PC, PS4, Xbox One
Lego Worlds is not another Lego game that merely features Lego. It isn’t a jaunt through a set of levels themed around a big licence. There’s no Harry Potter, Star Wars or Batman; its moment-to-moment appeal is not founded on smashing up scenery and discovering fan-favourite characters. Instead, Lego Worlds is a game about Lego itself. It’s about building and exploring, and open and freewheeling play, and is the first fresh step Traveller’s Tales has taken with the licence since 2005’s original Lego Star Wars. And while it arrives eight years after Minecraft, Lego’s enduring ubiquity lends it currency that makes it still count.
As Minecraft is founded on its blocks, Lego Worlds is founded on its bricks, and it’s the beneficiary of sophisticated procedural generation tech that constructs worlds out of perfectly fitted 2x4 bricks, 2x6 plates and 3x2 slopes. They comprise every hillock and mesa, tree and volcano. Dig down and you’ll see the bricks aren’t surface-deep; the land is stratified layers of the stuff.
Knowing these places can technically be made with boxes of real-world Lego gives them an immediate appeal, especially since they look so genuine. Traveller’s Tales’ Lego has always looked good, capturing its perfect glossiness and the clarity of its forms. In Lego Worlds, struck by the rising of a virtual sun, sending shadows creeping across the ground before it reaches its zenith, Lego looks positively glorious.
Worlds are generated across various themed biomes. There’s rolling farmland dotted with trees and crops, populated by cows, pigs and farmers. There’s hilly swampland with thick mangroves and houses on stilts, cut through by channels of shallow water and occupied by hostile alligators. There’s a candy world, one of scrap metal, a Wild West, and surprises might be found anywhere: a town; caverns with chests to be discovered; dungeons with traps. But as fun as the biomes are, they lack the naturalistic coherence of Minecraft’s Overworld.
You’ll discover these lands through a setup that does its best to keep out of the way. You’re exploring the galaxy in your ship, the Pug-Z, when, having collided with a comet, you crash land on a small, preset, piratethemed world that acts as the start of a tutorial which introduces each of the powerful building tools.
The first is the Discovery Tool. By aiming it at objects, creatures and characters you can copy them into your inventory and then, for a small amount of the freely collectible currency, Studs, place them at will. One common use is to complete quests. Located at beacons that extend into the sky, these are doled out by NPCs with various simple requests, having you build or find something, or colour their homes.
Quests are meant to give you a sense of purpose in worlds that would otherwise give you little extrinsic reason to play. But in practice they send you on dull expeditions to find objects that could be anywhere. There’s little of the curated systemic design of Minecraft, where crafting systems push you through the world.
And yet you’ll need to do quests because of their rewards. Some are links in a chain. Some rewards will be Studs. And some will be Gold Bricks, the main currency for progression in Lego Worlds. As you earn them, you’ll get access to various useful gadgets – a lamp for underground exploration, perhaps, or a grapple for speedily moving around the world. Additionally, your ship will slowly upgrade, giving access to larger worlds. These are accessed from a galaxy map, from which you can generate a new land at any time, previewing it before setting course. Once you’ve visited them, the worlds are persistent, so you can revisit them to complete quests you’ve missed or been unable to fulfil, as well as return to constructions of which you’re particularly proud.
Lego Worlds leans on the brute appeal of using Gold Bricks to drive you to play, but it more critically has to lean on the intrinsic appeal of building and playing with all the vehicles and pre-built kits in the game. To that end, there’s the Landscape Tool, which allows you to freely paint Lego into the world or remove it. The scope of the Landscape Tool exposes some of the limits of the engine. On PS4 it can take a moment for bricks to load in or disappear. It also reveals the limitations of manipulating a 3D world with a gamepad on a 2D screen: it can be hard to see precisely where you’ll be editing, especially when your cursor is obscured inside existing terrain, and moving it up and down with the shoulder buttons while having analogue control over its horizontal placement is awkward.
Other tools help, including the self-explanatory Copy, and the the Build Tool, which gives you finegrained control over exactly where to place bricks taken from a steadily unlocked palette of every core brick in Lego’s real-world collection. If you’ve the patience to work with it, anything you can build with real Lego is possible. With robust online and splitscreen options, the stage is set in Lego Worlds for co-op building and imaginative play, with cowboys and witches shooting from a fighter plane into castles you’ve made.
But the worlds are only a stage. Being limited to base Lego, you can’t make anything other than inert things. There’s none of the redstone machine-making of Minecraft or the intuitive game-making that’s possible in Disney Infinity. Perhaps in the future, Lego Technic can be brought into the fold and Worlds’ potential will fully unfurl. For now, Lego finally has creative expression in videogame form, but it depends heavily on its players’ imaginations. For some, that’ll come easy, and hours of play lie within its countless worlds. Others might well hanker after a return visit to one of a decade’s worth of licensed platformers.
Lego finally has creative expression in videogame form, but it depends heavily on its players’ imaginations