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PlayStation Plus Just Added the Chillest Strategy Game to Play With Friends

Saving the world block by block.

key art from Minecraft Legends
Xbox Game Studios
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There’s simply no escaping Minecraft. Since its release in 2009, it’s grown from a fun indie construction sim unfortunately created by one of the least pleasant developers in gaming to a Microsoft-owned behemoth that’s still getting active updates. According to a recent survey from Newzoo, it’s still one of the most popular games across PC, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox 15 years after its launch. Given all that, it’s no wonder it’s also gotten multiple spin-offs, including the strategy defense game Minecraft Legends, which joined PlayStation Plus this month.

While it might not look too different from the action-RPG Minecraft Dungeons at a glance, Minecraft Legends is actually a strategy game that cleverly uses Minecraft’s simple resource gathering and building for a more approachable entry to the genre. Doing away with much of the complexity of its real-time strategy siblings does mean Minecraft Legends isn’t likely to appeal to long-time strategy fans, but it could be just the thing to get newcomers invested.

Minecraft Legends uses Minecraft’s recognizable voxel aesthetic for a simple on-ramp to RTS games.

Unlike popular RTS games like Starcraft and Age of Empires, Minecraft Legends actually puts you in the blocky shoes of a general commanding troops on the battlefield. From the back of your trusty geometric horse, you’re free to roam the open world of Minecraft Legends, gathering resources through a menu that may be a bit tough to internalize at first, but makes gathering and building quick and easy once you’ve got it down. By default, you can bring up the menu with your controller’s left trigger and place structures with the right. To gather resources, just plop down a building that spawns little pixie-like helpers called Allays and they’ll collect all the wood, stone, or whatever else is available in the immediate area while you get on with your life.

And in Minecraft Legends, that pretty much always means facing down hordes of invading pig monsters known as Piglins. As opposed to Minecraft’s freeform construction, Minecraft Legends is all about defending villages in battle. It should come as no surprise that that involves a lot of building. Setting up structure on the map is just as simple as spawning Allays, letting you prepare for an attack by shaping the battlefield in advance or shoring up your defense while fighting is underway.

Minecraft Legends’ controls can be a bit unintuitive, but they make building a breeze with some practice.

Xbox Game Studios

You’re free to hack away at piglins with your sword, but you can also call in allies of your own by building spawners, then using them to create soldiers for your army. You can then command them to follow you around the map or move to another location where they’ll engage the enemy. Again, the controls are easy to use, but controlling allies is where the game runs into some difficulty.

To put it frankly, your AI-powered allies are quite stupid. The range they’ll actually attack in feels a bit too small and they’re not particularly motivated to fight without you there to micromanage them. That’s not helped by the short distance you’re able to command them to move, so you may get stuck shepherding them around the map more than actually attending to the battle.

Those frustrations are partly alleviated by Minecraft Legends’ multiplayer mode, which is the real draw. With even just one other person around, battles get both easier to handle and much more fun, especially when you can hop into voice chat with a friend and talk strategy in real time. Like the OG Minecraft, Legends excels at being just compelling enough to keep the game engaging while simple enough that you rarely have to interrupt your conversation to puzzle out complicated tactics.

The simplified strategy in Minecraft Legends is a great entry point for genre newcomers.

Xbox Game Studios

The real strength of Minecraft Legends comes in how much it doesn’t feel like a strategy game. Even as someone who generally enjoys strategy, I rarely find the time to get too invested in learning new rulesets and complexities enough to actually try out all the games I want to. Minecraft Legends works a quick fix to scratch roughly one percent of the strategy itch until I have the time for a deeper experience.

This has already been a year of great strategy games, with Solium Infernum and Unicorn Overlord in the first few months of 2024. Homeworld 3, Cataclismo, and more are still yet to come for strategy players looking for a new twist on the genre. For those players, I can’t imagine Minecraft Legends will hold too much appeal. Its strategy gameplay is just too bare-bones for anyone who’s been through the RTS trenches before. But for anyone looking for a new hangout game to play with friends that’s a bit outside the shooters that dominate the multiplayer scene, Minecraft Legends is a more than capable pick.

Minecraft Legends is available on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and PC. It’s included with PS Plus for April 2024.

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