Creativity is a word that, up until now, the team behind the main series of Lego video games didn’t seem to know the meaning of, paradoxically. The reason I say this is because the Lego video games follow basically the same formula, no matter what franchise it’s based on. Only a couple of the games ones have gotten away from the standard of level-based missions where progress is marked by one of two things, combat, or destroying all Lego made things in the room to make another thing that magically gets rid of obstacles. Even when those games (two of the Batman games and the Marvel Heroes one) got away from the formula by being open world, they were dragged right back into it again whenever any mission started, and as much as I love Lego, this is so infuriating and dull to play, I remember once getting stuck for forty-five minutes on a single part of a level because the last Lego thing I needed to destroy was behind a wall that was very difficult to see around, if that isn’t poor design then I don’t know what is.
Another major gripe with the Lego games (yes I will harp on about my dislike of them, they’re a promising but wasted opportunity) is the fact that almost none of the objects, backdrops or even worlds are made of mother fucking Lego. The only two reasons I can think of for this decision, the probably reduced cost/time to make the level/world or to make a more obvious distinction between destructible and non-destructible objects in the environment. While either of these explanations are ones I can buy as reasonable, it creates a world with no constant aesthetic motif. The Lego structures sticking out horribly against buildings made from real world building materials. Right, I’ll stop ragging on previous Lego games and get onto the subject matter of this piece.
I’d like to take a minute now to discuss the development of this game and how the direction has changed since its early access release, which in itself is an odd choice, Steam’s early access service is usually the domain of indie devs who cannot afford to finish the game entirely before launch so exchange access to an alpha/beta for funding to develop the game, well it’s that or hack devs who release a unity asset flip and rake in a few quid before letting it fester there forever. I, like the massive Lego fan I am (see Lego town below) snapped it up on the day of release, keen to see what was going on and what I’d bought was basically Lego Minecraft, a huge open world, procedurally generated, with distinct biomes. Now however, you hop between smaller worlds in a campaign that feels like a large tutorial for your completion reward which is basically the massive open creative mode from the early access game. While I like both in their own way, I don’t feel the big creative part should be locked behind one hundred gold bricks earned in the campaign, it feels arbitrary and restrictive. Maybe a better reward could have been there for completing the campaign, a huge golden knob made of the bricks perhaps?
From first impressions you’d think this game would be ideal for me because it is absolutely stunning, with the bricks each looking real and nailing the overall aesthetic, alongside the fact the game solves both of the problems addressed above, with a randomly generated (to a point) open world structure, made entirely of Lego bricks, and I mean entirely. All parts of the terrain, from trees to the water are made in their entirety of bits of Lego. The one exception to this is water under the surface, so you can see where you’re swimming (mostly). In all honesty, walking around the randomly generated worlds is joyous, while the ones I’m currently on are rather small, larger ones unlock as you progress through the game, each containing more biomes than the single biome worlds I currently have. That brings me to the nature of the world generation, each is done with a sixteen (I think) digit seed and the generation occurs as clumped areas where the terrain and scenery stick to a rough theme, for instance, candy biomes have largely pink and white ground with sweet related buildings and props.
However, Lego Worlds is a case of solving the issues I had and simultaneously made new ones. My biggest issue is with the camera which feels like you’re trying to wrangle a particularly wriggly stoat while wearing oven gloves (it’s fiddly). Instead of the traditional method of using the mouse to move the camera (I don’t know what it’s like on a controller), the mouse controls an omnipresent cursor or the direction of use of whatever tool you’re holding. Moving the camera itself requires you to hold the right mouse button, and after many years being able to move the camera freely, this feels very restrictive, especially since the camera remains fixed until either moved by your own actions or by an interaction/event. The problem is only worsened when you get into a vehicle or onto an animal, all of which from badger side and up can be ridden, even larger fish. When the game was in alpha, the camera dictated the direction of vehicle movement with the directions being tied to the camera orientation rather than the vehicles, a decision I had a problem with at the time. Now however, the seemingly opposite problem has occurred as when you are driving a vehicle, the camera keeps trying to wrench the camera back to the vehicle/animal’s forward view like a child who won’t let go of his favourite toy. Any attempt to look around the world whilst in motion creates jerky camera movements that feel like you’re genuinely fighting the game just to have a look at where you might want to go next, and I don’t think that should be a thing I need to deal with.
The other major issue I have is the controls of the tools used to build things and to alter the landscape. Both of these tools are very useful and sometimes essential but you are given a single explanatory video as your tutorial for each tool that tells you what the tool can do, not how it is done. Sure there are tool tips in the bottom right but my eyes don’t naturally flick over there so it feels clunky to use as you forget how to do a particular function and have to wrench your eyes away from what you’re trying to do and look at the tips to find out how to do it. The camera becomes an enemy again in this scenario as using both of the aforementioned tools shifts the controls away from your avatar and to a camera, looking at what you’re building/landscaping. The problem is, this camera is extremely slow and clips through terrain, so you can be trying to cut a hole into a cave and suddenly the camera is filled with the bricks that make up the opposing wall, and you cannot see through these in any way whilst in this mode, meaning you need to zoom in so your view is back to normal and then you’ve lost your positioning. Oh and the building is very fiddly, the bricks are pretty difficult to place on top of one another cleanly, so building something like a wall can become a chore very quickly.
The other tools are much nicer to control, the discovery tool is used to discover (funny that) items that you find in the world like flowers, animals and such other things which can be placed ad infinitum into the world after paying some of your studs to unlock them, and let’s be honest, being able to throw a pig into an archer’s face is something we don’t get to do enough in life. Studs come fairly thick and fast with chests scattered around the world and rewards from people’s requests usually being at least partly studs so that’s something you won’t struggle with. Also, every character you unlock allows you to use their parts for your avatar, with mine currently being a pirate head on an astronaut body and I’m very much looking forward to finding more figures and combinations. There is a caveat with unlocking people, you will have to either complete a mission for one of them before you can unlock their type or in some instances, beat them to death. A slightly odd way of doing it but it does encourage the completion of missions as you actually get fun things for completing them.
Overall I am personally enjoying the game and look forward to my next opportunity to play it, but I find myself reluctant to make a decision on whether or not to recommend it to people. The controls and camera would probably put a lot of people off and I think the only reason I haven’t been put off myself is through being such a die-hard Lego fan and knowing that I can explore some truly big worlds if I persevere. So maybe that’s my conclusion, if you love Lego and can get past control issues, this game is perfect for you, if not then you should maybe consider other investments. Like a Lego town.
If you’re intrested in watching some gameplay, watch my video below.