Full disclosure: Warner Bros. Entertainment Australia provided us with a copy of LEGO Worlds at our request, which we are truly grateful for!
I was never really into LEGO much as a child. I remember having some bigger generic building blocks which were always fun to play with but for me video games had always provided more entertainment to me than toys. The colourful sprites of the Super Nintendo and all the great games it had to offer were quick to captivate me and I still have a soft spot for pixel art to this day. When I first tried Minecraft back in 2010, I discovered the small world of sprite art building in the game’s early Creative Mode and quickly fell into a new hobby, if you could call it that. The time of Minecraft‘s Creative Mode soon peaked however and became short-lived, falling to the overwhelmingly more popular Survival Mode we know today. I still miss the old Minecraft which was focused more on building for the sake of it with no restrictions. Luckily I think I may have found a replacement.
Several days ago, seemingly out of nowhere, came the Early Access debut of sandbox building and exploration game LEGO Worlds on Steam. It seems after producing their own Minecraft LEGO set, LEGO have decided “Screw it, we’ll make our own Minecraft, with blackjack and hookers!”.. minus the blackjack and hookers. The end result is absolutely fantastic and LEGO Worlds truly does feel like something special.
There’s a lot to be said for Steam’s Early Access program. It’s developed somewhat of a mixed reception over the brief period since being introduced. Of course plenty of great titles have come from Early Access and I’m confident that LEGO Worlds will be one of them, mainly because of the reputation of the developer, TT Games, who you may know as the driving force behind the great line-up of LEGO franchise games; LEGO Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Avengers and The Lego Movie Video Game just to name a few. They’ve been making games for as long as I’ve been around, previously developing for Disney Interactive, SEGA, Activation and now exclusively for Warner Bros. Entertainment.
It’s a pleasant surprise to see TT Games jump into the Early Access program for what is probably their most important title to date, it’s not very often you see such a large developer with a publisher such as Warner Bros behind them take the Early Access approach but it’s easy to see why. They’re reaching out to the community to work hand-in-hand to produce something that’s more than just another Minecraft clone. With a back catalogue as impressive as theirs I have no doubt that they will realise their final vision for the game when the final version is released next year. Already LEGO Worlds is packed with content and plays well too, despite a few issues that I will get to shortly, in its current form LEGO Worlds is already quite polished and worthy of your time.
Diving into the game (you literally sky dive into the world) you’ll be dropped into a procedurally generated world made up of exclusively, you guessed it, LEGO bricks. And when I say exclusively I mean exclusively, boy does it look pretty. Absolutely everything around you is made up of existing real LEGO bricks that children and adults alike have been playing with for decades; yes even the water. Performance-wise I think a little more optimisation will be needed, but the ambient occlusion and depth-of-field effects look so much nicer in motion than screenshots will have you believe.
Once you land, you’re free to do whatever you wish. The game provides you with a few quick tool tips that introduce the controls for each feature as you get to it. Despite a few issues with camera control, things are pretty simple after getting used to the control scheme. Holding in the right mouse button to move the camera for example feels a bit odd at first, but I suspect the controls may have been designed more with gamepad support in mind rather than the old mouse and keyboard despite being a PC exclusive. Even when I plugged in a gamepad, the controls still felt a little unconventional compared to previous LEGO games. Traversing the game’s crazy environments is really easy as you can climb walls, double-jump and hang from ceilings to easily navigate your way both indoors and outdoors.
While your goals and objectives are not quite the same as Minecraft, the progression that’s tied into building is very rewarding for a game that doesn’t have a clear ‘end goal’ yet. By traversing the world and exploring everything it has to offer, you’ll come into contact with various objects, scenery, characters, animals, vehicles and even a couple of secrets. Merely touching or interacting with these objects unlocks them, allowing you to use them yourself for your own building creations. If you want to build your own little Wild West themed town, you’ll have to go looking for a desert environment first so you can collect the cactuses (cacti?), horses and cowboys needed. Meeting (or sometimes fighting) other characters you find will unlock all of their customisation options which you can mix-and-match to personalise your own LEGO avatar on the fly which is pretty neat. Wanna be a spooky skeleton with a cape and a beard? Go for it! Wanna be a monkey-man with an astronaut helmet that throws bananas at his enemies? You can be that too!
All of these objects don’t come free though. If you’ve played any previous LEGO franchise game then you may be familiar with the in-game currency ‘studs’ which you’ll be rewarded for destroying objects and interacting with the world. These studs are fairly easy to acquire and the price of objects available is fairly low, meaning the game never feels like a ‘grind’ where you end up tediously smashing everything in your path just to save up for that sweet vehicle you just unlocked. You’ll be happy to know that there are also no micro-transactions planned. The amount of content already on offer here is actually pretty great for an Early Access game, even after several hours of exploring I was still discovering new environment, characters and objects. Searching the lands for treasure is pretty addicting and fulfilling.
The usual level of charm and unique innocent humour you’d come to expect from any LEGO game thankfully carries over into the open world. The animations, sounds and aesthetic are engaging and hilarious. Little details like the horse you’re riding stopping to eat some grass or the ever-present roaming skeletons terrorising the game’s local inhabitants make everything feel alive even if it is far from finished.
Of course, building is the bread and butter of any LEGO game and LEGO Worlds offers a wealth of building bricks to help you create anything your heart desires. Unfortunately at this point, building is a little rough around the edges and kinda tricky to get the hang of. I started on my first project, building our OK Games logo (Winston) and while I was happy with the end product, it felt like a lot more work than it needed it be. LEGO bricks are actually quite small compared to Minecraft‘s huge voxel blocks, so placing and manipulating them in a 3D environment can and does feel a little tricky. Trying to simply join two bricks together in the air felt a lot harder than it needed to be, they never seemed to want to line up correctly and insisted on doing their own thing, requiring me to hit the undo key a few more times than I’d like. Aside from being able to place bricks and objects into the world, there are also a variety of landscaping tools to let you edit the environments also including a flattening tool and even a paint brush. The selection tool is also really useful, allowing you to select an area both with an X and Y axis so that you can either delete it or copy and paste it, really useful for structures such as castles. While it is certainly in-depth, I think a few more tweaks and features will need to be implemented so younger audiences can achieve their building goals too.
So the question you’re probably wondering is ‘Is it worth buying?’, and my answer is ‘Yes!’, it most definitely is worth buying. LEGO Worlds already offers an impressive amount of content even if its gameplay feels a little bare-bones for the time being. Online multiplayer may yet still be to come along with a wide range of other features, but playing by yourself is still a great deal of fun, the foundation of this game is there, for the price and level of polish, you really can’t go wrong. I look forward to seeing LEGO Worlds progress and prosper into what should truly be the online LEGO building sandbox game.