I’ve built up a bit of history with Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO Worlds – I bought it almost immediately after it popped up on Early Access, it was the very first game I looked at for n3rdabl3, and I got a chance to play a very quick game of the final version at a preview event.
While the game did become more and more enjoyable for me as the features came rolling in, one thing the game never truly escaped during its Early Access phase, even just before the full version, was a lingering lack of direction that personally prevented me from playing it for any great length of time. Now that the big one-point-oh has finally dropped, can the game overcome this particular hurdle and provide the ultimate LEGO sandbox experience? Let’s take a look.
After a short introductory cutscene narrated by the soothing baritone of Peter Serafinowicz you’re taken to the main menu. Prominently displayed at the centre of the screen once you’ve chosen your save slot is the Brick Build Showcase, a service set up by Traveller’s Tales that currently lets you download new Brick Builds they’ve created – legend has it they’re hoping to expand the service to allow users to share their own works in the future. Making a point to ensure I place down the giant octopus build I mentioned in the preview at some point, I started a new game.
LEGO Worlds sees you cast as a space-faring astronaut minifigure whose ship, the PUG-Z, gets struck by a bunch of meteorites and crashes down onto – you guessed it – a new LEGO World. As such you go tumbling after it, customising your character from a relatively small selection of initial parts as you do so – fear not, that’ll be growing exponentially before long. After creating a minifigure I dubbed “Brad Kroeger” due to his flowing blonde locks and probable affiliation with a certain rock band (let’s call them “Quarterback”) I smacked down on the first starter world, Pirate Playground.
Not long after I drop in and discover my ship needs three of the classic Traveller’s Tales gold bricks to get fixed, another meteorite crash-lands on the planet, quickly granting me my first tool – the “Discovery Tool”, which lets you scan objects, characters, vehicles and any other dynamic objects in the environment to “discover” them and place the items you’ve already discovered down. Make no mistake, this isn’t a survival sandbox game – there’s no ever-depleting hunger gauges to keep track of and the only real barrier to you spawning something in is that you usually need to find an item for someone/something or complete a quest for them to let you “discover” and unlock them. Once you grab the tool you’re left to get some gold bricks on your own.
The main crux of LEGO Worlds’ progression comes from the gold bricks – you need to collect a certain number of them to travel to the other worlds you’ll see on the Galactic Map accessible from the PUG-Z and increase your rank towards your character’s overall goal of becoming a Master Builder.
So how do you get gold bricks? Mainly by completing quests provided by NPC minifigures. These quests make use of at least one of your world-shaping tools and give you a variety of tasks, such as filling a pirate’s impromptu farm with chickens and pigs, building a structure to certain increasingly specific criteria, building a land bridge to reunite a couple, painting someone’s house, splashing the coolest graffiti you can create on a wall and more.
I did find that some of the quests can outstay their welcome a little, particularly those that require you to unlock and place down specific Discoveries, but even so the quests and focus on collecting gold bricks go a very long way to providing that clear direction I found the game was sorely lacking during its Early Access phase. I was also quite impressed with how big the jump between the last Early Access version and the full version was in this regard – during Early Access the best you’d usually get from a quest was to find a particular item for someone, which could be absolutely anywhere in any of the randomly generated worlds, meaning that completing them was a matter of luck more than anything else. Those quests are still there, usually prompted when you want to unlock an animal, but they’re somewhat rarer and it’s not too difficult to find the items you need if you explore around and open up the treasure chests buried in the land.
Before long you’ll pick up the other tools in LEGO Worlds’ repertoire, such as the Landscape Tool, the Paint Tool, the Copy Tool, the Build Tool, your inventory and Free Build Mode, which combines all the previous tools into one handy bar. They all work well once every aspect of their functionality is unlocked and I did like how you gradually unlock the individual functions of each tool via a quest, meaning that you have to use them properly at least once before you use them to destroy the world.
Once you get ten gold bricks and reach the third rank of “Explorer Builder” you unlock the option to travel to new, randomly generated “Small Worlds”. As you get more and more gold bricks and rank up you’ll earn the ability to fly to worlds of gradually increasing size, variety and density. You’ll want to travel to new worlds quite a lot – make no mistake, LEGO Worlds is not like Minecraft in the sense that you’ll get everything you need out of one enormous world. Instead, the game prioritises having a practically infinite number of smaller worlds with specific quests, discoveries & biomes – even Peter Narratorinowicz mentions at one point that if you feel as though you’ve gotten all the gold bricks and discoveries you can out of a world you should move on. Plus, once you grab one hundred gold bricks and become a Master Builder you can generate new worlds to your exact specifications.
As you might imagine, to a certain extent the worlds do lose a sense of truly coherent design once you make your way into the procedurally generated landscapes. That said, they’re still a lot of fun to explore, thanks in no small part to the sheer volume of discoverable items, weapons, vehicles, characters, flora and fauna there are to find, collect, get quests from and fight. As you travel throughout the LEGO universe you’ll come across all sorts of creatures, vehicles and builds, including cats, dogs, crocodiles, trolls, skeletons, zombies, bikes, cars, aircraft, world-deforming construction vehicles, a plethora of buildings from all sorts of LEGO sets and much more. A few of the enemies will even give you special items, such as the pesky little “Troublemaker” creatures who you can tackle to get the items they’re carrying, including bricks to use in your own builds and gold bricks.
There’s also a wide variety of biomes available on each world, from the relatively grounded tropics, lush forests, dense swamps, expansive junkyards and ashen volcanic landscapes all the way up to the more fantasy-themed candy worlds and prehistoric playgrounds. Just when you start thinking you’ve seen all there is to see, it’s usually not too long before LEGO Worlds throws something new at you. On that note, as the game is best played knowing as little as possible about what you’ll find, I’ll just say that the exploration gameplay has been greatly improved since the last Early Access version and leave you to discover the rest!
One thing that LEGO Worlds hasn’t quite shaken off – even in the final release – is the fact that building structures with LEGO bricks is innately far more precise and time-consuming than building in other voxel-based sandbox games like Minecraft and 7 Days to Die. The Build Tool is very powerful, allowing you to construct whatever you’d like from a huge variety of classic LEGO bricks using some mostly intuitive controls – I sometimes had trouble getting bricks to stack correctly as the cursor would occasionally assume I wanted to place my next brick a stud’s height higher than I wanted to – but you need to be prepared to put in a lot more time creating your dream house than you might expect. There are some time-saving features such as the “Draw Line” function that locks your cursor along an axis and places bricks automatically as you move the mouse along, but the overall time you’ll spend building will probably be a lot longer than other games in this genre.
From a visual and technical perspective, LEGO Worlds is almost surprisingly impressive. The game has the potential to look absolutely gorgeous at higher settings, with the whole world immaculately realized through individual LEGO pieces of all shapes and sizes. Biome-specific flora looks great, with even the junkyard biome managing to eke out a strange kind of pleasantness to its sprawling mechanical landscape. Creatures and characters all sport that distinct cartoon-y “bounce” that gives them a huge amount of personality just from their movements and a lot of the smaller interactions – such as how more or less every creature will find some way to dance to your character playing a musical instrument – lend the game a lot of charm that makes up for the sometimes noticeably random distribution of discoverable objects across the environment.
You’ll definitely want to crank up the Landscape options, which allow you to greatly increase the draw distance of the environment, loading more chunks of world in at once and immediately improving the game’s look in my opinion. No joke, I spent the whole of Pirate Paradise with this option set to low without my knowledge, and it was quite the treat finally being able to see further than about fifteen metres in front of me!
You can also set other advanced options for those with more beastly machines, such as the level of detail on the individual studs that make up the environment as well as whether the landscape should cast shadows on itself – e.g. from mountains.
Overall, LEGO Worlds is quite simply a great exploration sandbox game. The primary goal of “get more gold bricks” goes a long way to giving the game a much-needed sense of purpose, there’s a wide variety of quests available that get you to do cool things with the tools you’re given, there’s a huge amount of things to find and, of course, a practically infinite number of worlds to travel to. The instant-gratification nature of unlocking and placing down Discoveries could very well mean that it might not hold one’s attention for quite as long as some other games in the genre, but if you’re looking for a game that will have you saying “Ooh, look! A thing!” pretty regularly – especially if you’d like to bring a friend along for the ride – LEGO Worlds is a very good title to consider.