If you're like me, you're amazed by the possibilities the world of Minecraft offers. Procedurally generated mountains and all-encompassing oceans, sprawling cave complexes and fortresses within the Nether -- this is the stuff I live for. Procedural generation, when done right, is an impressive spectacle, and after getting a preview of Minecraft Legends, this strategy spin-off seems to carry on the tradition. Through this hands-off preview presented by Executive Producer at Mojang Studios Dennis Ries, we were able to get a look at some early gameplay to learn more about what this RTS has to offer.
A Big, Bright World in Minecraft Legends
The world of Minecraft Legends is unlike anything we've seen in the series. It's a world where monsters and villagers actually get along. It's always a bright day in this world, so the concept of night is unfathomable; at least, until the Piglins attacked. This is where you, the player, come in to save the day by commanding hordes of friendly monsters and building up towns and other buildings to aid your cause.
Introducing us to the story of Minecraft Legends are some exceedingly well-made cutscenes brought to life with excellent animations and plenty of charm. This includes the initial invasion of the Piglins, and the following cutscene which acts as the players' call. The presentation of said cutscenes offers shockingly good visuals, music, and overall direction, serving as a promising introduction to the game. Ultimately, you, the player, are chosen by the enigmatic Hosts as the hero to liberate the world from the invasion of Piglins. The hosts appear to be an alien-like species and essentially act as supervisors over the world of Minecraft Legends, and through a cutscene, we learn they are named Foresight, Action, and Knowledge. They arm you with the tools needed to take down the Piglins, and thus your hero is thrown into the fray.
We now get our first proper, in-game look at the world of Minecraft Legends. The world is shockingly big and looks quite similar to a regular, procedurally-generated world you might find in your base Minecraft. Since Minecraft Legends is from a third-person perspective, we get an encompassing view of mountains and forests in the distance. A look at the world map also shows the environments in Minecraft Legends vary, so you'll come across deserts, mountains, swamps, and plenty of other environments. The world is, essentially, its own continent with over a dozen large, distinct regions that need to be liberated and defended. From a graphical perspective, the world is richly detailed and filled with flowers, trees, rivers, and more. Minecraft Legends has a cleaner look to it than base Minecraft -- everything looks smooth, but all very appealing to the eye.
From the look of things, traversing this world will take some time to do. Thankfully, there are some tools at our disposal like fast travel. The more intriguing option is traveling via a mount, which seems to be the primary method of controlling your hero character. There are several mounts to choose from including horses, beetles, tigers, and bipedal birds. Depending on the mount you choose, you'll move in different ways, so it's really up to player preference. The tiger seems to be the fastest option, allowing you to close distances fast. Though we didn't see it in actual gameplay, the beetle will be able to scale up structures and the bird can glide around from high points.
Though exploration is just one aspect of Minecraft Legends, it's the facet of gameplay I'm most excited to see. I always get a feeling of awe when I see a new world in Minecraft -- knowing that this is my own, unique realm with unlimited possibilities is an invigorating feeling. Though I was just watching some gameplay and not playing myself, I still felt awestruck at the scale and wonder of the world. With each campaign in Minecraft Legends being different due to said generation, I can see myself getting quite literally lost in exploration. Ries says your game time can vary greatly depending on difficulty as well as how much players explore, but it ultimately depends on what players do.
Strategy for Everyone
Minecraft Legends distinguishes itself from the main game through its real-time strategy-based gameplay. Players will need to liberate towns under Piglin control to save the citizens living in this once-peaceful world. In order to do this, you'll gather resources as you explore and eventually reach points of battle. Building monster spawners creates your units like the ranged plank golems. Waving a flag around gathers all units in its radius to follow you and, besides issuing direct commands, it also appears as though they attack automatically. We see the player liberate the town by freeing the villagers and defeating all the Piglins.
This once great village, however, is destroyed. Players are not just tasked with liberation, but also rebuilding the town back to its former glory. Rather than creating structures one block at a time, there are preset buildings players can place down if they have enough resources; Ries says the idea behind Minecraft Legends' building is not "block by block," but rather "thought by thought." The demo shows the player building a carpenter hut by placing the pre-made structure on the ground. This will allow for the town's central fountain to be repaired. One benefit to reclaiming villages is that villagers will go out and claim resources on your behalf. Of course, you'll need to make sure this village isn't once more reclaimed by Piglins.
Players will also directly attack Piglin bases called outposts. We see the player approach a fortified Piglin base surrounded by a river of lava -- certainly, it's unapproachable through normal means. As we know, the player can set down structures, so by creating a simple bridge, we can cross that gap and attack the fort proper. Another segment of gameplay has players attack an even larger Piglin base, home to a large number of units and even more fortified than the outpost. There's a "night beacon" in the middle, which shrouds the entire world in darkness. Commanding units to attack this structure will thwart the efforts of the Piglins, but you'll have to be careful and contend with some powerful units as you do so. While we only saw a handful of units, I'm excited to see the variety of monsters you'll be able to command. Creepers, skeletons, and zombies came to the player's aid when attacking the night beacon, so I'll be interested to see just how many traditional Minecraft monsters join in the fray.
We also got a look at Minecraft Legends' PVP mode. Two teams of four players are tasked with collecting resources, attacking structures, and ultimately destroying the opposing team's base completely. Like the campaign, this is procedurally generated and takes place within a world featuring different biomes. We see both teams build up their base by creating walls, towers, and other fortifications. There's even a Redstone Launcher, which is a cannon that's specifically meant to destroy opposing structures. Dennis Ries says you can, essentially, choose your own class in that some players might prefer being gatherers while others might want to attack. I'm not that big into multiplayer myself, but the varying biomes assure each match will be different no matter what; for that reason, I can see it being a lot of casual fun with friends. Combined with the fact that Piglins will still attack you in multiplayer as well, I hope to see a nice balance between PVE and PVP in this mode.
Ries also spoke about additional content post-release, including new cosmetic skins, mounts, and he also hints at opportunities for creators to pitch in new content as well. There appears to be long-term support for Legends through what is called "Lost Legends." These are monthly challenges that will offer different experiences for players. Ries says there's going to be a wave defense mode players can take part in along with friends, so those looking for cooperation rather than competition will find this to their liking. Of course, Minecraft Legends' campaign has co-op as well, so there's more than enough reason to bring some friends along for the ride.
Based on my experience from the previous Minecraft spinoff, Dungeons, I was already excited to see how Legends was shaping up. The production value of the cutscenes and the overall scale of the world is really impressive and got me invested in Legends right away. The strategy elements, though not as robust as other titles in the genre, seem casual and enjoyable. And thankfully, we won't have to wait long for Minecraft Legends, which launches on April 18, 2023, for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PS5.