There aren't enough strategy games on console. It's one of the only popular video game genres that has never truly crossed the divide with any longevity, which is perhaps understandable given the natural limitations presented by a controller versus the keyboard. Understandable, but not insurmountable. At least, that's what Blackbird Interactive is hoping to prove with Minecraft Legends when it launches on April 18, 2023.
Under the purview of Microsoft Gaming, Mojang has gradually expanded the borders of Minecraft beyond the sandbox. We've had narrative adventures in collaboration with Telltale and Diablo-style action-RPGs in the brilliant Minecraft Dungeons, so perhaps an approachable strategy game is the most obvious area for the franchise to venture next. Intuitive controls that are designed to help you easily build armies and put them to battle against invading Piglin forces; boundless depth, informed by Blackbird's long history and proficiency in the genre; and a beautifully blocky, procedurally-generated overworld that, besides ensuring every game is different, serves to remind each and every one of us that Legends embodies the playful spirit which underpins all that carry the Minecraft name.
(Image credit: Microsoft Gaming)
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That's all well and good, but it's the Minecraft Legends PvP experience which has caught my attention. Mojang creative director Magnus Nedford had me with "two teams with up to four players each work to destroy the opposing team's base" and sold me with "the game will support cross-platform play and online matchmaking." Then again, I'm a bit of an easy mark in this area. I'm desperate for a strategy game that I can play on my couch that's both approachable enough that my friends from across the console and PC divide can come together without accusations of cheating via macro commands, and deep enough that it'll keep us arguing over wins, losses, and team compositions for months to come.
Let me explain. In my younger years, me and three buddies gravitated to the strategy excellence of Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth 2 on Xbox 360. We'd spend hours chopping it up on Xbox Live and whittling each other's armies down; gradually eroding defenses and resources until a final climactic, chaotic battle. I'm not being hyperbolic there either, hours meaning hours – we had rules: a 60 minute armistice for resource gathering, one hero could wade into enemy territory in the second hour, by the third you'd begin to assemble battalions on the edge of defensive lines, and by the fourth we'd flow into battle because it was almost dinner time and, no, mom, there is no way to pause the game.
What does this story of wasted youth have to do with Minecraft Legends? Well, it's giving off a similarly good vibe, for one. While it's certainly a different type of strategy game versus something like Battle of Middle-Earth 2, with Legends putting you in control of one hero and demanding that you dictate the tenor of combat from their purview, this does appear to have a similar sort of breadth and variance in its play. I'm a big fan of the blurring of lines between cooperative and competitive play, and procedurally generated play spaces constantly upending established strategies .
Working in a team of four, and the sharing of an overall pool of resources and units, encourages collaboration and a natural divide of responsibilities, with the crew coming together when it's time to crush bases. Our first look at the Minecraft PvP mode is promising, and I'm expecting big things. I'm also expecting me and my Battle for Middle-Earth buddies to kick your ass at Minecraft Legends come April. You know, if we can settle into a comfortable rhythm between gathering, building, battling, and strategizing when our gameplan inevitably goes to shit.
Minecraft Legend is one of the highly anticipated new games for 2023. It will release on April 18 for PC, PS5, PS4, Switch, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and Game Pass