In a couple of weeks it’ll be the 12th anniversary of Lego
Star Wars: The Video Game.
What originally seemed like a trivial, low budget licensed game quickly spawned the dominant family-friendly video game series of the modern era. And although there has been evolution and refinement to the formula in those 12 years nobody would pretend there’s been anything like real change. But Lego Worlds is different. By which we mean it’s just like Minecraft.
Minecraft and Lego obviously share an awful lot in common, in terms of their infinite capacity for creativity… and obsession. There’s been a range of official Lego Minecraft sets for years, but we’re still surprised to this day that it’s Microsoft that ended up buying developer Mojang instead of Lego themselves. Whether they consider that a missed opportunity we’re not sure, but Lego Worlds is very much their unofficial take on the same idea.
Lego Worlds was first released as an early access PC title in June 2015. Since then it’s slowly expanded into something that can be released on consoles, as a somewhat finished product. It’s clearly still a work in progress, but to its credit that’s reflected in the price (either that or it’s because of all the promised/threatened DLC to come). What Lego Worlds will become in the future we’re not sure, but at the moment it’s a creditable alternative to its obvious inspiration.
For years fans have been complaining that there’s not a ‘Lego Lego’ game. It’s all Lego Star Wars
, Lego Batman, or some other unlikely licence. The only real exception has been Lego City Undercover, which is shortly about to be remastered, but even that sticks to the same basic gameplay as all the others. And while Lego Worlds does borrow some things from the existing games the focus is on building your own creations. Which you wouldn’t have thought would be a novelty in a Lego game, but here we are.
For the less ambitious players you can use pre-designed templates to simply place buildings and objects in the game world. But you are able to build with individual bricks if you want, which is crucial if this really wants to compete with Minecraft. But as anyone that’s ever tried to use one of the various Lego designer tools on their computer will know, this is not an easy thing to do – even with fairly simple projects. And that’s using a mouse and keyboard.
With a joypad even building a very basic object can become horribly frustrating, and that’s really no fault of the game at all; even if the inventory system does seem unnecessarily complicated. Lego Worlds does its best though, and one of the most impressive aspects is that you can also sculpt the terrain as well, with a different set of landscaping tools that recalls old Amiga classic Populous. On top of this are various vehicles and creatures for you to ride, and of course the option to customise your own minifigures.
Lego Worlds (PS4) – co-op makes everything better
Although it scarcely seems to be an issue for Minecraft, one of the problems with sandbox games is a lack of structure – with many potential players becoming paralysed with indecision by the lack of clear goals. But Lego Worlds has an actual story to follow along with, as you try to fix your damaged spaceship by collecting golden bricks and unlocking the full range of construction tools.
There’s an underlying structure to the game anyway, in that you’re always on the lookout for new brick-built objects to add to your inventory, so that you can place them in the world later. This in turn requires a set number of studs, which can be recovered in the normal manner by smashing Lego objects and completing side quests. Most quests are very simplistic but they’re made interesting by the number of ways you can cheat your way to victory, usually by tunnelling under or over the landscape.
As well as limiting your tools at the beginning, the game also slowly increases the size and variety of the randomly-generated worlds the further you progress. But even in the smaller ones there’s a great sense of discovery and exploration, with different terrains, from Lego forests to underwater landscapes, hiding different animals and objects. Mixing and matching objects and vehicles from different worlds is particularly fun, as you discover something new and then wonder how it would work elsewhere.
Lego Worlds (PS4) – build your own adventure
Despite the variety of locations though the graphics do struggle to impress, with serious frame rate issues and sudden loading pauses when simply traversing the world. The game also has the same simplistic lighting from the movie games, and many of the same camera issues. And, of course, it’s full of bugs. But you wouldn’t expect anything else from a Lego game.
Some of Lego Worlds’ flaws are unavoidable, while others seem to be a product of borrowing too much from the movie games rather than creating a new game completely from scratch. It also takes far too long to get to the point where you can build and control everything, when surely a separate sandbox mode, where everything is unlocked from the start, would’ve been a good idea.
But while this is not the dream Lego game fans have been imagining for years it is a useful step in that direction, and with a two-player co-op mode it’s a great game for adults to play with kids. You could say that of all Lego games of course, but here they’re not playing someone else’s game but creating their own. Assuming they don’t hit a brick wall with the fiddly controls…
In Short: A Lego version of Minecraft sounds too good to be true, and while this isn’t as versatile as Mojang’s classic it does offer a fun alternative for young builders.
Pros: The mix of Lego movie game and Minecraft style sandbox works well, with lots of variety in themes and locations. Two-player co-op and an appropriately low price.
Cons: It’s not really the game’s fault but the controls and interface are very fiddly. No sandbox mode from the start. The usual bugs, plus camera and frame rate problems.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Publisher: WB Games
Developer: TT Games
Release Date: 10th March 2017
Age Rating: 7
Writer: GameCentral for Metro.co.uk