Lego Worlds

Trav­eller’s Tales builds on Lego’s cre­ative side

EDGE - - GAMES -

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

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