Little Brick Planet
We live in the age of the sandbox game. What started with Rockstar’s jaunt round Liberty City back in GTA3 has now blossomed out into almost the de-facto standard for video games, the open world. From the back of that we now have the creator-survival games; Minecraft, No Man’s Sky, Terraria, Day-Z. Now it’s the turn of Traveller’s Tales to drop their hat into the ring with a game that is, to be quite frank, a bit of a no brainer; Lego Worlds.
Title: Lego Worlds
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed on PS4, Review copy provided)
When Lego Worlds first hit early access on Steam back in June of 2015 it turned some heads. The idea that Lego were going to take on Minecraft at their own game was an interesting one and it’s mix of familiar Lego gameplay with building and terraforming aspects was met with warm, if not glowing, early opinion. This could certainly be one to watch. Fast forward to 2017 and Lego Worlds is out of early access and hitting consoles with PS4 and XBox One versions out now and a port for the Switch expected later in the year. Releasing at a budget £20 price point, the game is clearly angling for the Minecraft crowd. I decided to sit down with the two Minecraft fanatics that occupy my house to get a bead on what they think of this new, brick builder.
My two kids have been very eager for Lego Worlds. Their gaming sessions are almost wholesale dedicated to Minecraft these days and, although they’ve dabbled in the likes of Terraria and even Little Big Planet, they’ve always come back to Mojang’s powerhouse due to its accessibility and openness. It’s a real shame, then, that they found Lego Worlds to be such a disappointment.
On booting the game up it’s immediately apparent that Lego Worlds isn’t really angling for that Minecraft crowd, but trying to create something that sits more in between that and Media Molecule’s aforementioned Little Big Planet, even down to getting a popular British comedian to narrate the proceedings (in this instance, the dulcet tones of Peter Serafinowicz). By way of introduction the player is tasked with working their way through a number of tasks in three worlds which gradually introduce them to the core mechanics of the game. Outside of the usual Lego games third person controls, a number of new gadgets are introduced to help affect the game world.
The first tool that you come across is the Scan tool which allows you to scan objects from the game world and then spawn them in at will. Want a field full of pigs? Scan one and then generate a whole bunch. You can do the same with most items like characters, animals, vehicles and flora. If you want to copy structures made out of Lego bricks then the copy tool is for you; simply select the area containing the creation you want and it’s added to your collection. Awkwardly, you then have to go back to your scan tool to add it back into the world. Don’t like the colours? Switch to the Paint tool and slosh a fresh coat over the bricks. If you’re feeling a bit more creative, you can even use the Build tool to individually lay lego bricks out and create whatever the hell you want.
There’s certainly a lot of customisation available but, arguably, the large amount of tools is ultimately somewhat overwhelming with each tool having a vast array of options to increase or decrease brush size and shape, tweak properties and explore so many different sizes and shapes of Lego brick. This is probably inherent in the concept of building with Lego, but my two certainly missed the simple yet powerful array of building options in Minecraft. There’s also a strong lack of immediacy in Lego Worlds.
Once you’re finished with the initial three “tutorial” worlds you’ll have all the tools you need and are free to travel to randomly generated worlds which you can explore to your hearts content. The big problem here is that these worlds often feel so… empty. Progress through the game is measured by gold bricks which you collect through completing challenges from characters in these randomly generated worlds, however finding these is often a challenge in itself. The randomness is reminiscent of No Man’s Sky, in a way – you could find yourself on an interesting world with plenty to do or you could find yourself in a Lego wasteland. Add to that the sparsity of structures, the repetitive nature of the challenges (seriously, guys – I’m not building you another gingerbread house) it all feels just downright boring. There’s no real reason to be doing all of this other than to maybe perhaps find new bricks or possibly uncover a gold brick and unlock some slightly larger worlds; there’s no story mode to entertain you ala Little Big Planet, or even a survival mode such as you’d find in Minecraft. Most incredulously, the ability to generate your own worlds is locked off behind a whopping 100 gold bricks. After several hours of play we’d only just hit the 25 brick mark and the kids were itching to get their hands on the ability to create their own landscapes.
Lego Worlds does get the usual Lego commitment to multiplayer right, though, with a solid local co-op experience seemingly unhindered by the large worlds and the ability to head online and build your own structures with players around the world. Alongside the annoyances, we did have fun throwing structures together, messing around painting bricks and terraforming the landscape.
I do kind of feel a bit bad being so hard on Lego Worlds. It’s heart is clearly in the right place and, to all intents and purposes, the game seems to work better on PC where its sandbox construction elements feel more at home with a looser mouse and keyboard interface. As a console game, however, it feels lacking and undercooked with content unfairly gated behind challenges and dull collect-a-thons, something you’d not want to see in a game of this type. During our time with it we also found a few issues with bugs; some minor such as a problematic camera, some major such as hard crashes. Twice these occurred during saving which left us with corrupted save files and two kids who felt like they’d wasted their time.
Feeling a little like it’s still got one foot in early access, Lego Worlds is more of a collection of ideas in a sandbox than a coherent product. There’s less structure than you’d expect and, for those weaned on Minecraft, the fact that most of the tools used to create worlds and models are locked away behind a series of increasingly repetitive challenges will be disappointing.