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Minecraft Legends: What Critics Are Saying About The Sandbox RTS

It's hard to believe that "Minecraft" launched 12 years ago, as it seems to be just as popular as ever. The best-selling game of all time was bound to receive spin-offs eventually, and starting in 2015 with "Minecraft: Story Mode," the standalone hit became a franchise. After the augmented reality game "Minecraft Earth" and dungeon crawler "Minecraft Dungeons" came out, 2023 brings "Minecraft Legends." Set to launch on April 18, 2023, "Minecraft Legends" is the series' first foray into the real-time strategy genre.

"Minecraft Legends" is very different from the original "Minecraft," For starters, it's played exclusively from a third-person perspective. The game features elements fans would expect from a "Minecraft" game, like randomly generated worlds and familiar enemies, but it also comes packed with a host of new features, like party and army commands, fortress-building mechanics, and more to spice it up without abandoning "Minecraft" roots. It's a sharp departure from the original game, but according to critic reviews and first-hand looks, "Minecraft Legends" is a game worthy of praise that's hindered by its execution.

The most highlighted aspects of "Minecraft Legends" are its visuals, its simplified approach to the RTS formula, and the small details that make it a satisfying experience — for the right type of person. Most criticism for "Minecraft Legends" stems from its lack of refinement and complexity, bugs and broken AI, and disappointingly limited open world and crafting mechanics — two things that make up the core of what "Minecraft" is.

Praise for Minecraft Legends centers on its visuals, simplicity, and smaller details

It's hard to deny that the aesthetics of "Minecraft" are one of its highlights. The original game can look stunning with shader packs and other mods, but "Minecraft Legends" updates familiar items, blocks, and settings. This ended up being one of the most praised aspects of "Minecraft Legends;" its vibrant world made players want to keep exploring and seeing what's out there. Critics like IGN's Justin Koreis also praised its simplified approach to the RTS genre, but this ended up being a sticking point for reviewers looking for a challenge.

For Game Informer, Sarah Thwaites called attention to the enticing nature of the world and its design. The gorgeous procedural landscape and all of the things players can discover hidden within it were a particular highlight — though Thwaites also said that "Minecraft Legends" has a hard time letting go of players' hands, which inhibits a true feeling of adventure and challenge.

For Kotaku, John Walker called it "stunningly pretty" and highlighted some of its unique twists, like being able to befriend creepers. Walker particularly called out the game's nigh-unnavigable UI and control scheme, its terrible AI, and the fact that it outright doesn't explain certain mechanics. In the end, Walker called it "a bemusing and messy creation that runs out of ideas before it runs out of tutorial," but says that his view of the game is irrelevant because he's a 45-year-old, not a kid.

Criticism stems from buggy mechanics, limitations, and the in-game store

Most critics seem to agree that the game has potential to be a fun, unique blend of "Minecraft" and the real-time strategy genre. Though the simplified mechanics do a lot to streamline the heart of the RTS genre for younger audiences, they ended up making it disappointingly unmanageable for seasoned RTS fans. For PC Gamer, Lauren Morton gave mixed praise for the game, lamenting that "Minecraft Legends" isn't completely terrible, as the final product ended up feeling like a shallow spinoff rather than an earnest attempt at fusing "Minecraft" and the RTS genre. 

For Eurogamer, Caelyn Ellis called attention to the mechanics and lack of encouragement of players to be creative, but also criticized the in-game store of "Minecraft Legends." The in-game store offers cosmetics and skins for players, items that don't affect the actual game. But Ellis says that the game only wants to attract players to sell these cosmetics without any of the details that make "Minecraft" remain so popular. "Still, the piglins are neat," Ellis writes.

At Destructoid, Timothy Monbleau writes that the mining and crafting elements of "Minecraft Legends" are fun, and that PvP makes combat way more fun than playing alone. But in addition to calling out microtransactions, Monbleau says the game is littered with positives and negatives — and bugs. Ultimately, he says that a player would only like "Minecraft Legends" if they are a massive fan of the brand, love RTS games on consoles, and have no less than three friends to play with.