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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Minecraft Legends review – multiplayer and single player

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Microsoft, the proprietor of Minecraft, persists in nurturing Markus Persson’s brainchild through diverse avenues and game iterations. We have previously witnessed the narrative-driven odyssey of Story Mode, the mobile sandbox of augmented reality in Earth, and the Diablo-inspired clone known as Dungeons. Each endeavor possessed its own unique allure, yet fell short of attaining the pinnacle of success achieved by the original game. Now, the time has come for a novel interpretation of this beloved series within the unconventional realm of Minecraft – the domain of strategy.

We have embarked upon the realm of Minecraft Legends, deftly outwitting hordes of pyglies, toppling innumerable towers, and amassing bountiful resources, all to gain a comprehensive understanding of this new venture from Xbox Studios.

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Cubic Warhammer

Minecraft Legends presents itself as an action-strategy game, encompassing the customary elements of construction and resource gathering prevalent in the series. Diverging from the conventional mold of RTS titles, this project blends elements reminiscent of the obscure Russian sensation Pikmin with the grandeur of Dynasty Warriors. Here, players do not embody a soulless cursor orchestrating units; instead, they assume the role of a fully-fledged protagonist who takes the battlefield by storm, erects structures, and actively engages in all pivotal gameplay events.

The single-player campaign, although bereft of complexity, retains Minecraft’s trademark quirkiness and humor. Its narrative pays homage to revered works such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Warhammer Fantasy, and Warcraft. Wicked pyglies, anthropomorphic pigs hailing from the Infernal Biome, invade the Upper World, laying waste to the local ecosystem. Similar to the orcs of Warhammer, these marauders boast an assemblage of necromancers, war machines, grenade launchers, and other technologically advanced contraptions designed to vanquish all denizens that inhabit the realm of Minecraft. Summoned from a parallel universe, the player assumes the mantle of the savior, entrusted with thwarting the invaders and sealing the spatial portals.

The player’s objectives, though not as plentiful as desired, involve dismantling outposts, repelling assaults on peaceful villages, and amassing an army by diligently acquiring resources. In order to achieve this, the player must traverse the land astride a horse (or tiger), construct fortifications, and explore avenues to recruit unique units.

Within the realm of Minecraft Legends, there is no need to laboriously wield a pickaxe or extract resources from the ground. All requisite materials are procured by diminutive spirits known as “speshiks,” who diligently mine on the player’s behalf. Simply designate a location for a repository of speshiks, and they shall promptly gather the necessary provisions in a matter of minutes. These diligent spirits are also responsible for constructing edifices and undertaking repairs. However, controlling them on PC proves to be a formidable task, owing to an overloaded interface and a dearth of buttons on the mouse. One must continuously toggle between modes, scroll the mouse wheel to initiate desired actions, and execute them accordingly. Erecting walls and stairs amidst the fervor of battle becomes an arduous ordeal. Moreover, the centered camera, fixated on the main character, hampers precise targeting of specific areas. Consequently, one must manipulate all available mouse buttons while simultaneously endeavoring to rotate them.

As the game progresses, resource gathering becomes an arduous endeavor. Trees and stone blocks can be discerned with ease upon the map, whereas iron, diamonds, and red rock necessitate meticulous exploration inch by inch. Owing to the isometric perspective of the camera, discerning specific blocks housing resources becomes a futile endeavor. Surface textures amalgamate into a unified backdrop, rendering the arduous task of scouring every nook and cranny both tedious and time-consuming. Yet, resource collection cannot be disregarded, for without an ample supply, summoning more formidable units and constructing vital enhancements for future endeavors becomes an insurmountable challenge.

Regrettably, numerous essential gameplay elements from the original Minecraft appear as superfluous vestiges that could have been significantly improved and streamlined. Departing from the traditional trappings of a mining simulator, greater emphasis on time-tested RTS standards would have alleviated the formidable time investment required for resource gathering, which can considerably mar subsequent assaults on piglin strongholds. For instance, mobilizing units necessitates a specific amount of resources. Initially, your hero can lead a contingent of 20 soldiers. Naturally, when confronted with a thousand-strong pig army, these troops succumb within minutes, necessitating a return to the inhibitors to raise a fresh army. Continuously shuttling back and forth to assemble and dispatch squads on the precipice of imminent demise becomes an inescapable routine. At some juncture, your stockpile of resources will dwindle, compelling you to vacate the battlefield in search of additional tree stones. While some advocate for preemptive preparations, amassing sufficient ingredients to lay siege to any stronghold, the game initially restricts resource accumulation beyond a predetermined limit, while the speshiks remain idle without accompanying storage expansions. Expanding storage capacity necessitates the acquisition of yet another resource, obtainable only through the annihilation of piglin bases. Thus, the cycle perpetuates. Inadequate resources impede the demolition of enemy fortifications, yet amassing more necessitates the obliteration of pig bases. Thus, raiding the same pyglin encampment in incremental stages emerges as the sole viable recourse.

RTS without strategy

Referring to Minecraft Legends as a mere strategy game would be an exaggeration. Unlike the likes of Warcraft or Age of Empires, where players assume the role of commanding officers dispatching units, Legends places the onus on leading one’s own army, akin to the Overlord series. Admittedly, one can issue orders to the squad, such as “assail that edifice” or “follow me,” but executing such commands swiftly proves challenging due to the local interface and controls.

The crux of the matter lies in the inability to maintain a safe distance and direct orders across the map. Instead, one must immerse themselves amidst the chaos of battle and issue commands from that vantage point. Frequently, due to glitchy artificial intelligence, one finds themselves clicking five times on the correct structure to coax the dummies into action. Yet, that is merely half the trouble. The real hassle commences when units complete their assigned tasks and stand idle, awaiting further commands. To issue new directives, one must approach them, press the collection button beneath their banner, and only then proffer fresh instructions. Discerning friend from foe amid the jumble of cubic pigs, golems, creepers, skeletons, and other creatures becomes a true test of one’s fortitude.

The game incorporates several unit types, each designed for specific purposes. Various golems excel in dealing greater damage, striking larger areas, or bestowing healing. Bow-wielding archers adeptly dismantle towers from a distance, while skeletons swiftly dispatch armored foes, and creepers reduce grand structures to rubble within seconds. Depending on the given task, one can assemble the necessary units, focusing solely on the distinctive abilities of certain creatures. Need to swiftly annihilate a portal without becoming entangled in hordes of pigs? Very well, amass fifteen creepers and another ten golems to accompany the subversive force.

Due to the inability to form battle groups consisting of specific units, even the simplest skirmish can stretch on for hours. The absence of a swift means to instruct resilient golems to divert the enemy’s main forces, followed by dispatching a contingent of skeleton archers to obliterate defense towers and spawners, proves sorely lacking. All these maneuvers must be executed personally, necessitating the complete annihilation of the previously assembled squad before recruiting a new type of troops.

The player-controlled protagonist proves utterly ineffective in combat. Their damage output is so feeble that even the feeblest piglin requires incessant clicks of the mouse button. More robust units can endure countless prodding and jabbing to no avail. Perchance, our campaign was generated in such a manner that it took over five hundred units and several thousand mouse clicks to vanquish a colossal armored piglin. Moreover, the stronger and more heavily armored units find themselves encircled by a swarm of diminutive adversaries capable of depleting the protagonist’s health with a solitary strike. Thus, the player is left with naught but evasive maneuvers, dodging arrows hurtling from all directions while diligently monitoring the squad’s activities.

Occasionally, the protagonist does serve a purpose. Epic moments unfold when a squad strives to dismantle an enemy portal, and you, brandishing your sword, fend off thousands of pigs, preventing them from closing in on your units.

In addition to ceaseless raids on the invader camps, one must safeguard their own settlements. Each night, the pyglies’ forces single out a specific village on the map, endeavoring to seize it. Consequently, the player must allocate resources toward defensive structures and fortifying the walls. Failure to offer timely aid necessitates forcibly repelling the invaders, subsequently repairing and reconstructing the defensive complex. Over time, construction possibilities expand, allowing for the erection of stone fences and reinforced defensive towers. Regrettably, such endeavors require disproportionately copious amounts of resources. Each instance prompts an exhaustive search across the entire map for stone, iron, or wood.

Apart from constructing defensive complexes and attending to local villages, one must establish personal bases, serving as replenishment stations for the army and as respawn points in case of death. Alas, the pyglies relish assaulting these encampments as well, thus further exacerbating the burdens with each passing hour of gameplay. One finds oneself darting madly from one end of the map to the other, accumulating supplies for the ensuing battle, only to discover the village under attack, reduced to mere rubble. One must then rebuild the defensive structures and embark on yet another resource-gathering expedition since the pre-collected reserves prove insufficient for mounting an assault.

Simultaneously, within the central main base on the map, one must continually engage in an assortment of enhancements that enable the expansion of the army’s ranks, unveil new ores, and unveil specialized structures. All these endeavors, of course, necessitate resources. In addition to the standard requirements of iron, wood, stone, and diamonds, a unique resource—prismarine—exclusively obtained from the wreckage of piglin structures, becomes essential. Consequently, the player is perpetually compelled to make prudent choices and plan meticulously to avoid an accumulation of idle resources by mid-game, when the ability to recruit additional units to extract prismarine from destroyed towers remains unattainable.

Multiplayer is more fun

In general, you have already discerned that the game is replete with tedious routines, which may only appease dedicated Minecraft enthusiasts with abundant leisure time. However, what if we were to disclose that in the later stages, these routines can startle even the most assiduous player?

The quandary lies in the fact that the adversary, apart from incessantly pillaging villages, incessantly constructs new bases and outposts. These are not mere turrets with fences hastily erected by the player; rather, they are genuine fortresses that grow progressively larger, more imposing, and perilous with each iteration. The siege of these encampments can span multiple in-game days, entailing countless trips back and forth to recruit fresh units. Bear in mind all the aforementioned limitations on resources, nocturnal raids, and other vexations.

At a certain juncture, Minecraft Legends metamorphoses from a straightforward game into a veritable clicker. The piglin army begins to feature behemoths with ludicrously colossal health bars, necessitating an entire army to vanquish a single adversary. Yes, you heard it right—a whole army is required to slay a solitary formidable unit! And when the enemy’s base houses more than ten such behemoths, it becomes arduous to even fathom the duration required for victory. Moreover, venturing away from the battlefield for resources is strictly forbidden, as the artificial intelligence promptly dispatches a couple more of these giants to overwhelm the player.

The outcome of battles heavily hinges upon the location and layout of the enemy stronghold. If it is nestled amidst mountainous terrain and encircled by precipitous cliffs, one can only extend their best wishes to the player embarking on the siege. The army’s artificial intelligence proves inept at navigating such terrain, often resulting in soldiers tumbling down without a means to ascend. The onus falls on the player to personally descend, retrieve the fallen units under their banner, and ascend once more. During the final hours of battles, these absurdities incite an overwhelming desire to abandon all efforts and close the game.

In the advanced stages, it becomes feasible to deploy unit spawners directly within the piglin base and employ siege implements. However, reaching the point of utilizing these routine gameplay elements requires significant progression and substantial resource expenditure.

Ironically, all the tribulations associated with monotony and complexity dissipate when embarking on the campaign alongside friends in cooperative play. Delegating responsibilities, organizing troops for specific assignments, and expediting the search for vital resources render the experience immensely more enjoyable, alleviating the tedium that plagues Minecraft Legends. It almost seems as if the game was originally conceived for multiplayer, with the single-player campaign hastily appended as an afterthought.

In addition to cooperative amusement, the game introduces a rather intriguing competitive mode. Players are divided into teams of 3×3 or 4×4 and engage in combat on randomized terrains. By obliterating the piglins scattered across the map, resources can be acquired to enhance structures and fortify the army, thereby facilitating the conquest of opposing players’ encampments. In the multiplayer mode, all the mechanics of Minecraft Legends function far more seamlessly than in single-player mode. You define your own objective and pursue it through any means necessary. Unlike other competitive real-time strategy games, there is no compulsion to frantically click the mouse a million times per minute; instead, you can concentrate on the tactical aspect, assuming control of a small contingent, assembling a couple of siege engines, and launching volleys at any living target without apprehension of being overwhelmed by sheer numbers, as is the case in single-player mode.

A few words about the technical state of Minecraft Legends

Legends, by its very nature, cannot boast of revolutionary graphics due to its cubic style. The entire game world is crafted utilizing cel-shading technology, which imparts a distinct cartoonish charm to this novelty. The environment exhibits visual appeal owing to its captivating design and vibrant color palette. Each unit, structure, and scenery aligns harmoniously with the source material. Despite its inherently cuboid nature, all design elements are readily discernible.

In our experience with the PC version, we did not encounter any notable bugs or technical hitches that impede gameplay. Furthermore, the game operates seamlessly even on relatively modest hardware configurations. Even on the Nintendo Switch, the project delivers a crisp visual presentation and fluid gameplay. The primary technical gripes would be directed towards the artificial intelligence of the units, including enemies, yet these can be perceived as mere nuisances rather than genuine issues.

Conclusion

Minecraft Legends defies categorization as a conventional strategy game. While the project incorporates numerous real-time strategy elements, the core gameplay in single-player mode remains faithful to the essence of the original Minecraft experience: a substantial amount of routine dedicated to resource gathering and the construction of diverse, improved edifices. Regrettably, the imbalanced difficulty renders the game progressively stifling and unappealing as it nears its culmination. Each facet of the strategy genre seems foreign and incomplete.

Conversely, in multiplayer mode, Minecraft Legends unveils its positive attributes. Cooperative play proves captivating, and in the competitive mode, all the strategic elements crafted by the developers seamlessly meld together, as though the game was innately designed for this particular style of gameplay. If your companions with whom you intend to embark on this adventure do not object to the Minecraft aesthetic, then do not hesitate to procure this game. Otherwise, it would be prudent to invest your leisure time in endeavors less mundane.

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