Windows Central Verdict
Minecraft Legends is a wonderful addition to the expanding Minecraft universe, perfectly encapsulating its character while exploring a new, unique action-strategy genre. Its two halves aren't always perfectly balanced, though, and there are certainly ways the game can improve.
An endearing, fun campaign that adds a lot to the Minecraft universe
Fantastic strategy gameplay that translates well on a controller
Great extra content with co-op, competitive multiplayer, and Lost Legends challenges
Undeniable potential to grow and expand in the future
Action elements tend to take a backseat compared to strategy
Core gameplay sometimes feels lacking in features or polish
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Minecraft Legends is the latest to carry the legendary Minecraft moniker, one of the most successful video game brands of all time. It's an ambitious departure from the norm for Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive, attempting to meld two separate genres alongside a fresh approach to the story in the Minecraft universe. Despite this, it may fly under the radar for many gamers. I'm here to (hopefully) change a few minds.
Mojang Studios' first attempt at an action-strategy game isn't perfect on every front (it could use a little bit more, ahem, action), and there's certainly room for improvement. Even so, this doesn't stop it from being an incredibly fun, strangely relaxing game that's made even better when you enjoy it with friends. More than that, Minecraft Legends does a brilliant job capturing the spirit of Minecraft that has helped that game dominate the internet for over a decade. It's absolutely, unequivocally worth your time, money, and support as one of the best Xbox games.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Xbox Game Studios. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.
Minecraft Legends: Performance and stability
Not to spoil the next section, but Minecraft Legends isn't attempting to be the most visually or technically impressive game in the world. It isn't pushing your system to its utmost limits. Instead, it focuses on offering a similarly fantastic playing experience on every platform, even aging consoles and PCs or the Nintendo Switch. Minecraft Legends needs to maintain stable performance even with literally dozens of NPCs on the screen at once, and it does so with no complaints.
|Developer||Mojang Studios, Blackbird Interactive|
|Publisher||Xbox Game Studios|
|Players||1-4 campaign, 2-8 multiplayer|
|Release date||April 18, 2023|
|Retail price||USD $39.99|
|Platforms||Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC, PS5, PS4, Switch|
|Xbox / PC Game Pass||Xbox, PC, Xbox Cloud Gaming|
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
During my time with Minecraft Legends, I never experienced a dropped frame, stutter, or slowdown on my Xbox Series X, even during the most intense battles and scenes. It loads quickly, plays smoothly, and seems well-equipped to handle everything you can throw at the game. I was impressed and had no complaints on this front.
Stability is a slightly different matter. I wouldn't describe Minecraft Legends as buggy, but it's certainly not bug-free. Some of the bugs I encountered during my playthrough included the Masonry (which upgrades nearby buildings to stone instead of wood) randomly stopping working after a while, the animation showing the Protector's defensive auras not appearing, and the controls in the map randomly and temporarily inverting.
I also had an issue with the AI pathfinding. Generally, your units follow your steps exactly, meaning they will all make the same mistakes you do. If they do encounter a situation where following your steps exactly doesn't quite work, the AI can struggle to find a safe path to take.
Finally, while I encountered no hard crashes, I did experience one game freeze. Shortly after defeating the Horde of the Hunt boss, I fast traveled to a nearby village to collect some units. However, the game froze while rendering the environment, leaving me suspended in a white void. After a long time, I finally had to restart the game, resulting in me needing to restart the entire boss battle. I believe this issue may have been caused by my trying to open my map before the game was fully loaded, but I can't be sure.
PC performance and controls
The performance of Minecraft Legends on PC in-game is just as smooth and stable as the Xbox version, as I was able to maintain a steady 144+ framerate throughout all types of gameplay without any screen tearing or stuttering. With that said, I did experience an odd quirk with the PC version, as well as a few issues with the resolution settings. Every time I used the Alt+Tab shortcut to back out of the game while playing in fullscreen mode, the game screen would rapidly flicker behind my other opened programs instead of minimizing like it was supposed to. This isn't a huge problem, but it makes tabbing out to check things like Discord messages annoying. Windowed mode, meanwhile, wouldn't correctly scale the game window to match my chosen resolution. Also, for whatever reason, I couldn't get options for resolutions other than my monitor's native resolution to appear.
Minecraft Legends' keyboard and mouse controls are comfortable and intuitive overall, as the game's main four menus for resource gathering, mob spawners, building, and improvements are assigned to the easy-to-reach ZXCV keys, respectively. Movement is handled by the usual WASD, and attacking, camera rotation, and menu selection is done with the mouse and its various inputs. Micromanaging your units is a little awkward since you have to hold the CTRL key and then cycle through unit types with arrow keys before directing them with your mouse, but you get used to it quickly.
Ultimately, the Minecraft Legends gameplay experience on PC is great. The Alt+Tab and resolution settings issues are a bit grating, but they're minor in the grand scheme of things. Hopefully, Mojang will fix them in a post-launch update. — Brendan Lowry
Minecraft Legends: Visuals and world
I hinted earlier that Minecraft Legends isn't the most graphically impressive title, and that's true, but it's by no means an ugly game. Far from it, Minecraft Legends perfectly captures the look and feel of Minecraft, with wonderfully designed characters and mobs (especially among the Piglins) and crisp, cubed visuals that leave no room for misinterpretation. This is a Minecraft game, through and through, and it looks good.
It could be more colorful and bright (the lack of HDR support, at least on console, may contribute to this), but I was never bored looking at Minecraft Legends. My only genuine complaint is that the world itself feels lacking in diversity and detail at times, leading it to slowly grow repetitive as you play. Minecraft is brimming with varied biomes and environments, so it's odd that Minecraft Legends' entirely procedurally generated worlds aren't pulling more from that region roster, with less than ten unique biomes on offer. Even the Nether contains multiple distinct biomes, yet Minecraft Legends doesn't take advantage of them beyond the classic netherrack and lava look (and the black and gold of Piglin structures).
Minecraft Legends is built on the same Bedrock Engine that powers Minecraft, so the ability to generate more variety is certainly there. Minecraft Legends also doesn't always compare favorably to the older Minecraft Dungeons with its lovingly crafted, surprisingly detailed environments. You can't directly compare the two (one is an open world, the other linear), but ignoring the differences is difficult. Minecraft Legends' graphics are solid but not overly impressive, just as its world is perfectly functional but occasionally bland.
None of these complaints can be levied against Minecraft Legends' cinematics, however. The game features dozens of cutscenes spread across three different visual styles, and they all look fantastic. It's like a Minecraft animated movie in the best possible sense and adds a lot to the world and its story. To be frank, some of my complaints regarding Minecraft Legends' base visuals may be entirely due to their proximity to the high-quality cinematics peppered throughout, which are lush in vibrancy and detail at every turn.
Minecraft Legends: Campaign and story
Having the most in-depth, complete story of any Minecraft game isn't really a high bar to cross, but Minecraft Legends comfortably crosses it. Minecraft leaves all its lore in the hands of players, while Minecraft Dungeons' campaign featured a nameless, bodyless narrator and a handful of cinematics. Minecraft Legends features the franchise's first named, fully voiced mobs in the Hosts (named Action, Knowledge, and Foresight) and plenty of complete, feature-film quality cinematics and cutscenes.
The story is straightforward, but at the same time is a fantastic continuation of the Minecraft universe while adding heaps of new lore for players to pore over. Minecraft Legends is set in a distant past and even possibly a different universe than the Minecraft we know and love today. It features an Overworld united in peace and tranquility, where even the hostile mobs of vanilla Minecraft, like zombies, creepers, and skeletons, are friendly pacifists.
Unfortunately, war is introduced to the Overworld, changing it irrevocably and permanently, when portals to the violent Nether region tear into the world and unleash countless hordes of brutal Piglin armies. The Piglins wish to subjugate the Overworld and drain it of its resources, turning into a mirror image of the Nether; no one is safe, and everyone in the Piglins' path is slaughtered unceremoniously. It's dark and spells doom for the entire region, but the Hosts — magical beings that live in a place between worlds, decide that a hero is needed to save the day.
Enter you, a player in Minecraft. Yes, I mean that Minecraft. The Hosts call upon you from the Minecraft familiar to hundreds of millions of players, pulling you into a new world and gifting you a series of tools and a wealth of knowledge to help you in your battle against the Piglins. You are the Hero, and you must save the Overworld, uniting and protecting the people within while fighting back the Piglins and banishing them to the Nether, where they belong.
It's a simple tale, but one with beautiful writing for the Hosts, lots of humorous moments, and plenty of treats for Minecraft fans. In this version of Minecraft, the Overworld once had eternal day thanks to two suns until one was corrupted by the Piglins and crystallized into the moon. Thus, the day and night cycle was born, giving the Piglins the darkness under which they thrive. Minecraft Legends also suggests how the pillagers came to be, showcasing how a small subset of the peaceful villagers was traumatized by the war and the grief of their losses; driven by their anger and desire to change things, and these villagers asked the Hosts to give them the weapons they need to fight.
After the credits roll, though, it's still up to the player how much of Minecraft Legends' story they wish to be a part of Minecraft's history. As the name suggests, this is a legend, possibly one that has been passed down by the villagers, inevitably shifting and altering over time. It may be true, but it may also be embellished or changed from the truth. Mojang Studios is leaving that for the players to decide. At the end, it's also hinted that this won't be the last we see of the Hosts, as other Minecraft worlds need their help.
Minecraft Legends: Action and strategy gameplay
In my Minecraft Legends preview, its gameplay ultimately won me over, pushing my excitement levels over the edge until I could hardly wait to dive into the full game. The first two hours shocked me with the depth of the gameplay and the finesse with which Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive were executing their dream to craft a unique game blending action and strategy genres. Now, after having finished the full game and sampled all of its content, my expectations have been tweaked but not missed.
Minecraft Legends is so much fun, but its two halves are not perfectly matched. Minecraft Legends combines facets of action and strategy games, but both by necessity and for approachability, the developers had to pare back these halves deliberately. On the strategy side, this means Minecraft Legends doesn't contain the dozens of buildings, scores of mobs, and countless upgrades of full strategy games like Age of Empires II Definitive Edition. This leads to a more compact, focused experience, but it doesn't mean there's a shortage of available tactics or an abrupt end to the strategy fun.
On the action side, there are even fewer features from the storied genre, limiting your character's effectiveness as a warrior in addition to the commander you must be to succeed. At the end of the day, Minecraft Legends really feels like a strategy game that just happens to make your cursor a character you control in the world, sprinkling in a healthy mix of exploration to sweeten the pot. Its action elements take a backseat to the strategy, a reality that doesn't damage Minecraft Legends as a game but does require a shift in how we categorize it.
Strategy gameplay that just makes sense
The strategy genre is home to some of the most complicated, meticulously crafted games in the industry; it's challenging to make a good one, and it's even more difficult to make a great strategy game that works on every platform and with controllers. Mojang Studios tapped strategy experts Blackbird Interactive to help it make Minecraft Legends a reality, and the result is a genuinely fantastic strategy game that feels comfortable and natural to play even on a controller.
The control scheme takes full advantage of every button, with the D-Pad and triggers being used to expertly split all the controls for building, collecting resources, and commanding your units and troops into three separate tiers. It can be complicated to learn at first (please play the tutorial and listen to the helpful tips), but once the controls click... It all just works. Well done, Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive; you can now join the Age of Empires teams — Minecraft Legends plays amazingly, thanks to these controls.
As far as the gameplay itself, Minecraft Legends tasks players with managing build and gather Allays to collect various resources from the world, build offensive, defensive, and supportive buildings, construct Improvement towers to upgrade your abilities, and create spawners that allow you to build up your army. You can command nearby units to follow your footsteps, charge in a direction, and focus on specific targets, divide these commands between single units and groups based on their type (melee, ranged, special, and legendary), and even specific varieties.
It never gets old watching your armies swarm into Piglin strongholds and dismantle their fortifications. Minecraft Legends does capture that delectable, hard-to-describe feeling elicited by a good strategy game when you're in charge, and your commands result in a resounding victory. It feels great, and the entire world and the upgrades are balanced around this gameplay. At first, you're only able to command a small army of basic units and build simple defensive structures. Still, eventually, you'll unlock the ability to gather rare resources that unlock more powerful units (and eventually more powerful buildings), as well as improve your Allays' numbers and abilities, your storage, and how many units you're able to command and spawn.
This is the core of Minecraft Legends, and it's amazing across the campaign (solo or in co-op), multiplayer, and the challenges. Of course, it's not entirely perfect, so I'll quickly rattle off some improvements I'd like to see made to this formula: I want to be able to build gates and towers into existing walls; I want to be able to remove multiple existing structures quickly; I want to be able to quickly switch between options in a respective building menu using the bumpers without leaving that interface; I want to be able to quickly retake control of an army after giving it a command without having to round everyone up manually; I want to be able to dismiss individual units from my spawned army, opening up space for new units.
Also, the world of Minecraft Legends is filled with wildlife, like wolves, foxes, rabbits, turtles, llamas, and much more. Early trailers suggested that you could also unite these animals against the Piglin invaders threatening the Overworld, but this was misleading. Yes, you can add these animals to your army, but you can't command them, and they can't fight alongside you, including more aggressive animals like wolves. Most animals immediately run away in terror, abandoning your army and leaving the battlefield. Sure, this makes sense for an animal, but why let us recruit them in the first place? I can't tell if this was a feature that didn't make the final cut or is planned for a post-launch update, but let me command a pack of vicious wolves against the Piglins, please.
A Hero that steadily becomes less heroic
When you begin Minecraft Legends, you play as the Hero, a valiant warrior and commander tasked with uniting the Overworld and stopping the Piglin invaders. At the start of the game, you can battle alongside your armies, taking advantage of your decent attack damage and regenerating health to aid your forces and battle Piglins directly. You're the core of your army, directing the flow of the battle from within your ranks. It's fantastic and feels vital to success — You have to protect your soldiers while they focus on the primary targets, like buildings and towers.
However, the Piglins progressively become more diverse, numerous, and dangerous as time goes on. Eventually, it's not reasonable to be in the midst of the battles without risking frequent, untimely deaths. This is especially true against bosses and stronger Piglins, which can annihilate you in moments if you're not careful. This would be fine if you could upgrade your Hero alongside your army and other abilities, allowing the player character to grow to meet this evolving threat, but you can't.
There are no player-specific upgrades. Every single upgrade is for the strategy half of the game and naturally places more importance on these mechanics the further into the campaign you progress. You can't upgrade your attack damage and speed or health amount and regeneration speed. You can't add armor for damage reduction or improve the size of your banner area to recruit new units to your command. Every upgrade targets Minecraft Legends' three primary pillars: buildings, units, and resources.
Because of this, Minecraft Legends' halves feel increasingly unbalanced as you approach the end, with its strategy elements dominating the gameplay while you avoid the most intense of the action. While the opening hours make it clear your armies can't succeed without you, the latter half of the game sees you remotely command your units, only entering the battlefield to frantically regain control of them and give them a new directive. You can't even damage buildings as the Hero, further reducing your use when you're unable to stand up to the Piglin forces threatening your army. This is undoubtedly even more true at higher difficulties.
Minecraft Legends: Co-op and multiplayer
Minecraft Legends can be entirely played by yourself and offline (if you're actually offline, else the game will want to be connected to the internet), but it's designed from the ground up to be played with friends. The campaign is perfectly playable solo, but it can be tedious to manage everything on your own. Play with up to three other friends (the host's platforms dictate if two or four co-op players are supported), and take on the entirety of the campaign together. Yes, there's full cross-play powered by your Microsoft Account so that you can play with friends from any platform. Just bear in mind that there's no in-game party, so switching game modes means reinviting everyone, and there's no in-game chat.
Everyone shares resources, spawned unit pools, and upgrades but gets their own banners (to recruit units outside of the spawned army) and Allays to build and gather. Thus, you can divide responsibilities and tackle every obstacle as a team. It works fantastic and can be a lot of fun. My only suggestion? If you're planning on playing the campaign with friends, start on a greater difficulty setting. The default "Fabled" difficulty feels perfect for solo players that like a bit of challenge, but it's entirely too easy with multiple players.
Higher difficulties give you larger maps, more Piglin bases and armies, and generally more challenging and harder-hitting opponents. It's an excellent way to help balance the greater capabilities and larger armies afforded by online co-op and can make the game more interesting in the long run. Sure, it's fun to completely annihilate a base in a matter of minutes once or twice, but it's no way to play the entire game. Overall, Minecraft Legends is just as good as Minecraft Dungeons, or Minecraft to play with friends. That is to say, it's the best way to play if you're able.
Mojang Studios didn't stop there, though. Minecraft Legends is the first Minecraft game with an official, competitive player-versus-player (PvP) element with an online multiplayer game mode, and it's also awesome. Smaller, procedurally generated maps, additional building types, and sweeping balancing changes to the core gameplay ensure reasonable match lengths (around 30 minutes), but it's more or less all the fun of the campaign condensed into short, chaotic multiplayer matches.
Two teams of players of up to four players square off, each defending their Stronghold while attempting to destroy their opponents. You have to collect resources, build upgrades and defenses, and command armies as a team. There are also Piglin outposts that attack all players indiscriminately (yes, it's actually PvPvE), and it's necessary to battle these Piglins to collect valuable resources for upgrades and unit spawning. It's pure, messy fun, and I could see many players spending a lot of time in this game mode. Nothing is off the table, which means every match should be different.
You can also play custom private matches that even support 1v1 games and jump into a training session to help you and your team prepare for multiplayer. It's well thought out, and I hope it finds success so it can grow in the future with new content and improvements. If I could make one request, though, Mojang? Please, we don't need constant notifications every time either team does literally anything. That got old fast.
Minecraft Legends: Additional and post-launch content
Is a beefy 18-hour, highly replayable campaign with co-op support isn't enough for you? Wait, the frenetic, competitive online multiplayer still isn't enough for you? Okay, how about optional, tailored, challenging scenarios that throw you into unique situations and can grant special rewards? Well, that's Minecraft Legends' Lost Legends & Myths mode, and it's one of the key ways I think the game will continue to be interesting after launch.
There's only one Lost Legend in the game right now, Portal Pile, which challenged me to defend a single village from 20 waves of Piglins emerging from three nearby Nether Portals. Each wave successively defeated granted me extra resources, new upgrades, and a short cooldown to build more defenses and prepare for the next wave. It didn't take long for things to get ridiculous, and I had a good time filling every available space with defenses while hundreds of Piglins at a time threw themselves at the village. By the end, I was commanding an army of 100 zombies and warriors, and my 30 minutes of effort got me a new skin for my Hero. Neat.
Mojang Studios will add new monthly challenges for the Lost Legends mode after Minecraft Legends releases, giving players reasons to return and test their skills. More is clearly coming to Minecraft Legends in the future, though, as the game also has the Minecraft Marketplace. Yes, the same Minecraft Marketplace in Minecraft: Bedrock Edition, complete with the same Minecoins currency (my tiny balance showed up in Legends, too).
It's presumably here because Legends is built on the Bedrock Engine, but it opens up exciting possibilities for the game. Right now, there's only a skin pack and one free Lost Legend (which rewards its skin through the Marketplace), but what else could appear here in the future?
For one, I don't know what Myths are, but I have a hopeful suspicion that this could be for community-created content. The blank landing page hints at a "Fun Creator" that is supposed to be in the Marketplace, and the existence of the Marketplace itself suggests that Mojang Studios is planning a lot of optional content for Minecraft Legends. I don't know for sure what's going to happen, but we do know that Minecraft Legends will have similar post-launch support to Minecraft Dungeons. As with all Minecraft games, the launch is only the beginning.
Minecraft Legends: Accessibility and approachability
Strategy games are historically unapproachable for many players. Still, Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive worked hard to strip back the strategy portions of the game just enough to make it more approachable for casual players. It works, and the combination of an optional tutorial and plenty of helpful, dynamic tips throughout gameplay ensures that you have all the info you need to play Minecraft Legends. There are also various difficulty levels for those who want something different than the default.
As far as accessibility is concerned, Mojang Studios informed me that it worked closely with Xbox's various accessibility teams from the earliest stages of planning and development. While Minecraft Legends doesn't feature the heftiest set of options I've seen in a game, we still get colorblind modes, text-to-speech options, granular audio sliders, a ton of ways to customize the controls (including swapping various buttons, changing controls between "toggle" and "hold," and more), as well as individual key bindings for both keyboards and controllers. I was pleased to see this one, as Minecraft Legends does have a complicated control scheme. Mojang Studios divided the controls into different categories, all of which can be customized separately.
One thing that could've been improved is the subtitles implementation. Yes, they're here, but there's no way to customize the text size or background opacity, which should be standard for all games at this point. There's also no way to tweak the interface, which can be messy at times. Finally, Minecraft Legends supports full localization (subtitles and voice-over) for 12 languages and partial localization (subtitles) for an additional 14. You can see them all in our Minecraft Legends launch guide.
Minecraft Legends: Should you play it?
Minecraft Legends is the latest addition to the expanding Minecraft franchise, and it represents a lot of firsts for Mojang Studios. It's launching on more platforms simultaneously than any previous Minecraft game, with full cross-play support to boot. It's the first Minecraft game with a full-fledged campaign featuring voiced, named mobs. It's the first Minecraft game to explore the unique action-strategy genre. It's not the first Minecraft spin-off game to use the Bedrock Edition, but we don't talk about Minecraft Earth.
It's clear that Minecraft Legends is ambitious for both Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive, but did the partnered studios pull it off? I'll be the first to say that Minecraft Legends isn't perfect, but even its most egregious issues or misses don't ruin the game or deter you from having fun. This is a wonderful game, and it can provide countless hours of enjoyment to players of all kinds. Minecraft Legends is a momentous success; it's amazingly awesome to play alone and more fantastic fun when played with friends.
How the game is supported after its launch will make or break Minecraft Legends' long-term life. Will the campaign continue to improve? Will the multiplayer gain new features to stay interesting for players? Will the Lost Legends & Myths mode provide plenty of fresh content to entice new and returning players? Minecraft Legends is very easy to recommend for what it is right now and more than worth the asking price, but whether it can stand alongside Minecraft for the next 10 years is something I'm very excited to see — the potential is certainly there.
Minecraft Legends officially released on April 18, 2023, for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC, PS5, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. It's also on Xbox Game Pass on day one, and is one of the best Xbox Game Pass games for strategy and Minecraft fans. Just getting started? Check out our ultimate Minecraft Legends beginner's guide for helpful tips and tricks.
Minecraft Legends (Digital)
The newest addition to the Minecraft universe is a sometimes-messy mix of genres, but it's packed with content and never fails to offer a relaxing, casually fun time, whether you're playing alone or with friends.
Buy from: Xbox (Console, Standard) | Xbox (Console, Deluxe) | Xbox (PC, Standard) | Xbox (PC, Deluxe)
Minecraft Legends (Physical)
Minecraft Legends Deluxe Edition is also available in a physical form for interested players and collectors, and can be had for every platform short of Windows PC.
Buy from: Amazon (Xbox, Deluxe) | Amazon (PS5, Deluxe) | Amazon (PS4, Deluxe) | Amazon (Switch, Deluxe)
As a first-party Xbox Game Studios game, Minecraft Legends is available in every tier of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, including on Xbox consoles, Windows PCs, and Xbox Cloud Gaming. Play it to your heart's content, and enjoy a sweet discount if you wish to buy it.
Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.
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