Lego Worlds

PC, PS4, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES -

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

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