Minecraft Legends will try to make action strategy mainstream

Minecraft's unique blend of approachable strategy has the potential to be deeply compelling, particularly given the developer behind it.
Minecraft Legends mojang development

Not enough people understand the joy of Pikmin, the often-overlooked Nintendo franchise where you embody an astronaut attempting to wrangle crowds of charming little plant creatures. Not enough people appreciated Brutal Legend, Double Fine Productions’ attempt at a Jack Black-starring heavy metal action-adventure game, which was really a competitive Pikmin game in disguise. Now, the upcoming Minecraft Legends is seemingly having a go at popularising a very familiar experience, though with a name like Minecraft, we imagine it might have a bit more luck.

When we talk about action strategy, we’re talking about a game that adopts some of the principles of the strategy genre – resource gathering, building, troop management, and large-scale battles – but your primary point of interacting with the world is in a single protagonist you control directly.

You are the commander on the battlefield, essentially, in Minecraft Legends (and the other games mentioned), you both dictate your troops while also participating in the odd sortie yourself. It’s a great hybrid genre where your mind is always in several places at once. Are my troops attacking the right thing? What do I have running in the background? What can I personally do to help, now that everything is okay for the moment?

And even though Minecraft Legends leans very hard into the ‘Story Mode’ aspect of the Minecraft property – with more evocative animations than usual, characters, performances, and lore that goes out of its way to be different and stand out – it’s the potential depth of strategic gameplay that has me most curious about Legends.

It’s being developed by Blackbird Interactive, responsible for not only one of my favourite games of recent years, the spacefaring labourer simulation Hardspace Shipbreaker, but also the modern Homeworld strategy games, like Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak and the upcoming Homeworld 3. This studio knows how to make a compelling game.

Riding across the blocky landscape on your horse in Minecraft Legends, you’ll both build up villages and lay siege to Piglin outposts, summoning golems of wood and stone to batter key structures and scrum with enemy swarms. You’ll manage and engage different units, like the healing Mossy Golem to keep your attackers alive, and even rally familiar Minecraft creatures from the overworld to utilise their unique effects.

Though what we saw of Minecraft Legends was in a hands-off video presentation, like any strategy game, it seems like the kind of experience that you need to spend a lot of time with to truly appreciate.

In games like Pikmin and Brutal Legend, your army becomes extensions of your body, and when chaos erupts, being able to quickly shuffle all the pieces in the right place can be very satisfying indeed.

Those games felt like they were ahead of their time. But maybe now is the right time for Minecraft Legends to shine.

Minecraft Legends will be released on 18 April 2023, on PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. It will also be available as part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

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Edmond was the founding managing editor of GamesHub. He was also previously at GameSpot for 13 years, where he was the Australian Editor and an award-winning video producer. You can follow him @EdmondTran