LEGO Worlds was announced last week and instantly launched into Early Access, but how promising is this new sandbox game from LEGO?
A couple days ago the Steam Refunds system came through for me – a crisp fifteen virtual pounds had re-entered my Steam wallet. So now the obvious question was what to do with it – bunch of indie games? DLC jamboree?
Nope! I bought LEGO Worlds.
With regards to Traveller’s Tales’ other LEGO games, I really think I spoiled myself playing LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. That game’s surprisingly enjoyable free-roaming sandbox between the normal stud-collecting missions blew those stud-hoarding jaunts out of the water and I’ve never been able to enjoy them as much since. So when I discovered that LEGO Worlds is an entire game built around a similar free-roaming sandbox with all the things the LEGO brand brings with it, I was excited.
LEGO Worlds starts with your character free-falling towards a procedurally-generated landscape made entirely of LEGO blocks coloured to match whatever terrain they’re meant to be. It works really well aesthetically, giving you that same “Aah, that’s clever!” feel you might have gotten from the environments in The LEGO Movie – no explosions made of bricks to be found here, though.
Once you’ve crashed to the ground (or umbrella’d your way down Mary Poppins style), you’re on your own to explore. One of the things you’ll quickly notice is how often you end up collecting something – you unlock pre-built LEGO props by bumping into them as you find them, which you can then buy to place on your own for a certain number of LEGO studs. LEGO Worlds certainly scratches that same collect-everything itch as Traveller’s Tales’ previous efforts – it’s genuinely fun going around the world destroying everything to collect enough studs to buy the props you need for your builds – more on that later.
The randomly-generated worlds are a joy to explore, made better by the fluid movement controls – I was having a great time just leaping between the trees and hills, both on foot and on horseback (horses being one of the many vehicles & ridable animals available in the game). There’s a number of different biomes and themes each of your LEGO Worlds might have in them, from the fairly standard forests and deserts to stranger fare such as a world made of sweets.
You’ll come across other LEGO people whose parts you unlock to customise your character with should you bump into them and buy them for studs, you’ll find strange structures with treasure chests containing those elusive blue studs from the other games and you’ll certainly be coming across a fair few skeletons coming to beat you up as you go. Whilst LEGO Worlds’ exploration is still most definitely in its early days, there’s a great foundation here to build on.
Speaking of building, after wandering some more I finally came across a patch of land ripe for property development. LEGO Worlds provides a suite of terraforming tools and vehicles (such as the Steamroller that paints a road beneath you as you drive it around) for customizing the world around you, letting you raise, lower, flatten and smooth the land amongst other functions such as being able to paint the environment directly. It works quite well from what I’ve tried, with some responsive controls on both controller and keyboard/mouse, though I slightly preferred the controller as lowering and raising the terraforming “cursor” was a matter of pressing the left and right bumpers instead of reaching for RCTRL or RSHIFT. Once the land was flat, I set to work building.
Building your own creations with LEGO bricks is a feature that hasn’t really been used in many LEGO games as of late, and I was so pleased to see it very well realised in LEGO Worlds even so early on. Every classic bane of unclothed feet is accounted for here, from the rectangular blocks and bases to the various slopes and detail bricks you’ve probably come across if you’ve ever spent any period of time playing with LEGO. Bricks are placed on a grid-based system, with seemingly no limits on bricks used, size or height. As I set to work on my dream LEGO home though, one thing quickly became clear. Building brick-by-brick takes a while.
When building a house in Minecraft, it takes barely any time to put together a simple house because the big uniform-sized voxels you’re using don’t require a great deal of thought to place correctly – everything fits together quickly and easily. With LEGO Worlds, whilst it isn’t difficult to place blocks down at all, the grid system moves your bricks by their studs, which is great for placing your bricks accurately but also means you need to think a bit more about your brick placement, making building take longer (though thankfully there is a “Draw Line” function available when placing down bricks to speed up the process). That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this, just that it’s probably going to take a bit more time to make your dream LEGO creation than you might imagine.
However, for those who’d want to quickly set something down there’s a wide range of prefab “brick builds” you can freely place down anywhere in your world, complete with a nice little animation where bricks stream from a strange tool held by your character and your selected prefab builds up before you. The default builds provided include a huge LEGO wild west house, a pyramid, castle walls, a number of pixel art-esque creations, cupcakes and, my personal favourite, a giant reconstruction of a LEGO minifigure you can have looming over your world. As far as I could tell, there isn’t any way of saving your creations as prefabs yet, but as “LEGO ID integration to allow for sharing and uploading of in-game builds” is listed as one of the game’s planned features, it seems as though this functionality is coming.
Overall, the LEGO brick building system works very well, though I found it worked better with a keyboard and mouse as it let me place bricks with a little more immediate accuracy than with a controller. My one big hope for this system is that we’ll be able to build dynamic objects like vehicles at some point – being able to construct your own LEGO airship/car/bike and play around with it could very well be the feature that grabs those who might still be on the fence about buying this.
After what was going to be my house ended up as some strange building containing a single flowerbed, I called it finished and went off to find more things, eventually discovering the “LEGO Sets” – placeable sets of dynamic objects, unlike the “brick builds” which were just static creations made out of bricks. I put down the only set I had available and watched as my minifigure automatically terraformed some land, on top of which a house appeared, complete with an interactive barbecue, two vehicles – including one I thought was a Segway but seemed to be a kind of lawnmower – and a pair of new minifigures strolling around.
I greeted my new neighbours, gaining their pieces for my own use, before endearing myself to them by accidentally mowing over their property, barging into their house to look longingly out the window and finally stealing their car, which I later crashed into the sea. All in all, good times were certainly had. The LEGO Sets are certainly a great feature, letting you place down something a little more lively into your world – I’ll definitely be searching to see if I can unlock any more.
In summary, LEGO Worlds is shaping up to be a pretty superb sandbox game and maybe even a good competitor to Minecraft. As you might expect from an Early Access title I did encounter a few bugs – the camera had a tendency to zoom in hugely when going up a hill in a vehicle and there were rare instances of some tiny patches of invisible ground where I’d terraformed, exited and come back, but I’d dare say these could be quickly patched out. Provided that its Early Access stage goes well and the planned features are implemented (especially the online multiplayer – come to think of it, even local multiplayer would be absolutely amazing), Traveller’s Tales could have a real hit on their hands. If you have any sort of love for all things LEGO, this is one you’ll want to keep an eye on.