It’s amazingly obvious for Traveller’s Tales to use the LEGO license they’ve spooled multiple games from to build a rival to Minecraft; a game that took the essence of the Danish-born toy building bricks freeform building play, and submitted it to a loose set gaming rules. TT’s effort at sandbox building is LEGO Worlds, and while it does let you go nuts with a bottomless bucket of bricks, it doesn’t forget to give it some structure for those in need of a bit of coaxing.
LEGO Worlds’ thin premise is that you’re a space traveller who crash lands on one of the titular ‘worlds’ and after fixing your ship, you go off into space again to discover new worlds as you pick up device after device that will aid you in building, demolishing, replicating, etc. Your first tool is perhaps the most consistently useful one for the duration of the story-led portion of the game. The Discovery tool, when pointed at any new object or minifigure, will highlight it and a quick press of X will ‘discover’ it (there are exceptions that require a quest to be finished before you can tag them). This adds the item to your ever-expanding library of parts n’ people, ready to deploy them whenever you feel like it. Eventually you’ll get the option to build a world from scratch, so the story-led structure is there to get you intimately familiar with LEGO World’s multitude of options, controls, and rules before that moment comes.
The idea is to make you have fun doing mini-quests, whilst collecting and learning so that when you hit 100 gold bricks, you can finally unleash all you’ve learned into a creative explosion. In the meantime, you have an abundance of simple quests featuring all the weird and the wonderful aspects of LEGO going all in on the charm offensive, and regardless of its issues (and it does have some I’ll get to) it’s hard not to be taken in and wrapped up in its goofy embrace.
From rescuing cavemen from volcanoes, to defending a queen against the undead, the mish-mash of LEGO’s many sub-brands produces some suitably daft moments that may lack substance, but do encourage a smile on a fair few occasions. Unlike TT’s regular LEGO games, everything in LEGO Worlds is made of LEGO, even the speech bubbles! Subsequently, this means nearly anything in any world is there for your manipulation. Your tools allow you to build, copy, paint, destroy and grow all sorts of things in each world.
Can’t reach that castle hanging out in the clouds? Just create a mountain. Can’t reach a treasure chest underground? Cut some chunks out of the ground. Need to build a second castle for an insecure King? Sure, just copy his old one and plop down a replica next door, and then get out the paint gun and splatter it in purple and green so he knows the difference. Or maybe add a conservatory painstakingly built brick-by-brick from your own design? LEGO Worlds is immense fun to muck about in, whether guided by the game somewhat, or by your own free will. The more tools, plans, and bricks you unlock, the more scope you’ll have for play. If Minecraft borrowed the essence of LEGO’s appeal, then LEGO Worlds is probably the closest a videogame has got to entirely capturing both the building, and the creative play synonymous with the long-standing toy brand.
Otherwise, LEGO Worlds looks and plays much like a typical LEGO game for the most part, with all the good and bad that brings. Contextual inputs remain as imprecise as ever, and usage of the additional tools isn’t helped by that problem, often making the precise building fiddly. The camera absolutely hates confined spaces, making it a real struggle to do anything of note in the third-person views,with the first-person viewpoint offering a small amount of respite from the issue. On the plus side, once you get used to the tools, the game slips into gear, and it’s an otherwise smooth ride mechanically-speaking.
As for other, more technical shortcomings, LEGO Worlds’ bright n’ bouncy aesthetic is let down by frame rate issues that briefly reduce the game to staccato, especially in local co-op (which also suffers from overly-squashed visuals). The ambition of largely modifiable maps is the culprit, and while the frame rate is annoying, it’s rarely anything worse than that, and the relaxed nature of the game means it doesn’t truly affect gameplay. Also, going too fast across the map can mean you outrun the game’s ability to generate the terrain, which sees you unable to progress until it catches up. Lastly, while I’ve seen murmurings of game-based bugs where early quests, important for progressing, suffer in myriad ways, I’ve personally not suffered such problems, but worth noting that it’s a real possibility.
There’s still a whiff of ‘work in progress’ about LEGO Worlds, understandable given its recent escape from early access, and being the sort of game Traveller’s Tales can build upon over time. I’ve little doubt that LEGO Worlds will do quite well commercially though. At a budget price point, it has just enough variety and silly sandbox experimentation that players, specifically kids, can get lost in for a few hours at a time. With co-op on and offline, that’s boosted further.