OpinionVideo Games

Minecraft Legends Actually Does One Thing More RTS Games Should Adopt

Minecraft Legends mythic units First of Stone discover these units at random during exploration is fun mechanic more RTS games should adopt

The RTS veterans at Blackbird Interactive nailed the essentials on Minecraft Legends, and their experience shines through the game’s intuitive resource collection and straightforward battles. But despite being set in a world that encourages freedom, this “action” strategy title doesn’t let you upgrade your protagonist the way earlier Minecraft games and spinoffs have. While I wanted the game to build on the franchise’s penchant for crafting, I was disappointed by the lack of creative tools to level the battlefield. That was when Minecraft Legends sprung its surprise.

Every campaign world in Minecraft Legends is procedurally generated, meaning that no two worlds are the same except for the types of biomes and enemy piglet forces you can encounter. As I trotted about the Meadow biome on my horse, I stumbled across the First of Stone, a hulking golem that I reassembled back to life.

Their powerful attacks make them an incredible ally. In addition to being able to soak up a ton of damage, the First of Stone can also hurl boulders from afar. Minecraft Legends hides a couple of other friends across its map. The First of Diorite spawns troops, the First of Bricks can summon shields, and the First of Oak is basically a walking cannon. They cost a sizable amount to be assembled the first time, but fortunately, they return to your base when defeated.

While their military prowess cannot be understated, I love how Minecraft Legends tempted me to explore by dangling the carrot of finding new units. I ended up exploring every biome, a challenge that rewarded me with a finer appreciation for the work that has gone into the game. Every environment felt distinct in the kinds of plant and animal life that inhabited them. The layouts of these biomes would differ in another playthrough so you can’t just mark a spot on your map and head there for a reward.

Minecraft Legends mythic units First of Brick discover these units at random during exploration is fun mechanic more RTS games should adopt

This unpredictability took me back to a time before the prevalence of the internet, one where children spread tales of video game exploits by word of mouth. Back then, finding a legendary Pokémon in a patch of grass or nailing a calculated Age of Empires attack wasn’t a few clicks away. Minecraft Legends’ hidden friends channel this nostalgia to great effect by ensuring that no two players experience the same map.

Minecraft championed this sense of discovery, and I’m happy to report that its spinoff takes the franchise’s mantle seriously with mounts and allies like skeleton archers and creepers randomly scattered across the map. Tactical additions to your skirmishes are a great way to reward exploration. Bolstering your army this way is both cheaper and more effective, especially since skeleton archers are absurdly powerful despite their low health.

Minecraft Legends isn’t the first title to stow unit types across its map. Two decades ago, another experimental action-strategy mashup did that in an even more ambitious manner. Crafted by the devs at Phenomic, SpellForce: The Order of Dawn let you collect runestones to summon workers and warrior units. The protagonist was bound by a runestone too but was granted freedom by a wizard. You were then free to explore the world of Eo and discover new units in chests or vendors across its many levels. Summoning them through these gems required monuments devoted to one of SpellForce’s six races. Discovery was one of this timeless game’s pillars, and it’s great to see a modern title’s take on finding new units when you least expect them.

Minecraft Legends mythic units First of Stone discover these units at random during exploration is fun mechanic more RTS games should adopt

While Minecraft Legends lacks the depth of its nuanced RTS rivals, this sense of discovery is rare among them. Units are usually trained in existing buildings or handed to you on a platter as you progress through in-game campaigns. I hope more strategy games try to keep their cards close to their chests without revealing everything via the main story arcs.

Picture this with fantasy settings and unexpected unit additions and you can see why Minecraft Legends has impressed me with its design choices. Tempting players to explore the secrets of their worlds and rewarding them with new units is a mechanic that would elevate an already great experience. I wasn’t expecting a beginner-friendly RTS to move the needle forward in terms of progress, but I’m glad I found Minecraft Legends’ innovations cleverly hidden underneath its charming surface.

About the author

Antony Terence
Once an engineer responsible for steel plant equipment, Antony now writes on everything from games and consumer tech to fiction. From watching his dad set up a PC to actively following gaming right from school, it’s no surprise that Antony wanted to write about games. He’s had three fulfilling years as a freelance journalist to preach about humanity’s greatest artform: videogames. Antony has worked on everything from news and deep dives to opinions, reviews and retrospectives for IGN, Techradar, Rock Paper Shotgun, GamesIndustrybiz, and more. He’s drawn to stories, meaning that anime, fantasy novels and games across genres count among his pastimes. While Antony is particularly fond of citybuilders and strategy titles, he won’t turn down a chance to play a JRPG or a turn-based roguelike. As long as it has a story, it’s fair game. When he isn't rediscovering his love for retro strategy titles, you'll find Antony at tech stores or board game cafes.