Traveller’s Tales builds on Lego’s creative side
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Think of the ideal Lego game and it’s likely that none of the instalments in Traveller’s Tales long-running series of block-smashing 3D platformers fits the bill. Not to take away from their incredible success, but they’ve only barely scratched the surface of the creative medium on which they’re based. Then Minecraft came along and seemed to beat Lego at its own game.
But on June 1, 2015, Lego Worlds was simultaneously announced and released on Steam Early Access. This open sandbox game, set in procedurally generated worlds, allowed free shaping of the land, placing prefab constructions such as houses, plus bespoke, brick-by-brick constructions. While this focus on building seemed to place it close to
Minecraft, its intentions were quite different. It entirely lacked any kind of survival game, which rather confused players at first. Instead, exploration was largely driven by finding items which, once found, registered them in players’ menus of objects they could place in the world. Steam players soon complained that there wasn’t enough to do, that the game lacked direction, and that there were no threats or crafting systems.
Early Access has been a critical process for a game that has imposed upon Traveller’s Tales a very different way of working. It’s taken three years to make, compared to the under a year that goes into its other Lego titles. Sophisticated tech had to be developed that could manage hundreds of thousands of bricks in the world, all of which could be removed, added to, or blown up. The game has undergone constant iteration and updating as a result of feedback; its controls and features have been greatly refined, and a good deal of new content, from tools and weapons to biomes and blocks, have been added.
Still, Lego Worlds feels of the same lineage as Lego Star Wars. It has the same floaty jump and punch controls, four hearts, and that beguiling plasticky rattle as you collect studs. Despite its debut on Steam, Traveller’s Tales has kept its eye firmly on the targets that have provided its fortunes so far: the parent and child. “There aren’t that many games that do it still,” executive producer Loz Doyle tells us. But Steam players’ call for a greater sense of direction have caused one important course correction. Traveller’s Tales was quick to quash any hopes for a survival game on the game’s forums: “It wasn’t right for this game, for the way we wanted to go, for kids to do what they want,” Doyle says. But quests and progression systems are coming, all procedurally generated. “So the player has to work for them a bit more, rather than just walking up to a character,” Doyle says, giving the example of coming across a wizard who might want you to give him a dragon’s egg. So you’ll need to defeat a dragon, but that’s only possible if you can get a gold sword.
Or you might be asked to paint a house or build a castle, and there are procedural dungeons to be discovered, too, featuring locked chests and traps to avoid. Succeed and you’ll be rewarded with golden bricks, the key to the progression system. You start the game on a small island which takes only 30 or 40 seconds to traverse, but with golden bricks you can power up your rocket and blast off from this world to a new, larger one, with the ultimate aim of becoming a ‘master builder’.
With so many months in Early Access under Worlds’ belt, it’s doubtful it’ll have put a foot wrong for what it’s trying to achieve. It’s a Lego sandbox in which you can build and play with the same blend of accessibility and promise that underpins the greater Lego series. And it’s not simply a Minecraft clone. For that, it’s all the stronger.
Early Access has been critical for a game that has imposed a very different way of working