy to make it great in multiplayer battles. Even hands-off, it looks manageable and smooth – which is exciting. This is something very few RTS games can do on console.
These battles are then supported and supported by the procedural Minecraft universe. If you want a fast travel point, for instance, you’ll build a fort that will act as one. You might want to stop halfway through a campaign to build a new staging zone with defenses or spawners, before you push into enemy territory. Battle, then build – one can see a to-and-fro pacing being outlined that could pull you through the game’s challenges seamlessly.
Hands-on demos can be difficult. It is difficult to determine the true nature and capabilities of a game until you have actually played it. Sometimes, the demo is enough to convince you. You get it. Minecraft Legends is an excellent example of one of these games. It seems like a neat little kid and controller-friendly strategy romp – and I’m here for that. I’ve got my fingers crossed it’ll be competitively rich enough to support good online battles, too. Even if that’s not the case, however, Minecraft is effortlessly building its way into yet another genre – which in itself is impressive.