Nerf Minecraft Pillager's Crossbow review: "Speed and ferocity"

Nerf Minecraft Pillager's Crossbow box
(Image: © Future)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

The Nerf Minecraft Pillager's Crossbow is a surprisingly powerful addition to the line-up that should delight fans.

Pros

  • +

    Decent range

  • +

    Satisfying to prime

  • +

    Blocky Minecraft design

  • +

    Carries three darts

Cons

  • -

    Garish color-scheme

  • -

    Hard to aim

  • -

    Predecessors held more darts

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The Nerf Minecraft Pillager's Crossbow caught me off-guard. Despite looking unwieldy and imprecise, this blaster is powerful. Stupidly powerful. 

To begin with, it gives some of the best Nerf guns a run for their money thanks to an impressive range. It also costs a fair shake less - it's $27.99 in the USA and £28.99 for UK readers. Sure, the Nerf Minecraft Pillager's Crossbow won't knock your favorite off its perch. But it's a good option for soft-play warriors. Surprisingly so, in fact. 

Features and design

Nerf Minecraft Pillager's Crossbow, disassembled

You'll need to put the Crossbow together yourself, but it's really easy to construct (Image credit: Future)
Essential info

Price: $27.99 / £28.99
Range: App. 20m
Ammo type: Elite darts
Capacity: 3 darts
Ages: 8+

Modeled after the classic Minecraft weapon, Nerf's Pillager Crossbow shares the same blocky DNA as its video game inspiration - this blaster's made from dozens of cubes (the only exception is the handle, though it has at least made an effort with squares drawn into the plastic). 

However, it doesn't have the same color scheme. Rather than being various shades of brown, it's eye-straining orange and white instead. This is almost certainly due to regulations that require safety orange on toy guns so they won't be mistaken for actual firearms, but it seems like a missed opportunity not to incorporate Minecraft's pixel paint job somewhere in the design. Nerf managed as much with the Stormlander Hammer, and it's a lot more recognizable as a result.

But still. Moving swiftly on to the mechanism powering this thing, it works much as you'd expect: pull back the lever to prime the string, press the trigger, and watch your dart rocket away at high speed. Rinse and repeat for maximum fun.

I was impressed by the speed and ferocity with which the Elite darts flew out of this blaster

Yet it stands apart for one simple reason. Rather than making you load Nerf bullets individually like the crossbows of yore, it stores up to three Elite darts at once. These don't even need to be moved if you want to use them; much like 2014's Nerf Zombie Strike Crossfire Bow, this blaster simply fires one after the other.

Unfortunately, comparisons to older Nerf crossbows aren't always so flattering. The Crossfire held four darts instead of the Pillager Crossbow's three, for example. And yes, matching that would increase this blaster's size. But there's no getting around the fact that you'll need to reload more often with this one.  

If nothing else, at least it's a step up from the single-fire Zombie Strike Dreadbolt from 2017.

Performance

Nerf Minecraft Pillager's Crossbow profile view

Simply pull back the lever and hit the trigger to fire (Image credit: Future)

I was wary about the Nerf Minecraft Pillager's Crossbow at first. This thing looks about as streamlined as a pile of bricks (mainly because it is a pile of bricks). Then I pulled the trigger. Oh my - this thing can really shoot. I was impressed by the speed and ferocity with which the Elite darts flew out of this blaster, and that makes it tremendously effective in action. OK, the mechanism would get over-excited on rare occasions and shoot all three darts at once. Or deposit two of them on the floor at my feet, anyway. But it excelled the vast majority of the time. 

That get-up-and-go has another benefit: reach. During our tests, darts launched from the Nerf Pillager's Crossbow travelled much further than expected. They cleared GamesRadar's open-plan office without any trouble, coming to land roughly 20 meters away with minimal drift. This isn't a close-range last resort by any means.

The downside? Because there are no sights to speak of and it's a bulky lump of plastic, aiming isn't as easy as it would be with Fortnite Nerf guns or even the best water guns. That isn't to say you can't hit anything for toffee, of course, but it's a little trickier to line up shots. Don't expect a marksman's weapon here.

It's oddly satisfying to pull back the lever and hear a 'clunk' that hints at how punchy this blaster is

Fortunately, you won't have to worry too much even with that in mind. The Pillager's Crossbow fires with enough force to send anyone running for cover (albeit not enough to hurt them, naturally), so your opponents will think twice before rushing you. And even though younger Nerf warriors might struggle with priming the toy, it feels easier to manage than its predecessors. Indeed, it's oddly satisfying to pull back the lever and hear a 'clunk' that hints at how punchy this blaster is.

These moving parts aren't fragile either. Actually, I'd be willing to bet that this toy can take a lot of punishment all-round. The inner workings are well protected to the point of being encased in plastic, and the blaster's oversized nature should allow it to take bumps or scrapes without much trouble.

Overall - should you buy the Nerf Minecraft Pillager's Crossbow?

It goes without saying that you won't be rushing to buy the Nerf Minecraft Pillager's Crossbow if you aren't a fan of the video game itself. Yet even so, it's worth considering if you want something less conventional from your blaster. Powerful, easy to fire, and sporting a good range, it's a very respectable choice - especially at this price.

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Benjamin Abbott
Tabletop & Merch Editor

As the site's Tabletop & Merch Editor, you'll find my grubby paws on everything from board game reviews to the latest Lego news. I've been writing about games in one form or another since 2012, and can normally be found cackling over some evil plan I've cooked up for my group's next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.