One Year Later, Minecraft Legends Couldn't Reach Its Potential

amazon, one year later, minecraft legends couldn't reach its potential

One Year Later, Minecraft Legends Couldn’t Reach Its Potential

  • Minecraft Legends failed to meet expectations, leading to a premature end despite strong potential and initial player interest.
  • The game’s identity as a console RTS hindered its success due to accessibility issues in gameplay mechanics and design choices.
  • Despite its shortcomings, Minecraft Legends has paved the way for a potential sequel that could improve upon the original concept.

On April 18th, 2023, the real-time action-strategy game Minecraft Legends was released on all platforms by Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive, a team including some of the Homeworld RTS series’ creators. A real-time strategy Minecraft spin-off featuring mobs directed by a player character sounded like a slam-dunk, with both sides of the gameplay coming together while gathering resources and crafting mid-battle. Minecraft Legends was even presented as a mythologized prequel to Minecraft itself, a concept bound to draw long-time fans in. Legends seemed on-course to become the ideal side game to the industry giant that was Minecraft.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stick the landing. Minecraft Legends launched to mixed reviews, and although it gained three million players in two weeks, most of them seemed to be Xbox and PC Game Pass subscribers, with actual sales likely spread thin across Legends’ comprehensive platform list. The game had a lot going for it, being a day-one multi-platform first-party Xbox game, a Minecraft spin-off, and even an entry into the uncontested console RTS space. Still, none of that stopped Mojang from announcing on January 10, 2024, that the game would have no further updates or DLC. Minecraft Legends never lived up to its potential, and it has too much left to be denied a second chance.

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Minecraft Legends Implemented Its Best Ideas Poorly

On paper, Minecraft Legends should work. Besides the basic Minecraft RTS premise, it has cooperative and competitive multiplayer to extend its lifespan, monthly challenges for the same reason, randomized map layouts for a more authentic Minecraft experience, and even Minecraft lore implications that leave room for discussion thanks to its story’s nature. Where Minecraft Legends stumbles is in its execution, never becoming more than the most shallow interpretation of itself. So many parts of the game were close to being impressive, but they fell just short.

Minecraft Legends Was Mired In Missteps

Perhaps the most devastating case of this, and one of the roots of Minecraft Legends’ problems, is its identity as an accessible console real-time strategy game. Console RTS’s are niche for a reason, as the speed, precision, and typically large breadth of options in an RTS are antithetical to a controller’s buttons-and-sticks layout. Minecraft Legends’ attempt at designing around this was admirable, but it couldn’t avoid the classic choice between ease-of-use and depth, and it may have doomed itself by prioritizing the former. Successful action-strategy console series’ like Pikmin and Overlord demonstrate that riding the line is possible, but Minecraft Legends would have had to become a very different game if it wanted to follow their examples.

Self-sabotage is evident in almost every part of Minecraft Legends. Good maps are vital in RTS games, and Legends’ randomization means that quality isn’t guaranteed, despite landscapes also lacking the mechanical variety that Minecraft is known for. Playing as a third-person hero unit keeps players in the action, but stops them from quickly directing their troops across an entire battlefield, and never provides the same precision, or even combat depth, a regular Minecraft player enjoys. Building and crafting are less emphasized than they could be, the campaign is brief and repetitive, the story barely exists beyond the opening and ending, simpler gameplay means lower multiplayer depth, and so on. Minecraft Legends is too well-made to be outright bad, but it also doesn’t come together as anything interesting.

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How Minecraft Could Still Become A Great RTS

Close

Failing to make a splash and losing support before its first anniversary is about as bad as Minecraft Legends could have gone, but it shouldn’t be the end of this game’s legacy. While getting post-launch expansions like its fellow spin-offs, Minecraft Story Mode and Minecraft Dungeons, is out of the question, a sequel isn’t, even if it should use a new subtitle to dodge the inherent disinterest in a “Minecraft Legends 2.” A Minecraft RTS still works on paper in spite of how Minecraft Legends went, and doing one right involves tapping into the full extent of its potential.

Minecraft Legends Still Had Plenty Of Minecraft Left To Adapt

On the Minecraft end, plenty of mobs and biomes have yet to join Legends’ gameplay. Piglins could become a playable faction that combines some Overworld traits with their signature spore-spreading. Other armies built from Minecraft’s mobs would introduce further play styles, like Illagers staging raids with debilitating tactics, the Endermen warping in elite units and stealing resources to make way for the Ender Dragon, and the Undead employing classic Starcraft Zerg rushes using weaker hordes. Biomes used in the campaign and multiplayer maps also have lots of room to grow, incorporating actual Nether locales, the End, deserts, caves, and more, all with fitting hazards like lava flows or a roaming Warden and potentially unique materials.

Meanwhile, moment-to-moment RTS gameplay will also see a major shift. Battle maps would preferably be constrained to single, handcrafted biomes, compared to the generated open world islands used in Minecraft Legends, justifying the ability to zoom out and direct troops from anywhere. Hero units can be refitted as pure builders, able to quickly craft structures with gathered resources, place spawners for Minecraft’s mobs, and even equip mobs with armor and tools. With all of these changes speeding the game up, raising the skill ceiling, and potentially streamlining the controls even more, the cherry on top could be each faction gaining their own campaign with distinct mission objectives like a classic RTS.

The end result will be a very different game from Minecraft Legends, but becoming a conventional strategy game with Minecraft trappings is better than attempting an even merger and letting both halves down. Minecraft Legends suffered a major defeat before its first year was up, but there’s still the possibility that its strong core concept could be molded into something better in the future. It will take a lot of work, but that should be worth it if a sequel succeeds where Minecraft Legends fell short.

Minecraft Legends

FranchiseMinecraftPlatform(s)Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Switch, PS5, PS4, PC, Xbox OneReleasedApril 18, 2023Developer(s)Blackbird Interactive, MojangPublisher(s)Xbox Game StudiosGenre(s)Action, StrategyESRBE10+ For Everyone 10+ Due To Fantasy ViolenceHow Long To Beat9 HoursX|S EnhancedYesFile Size Xbox Series7 GB (November 2023)Metascore71 See at AmazonSee at websiteSee at SteamSee at NintendoSee at XboxSee at Playstation StoreSee at GameStop

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