Minecraft is one of the most influential, wildly successful games of all time, but it's also expanding into a full-fledged franchise spanning numerous genres and mediums. Mojang Studios hasn't been content with just its legendary survival crafting original for a long time, and it's continuing to seek new ways to build upon the growing Minecraft universe. The next major step? Minecraft Legends, an action-strategy game coming to gamers in 2023.
I'm undoubtedly ecstatic about a new foray into the Minecraft universe, but I'm also cautiously optimistic. Mojang Studios doesn't have a 100% success rate with translating Minecraft into all-new video game genres, and the action-strategy segment of the industry brings a plethora of fresh challenges for the Minecraft-centric studio, and its partner, to overcome.
The challenge of expanding Minecraft into a brand-new genre
Minecraft Legends was just announced during Microsoft's major Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase 2022 event. The short announcement trailer begins with a cinematic introduction that teases the story of Minecraft Legends, with a few brief moments of tantalizing gameplay stashed toward the end of the video. There isn't an abundance of information with which to satiate my curiosity, leading to more mysteries than answers.
To bring Minecraft Legends to life, Mojang Studios is partnering with Blackbird Interactive, an independent studio well versed in building strategy games. The company is working on multiple projects at the moment, including another anticipated strategy title in Homeworld 3. Minecraft Legends is specifically an "action-strategy" game, a blend of third-person action gameplay and tactics-oriented, real-time strategy mechanics.
From the little we understand of the upcoming title, Minecraft Legends tells the story of a nameless hero tasked with uniting all the mobs of the Overworld and leading them into battle against an invasive, corrupted army of piglins from the Nether. Players will explore the world, protect villages, build outposts, battle piglin enemies, and band together all the mobs of the Overworld, including zombies, skeletons, creepers, and more variants about which we know practically nothing.
This sounds indubitably enticing, but it also introduces numerous gameplay and design challenges for Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive to solve. Mojang Studios has made two major attempts in the past to create new Minecraft game experiences. Minecraft Dungeons, developed with Double Eleven, is a still-growing, excellent action-RPG packed with hours of gameplay, despite its arguably scarce content at launch.
On the other hand, Minecraft Earth, which was also developed in tandem with Blackbird Interactive, failed to find success after months of post-launch support due to a series of issues, and, consequently, was permanently closed down almost a year ago. Mojang Studios will need to learn from both projects to deliver a Minecraft Legends that feels complete, expertly marries its vision to its gameplay, and isn't bogged down by questionable and disconcerting game design decisions.
Will the world feel like a seamless addition to the growing Minecraft universe? Will it feel meaningful and rewarding to explore, and will players feel motivated to interact with it? Will creativity be allowed to flourish in Minecraft Legends? Will the gameplay mechanics and combat feel smooth and carefully considered? Will co-op feel like a natural extension of the core experience? Will the mysterious "competitive multiplayer" game mode be approachable to all the diverse players in the Minecraft community?
I'm not even questioning how Minecraft Legends may evolve after its launch, how it may seek additional monetization through DLC or in-game purchases, how it will support different platforms, or whether it'll be simply "fun" to play. We don't know very much about Minecraft Legends at this point in time, just that it'll be a drastic departure from Minecraft, and even Minecraft Dungeons, and therefore introduces completely different challenges.
Minecraft Legends doesn't just need to be a great third-person action and real-time strategy game. It also needs to be a great Minecraft game. Minecraft Legends can't feel like a generic action-strategy game hastily wrapped in a Minecraft skin. Mojang Studios' latest title needs to deliver a wonderful experience across both of the genres it fits under, while also remaining true to the Minecraft franchise and the philosophies that have helped the studio succeed.
I'm excited to see more of Minecraft Legends
I find myself restraining my intractable excitement for Minecraft Legends, despite the undeniable success of Minecraft Dungeons, because I recognize the monumental challenges that face both Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive in executing their vision of an incredible action-strategy game set in the Minecraft universe.
I'm impatiently waiting to see more of this intriguing game, and I'll certainly be among the first in line to play it. Blackbird Interactive knows how to make strategy games, and Mojang Studios knows Minecraft. Between the two, I have faith that the partnership can yield awesome results, as long as the duo is able to navigate the myriad of challenges and obstacles that stand in their way.
Minecraft Legends is slated for a release at some point in 2023, and has been confirmed for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Switch, and PC platforms. Minecraft Legends will also launch into Xbox and PC Game Pass, and Xbox Cloud Gaming. Only time will tell whether Minecraft Legends will be able to join Minecraft and Minecraft Dungeons among the best Xbox games, or if it'll fall by the wayside and leave the Minecraft universe feeling a little smaller than before.
Zachary Boddy is the Minecraft Expert and a News Writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life, and have been freelancing for Windows Central and its sister sites since 2019, with a focus on Xbox and PC gaming. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.
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