Microsoft’s inevitable behemoth Minecraft Legends comes out April 18th and it’s releasing straight into Game Pass on both PC and Xbox. If you’ve kids in your house, the chances are you’re going to find yourself playing it, so please let us prepare you with the knowledge we wish we’d had when we struggled through.
Minecraft Legends is a second spin-off from the original game, following the enormously entertaining action-RPG, Minecraft Dungeons. Legends, however, takes us to something akin to the strategy genre, a super-simplified approach to a usually enormously complex type of game, following in the footsteps of Overlord and Pikmin. You play as a third-person character who is followed by recruited golems and Minecraft stalwarts, fighting against the invading forces of the Underworld’s evil Piglins. Across a procedurally generated map, you need to protect villages, defend groups of Skeletons, Creepers and Zombies, and take down Piglin encampments, all while trying to improve your tools and companions.
The prime reason you’ll be playing, even if you don’t want to, is when kids hit any number of its poorly explained systems, and come whinging to you to take the controller and figure it out for them. The chances that they’ll be wearing some Minecraft Legends-themed clothing as they ask. Or you might just be checking it out for yourself, given it just popped up on Game Pass, and why not? You are likely not wearing Minecraft Legends-themed clothing, but will have a far easier time getting into what the game does have to offer if you follow these tips.
1. Know that Minecraft Legends has no local co-op
This seems like one of the most important pieces of information to have before deciding whether you want to get started. If you’ve played the regular Minecraft, or indeed Minecraft Dungeons, you’ll know that sitting on the couch and teaming up with a partner, friend, or kid, is a real joy. There’s a good chance you might be hoping to do the same in Legends, but it’s not going to be the case.
While the game offers drop-in co-op for people on different machines, and of course multiplayer PvP, you won’t be enjoying it on the same screen. It seems there’s too much going on at any one time for the game to be able to reliably reproduce it all twice over on the same machine. It’s a real bummer, as grabbing a controller and helping out in a difficult situation would be an ideal fit for Legends. However, there are currently no plans for this to be implemented.
2. There are giant golems to find in Minecraft Legends
In the guise of “encouraging exploration,” a huge number of Legends key features go entirely unmentioned by the game as you play. Which—given the map is uniquely laid out for each game—means it’s painfully possible to entirely miss vital elements should they be tucked away somewhere obscure. The most significant of these are the First Golems.
Incredibly difficult to spot on the landscape are special piles of rubble amidst the many innocuous piles of rubble. These are broken First Golems, special units that once fixed can be recruited to your army that deliver huge attacks, and take a helluva beating. If you run about the empty landscape, you’ll eventually see question marks appearing on the map, signaling points of interest in the most irritatingly behind-the-scenes way imaginable. Some of these will be treasure chests, others the towers we’ll get to below, and sometimes it might be one of these golems.
To revive one, you’re going to first need to build the Improvement: Wake The Firsts at the Well of Fate, then need a bunch of loot picked up from defeating Piglin camps and opening treasure chests, but once you have them they’re yours to keep, instantly reviving at villages should they fall in battle. And one of them in particular is most important to find: the First of Diorite. This brute has the ability to spawn other smaller golems in a battle, which can make a deciding difference. How did I learn this? I glanced at it in one of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it loading tips. Amazing game design, Mojang.
3. Don’t let Minecraft Legends make you feel rushed
From the beginning of the game, the tutorial is going to suggest that if you’re not incessantly following the game’s every prompt, then all is lost. This is not the case.
Legends features a day/night cycle, each morning informing you of the enemy Piglins’ intended plans for the following night. They might be launching an attack on a local village, or planning to spawn a new base, and the implication that if you don’t address this immediately then you’re failing. You must rush to that village’s defenses, build walls and towers all around it, and then stay there all night to fight off the porcine pests. Once day breaks, suddenly there’s a new task that you simply must address, and so on.
But if you play this way, you’ll never actually get anywhere. Sure, get the few villages shored up early on, but then feel free just to spend some time exploring. If you don’t, you’ll never find the all-important towers and “First” golems the game forgets to tell you to look for. You’ll also miss out on stumbling on all manner of treasure chests, one of very few ways to get Gold that’s essential later on.
4. Single-player doesn’t pause in Minecraft Legends
Due to the game’s keen emphasis on playing in co-op or PvP, the single-player campaign is “always online,” meaning it behaves as if you’re playing on a shared server, even when you’re not. This means that it’s never possible to pause the game, despite just how much it looks like it is when you hit Escape or press the console pause button.
Not realizing this can bit you on the bottom, given that if you mistake that oh-so-paused-looking screen for a pause screen, you might think it safe to go answer the front door, or stop to grab a drink, only to return to find the Piglins have wiped out your entire army, and perhaps a neighboring village.
You can, however, save-and-quit at any time, so should some bastard interrupt your life by trying to deliver a parcel or what-have-you, you’ll need to do that instead, and then enjoy the game’s astonishingly slow load times straight after.
5. Befriend the mobs as soon as you can
In a twist on the usual Minecraft formula, in Legends you’re working alongside the game’s familiar mobs. Creepers, Zombies and Skeletons are your allies here, but only after you’ve rescued their own villages from Piglin hordes.
For each of them, you’ll need to first fight off a certain number of Piglins who are pouring into their territory, which will then trigger a larger challenge to destroy a neighboring Piglin portal amidst its surrounding defenses. Get this done, and you’ll gain the ability to build spawners for the associated mob, and thus generate them to join your army.
It’s worth getting all three of these done as early as you can, so as to have the improved ranged support of the Skeletons, the melee attacks of the Zombies, and the ridiculous explosive force of a team of Creepers all targeted on the same enemy weapon.
6. There are special defensive towers you can unlock
These towers are perhaps somewhat easier to stumble upon than the Firsts we mentioned earlier, what with being towers. Like them, you’ll find them hidden around the map, and will need a bunch of resources to be able to collect them. Once you have enough Prismarine, Gold and whatever else, your Allays can deconstruct them from their original site, and then rebuild them wherever you like in friendly zones, as many times as you like (so long as you have a few other resources for each build).
These towers can make a massive difference when trying to defend a village from a nighttime invasion. The Frost Tower, for instance, will freeze enemies on the spot, while the Stun Tower rings a clanging bell that has them unconscious for a good while.
However, to be able to collect and rebuild towers, you also need to build the Improvement: Collect Power Tower structure back at the game’s central well, because if it’s going to not explain something at all, it might as well make it as needlessly complicated as possible.
7. Improvements need to be placed very carefully
Talking of Improvement abilities, the game has you add these as tall structures placed in a very limited amount of space at the central Well of Fate. These Improvements are unavoidably essential for play, necessary to be able to start gathering resources like Iron, Coal and Redstone, to add additional mobs to your army, and indeed to start collecting the towers and Firsts mentioned above.
However, for reasons only known to Simon Mojang himself, placing these Improvements can be done haphazardly, in such a way that you can occupy all the available build space with just a few of the structures, thus screwing yourself later in the game.
So, when putting down one of these Improvements, make sure to be as tediously careful as possible, lining them up neatly against each other, to maximize the number you can construct.
Yes, a skill tree where you just unlocked them in a menu would have been infinitely better.
8. Use lots of Allays at the same time
Allays are the game’s fairy-like companions that do all your mining and building for you, as you just lazily sit on a beetle or horse and strum away at your lute. At the start you have five that’ll build, and five that’ll harvest, and those numbers go up if you open Piglin chests. The idea is, you’re supposed to drop an Allay Chest in the middle of some trees, and have it harvest the wood for you, then drop another on some Iron blocks and see those added to your pockets. But what makes this all go far faster is to drop lots of them at once.
If you put three Allays on the same patch of land, they’ll all work together to vacuum it up three times as fast. Which may sound obvious, but not only does the tutorial never suggest it’s possible, but try to put one Allay too close to another and a pop-up appears saying, “Can’t overlap dig orders with structures or other dig orders.” Which is…not true. At all. You can, and you should, and it means you get what you’re after a lot faster.
9. Don’t worry about dying in Minecraft Legends
Remember, that death is not the end. In fact, in Minecraft Legends, death can be used tactically in battles.
The “penalty” for dying is a ten second delay before you revive at the nearest village or Wellhouse. There are no consequences beyond this, other than not being in the throes of the fight to direct your troops. However, if you play things smartly, this can work in your favor. If you make sure you have a Wellhouse near enough to the battle if there’s no close village, and then have your spawners all pre-built right there, you can regather your army, refill the empty spots, then march right back into the thick of it.
In fact, if your army is getting low on numbers, deliberately dying can save you a bunch of time getting to this tactically advantageous position, rather than laboriously running all the way back there.