Lego games are now so firmly entrenched as part of the gaming establishment that barely an eyebrow was raised when Lego Worlds was announced. However, this isn’t yet another huge film franchise being given the yellow-faced treatment, nor a profitable toys to life game, but a completely new direction for Traveller’s Tales and their long line of Lego titles.
In reality, it’s taking Lego games back to their roots and letting you build with them. Pegged as a creative adventure, you’re able to use a range of creative or destructive tools, on the path to becoming a master builder. While this freeform nature could have overwhelmed, there’s a welcoming narrative to steer you and your creations in the right direction.
You crash land on your first world, a pirate island with a landlocked pirate ship at the centre, and immediately gain your first main tool, the Discovery tool, which allows you to learn and recreate Lego items that you discover on your travels. It’s as simple as aiming at an undiscovered item and hitting a button to add it to your repository of builds. Early on you’ll be using the function to solve quests given to you by the world’s inhabitants.
In this way you can discover most things in the game, with minifigures, creatures, vehicles and other objects all being added to your library and then unlocked with your collected studs. You also learn Brick Builds, which are larger items, though it’s a shame that they build themselves with no interaction. I initially wished that Telltale would have used the building mini-game that appeared in The Lego Movie game, but the amount of building that you’ll be doing in Lego Worlds would see this mechanic worn wafer thin.
Also on your tool wheel, you have the Landscape tool, which is a hugely powerful item that can alter the landscape in seconds, creating hills or flattening sections of the world, as well as tunnelling deep into the terrain. Besides that there’s the central Build tool, which allows you to do all of the necessary building, the self-explanatory Paint tool, and the Copy tool that lets you scan and copy any portion of an existing build.
Each world is generally bustling with things to do, whether it’s items to discover, mini-quests to undertake, or tasks that are going to grant you the Gold Bricks you need to advance. It’s never overly complicated, with relatively menial tasks to find this, build that, remove this, but there’s a nice flow to it that keeps you moving forward while you learn how everything works.
Besides the obvious foundation that are shared with the monolithic Minecraft, there’s a great deal of influence from Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet, most obviously in the thought bubbles that appear from characters and the booming narrator’s voice that accompanies much of the proceedings. It’s not slavish in either of those reference points, as this is a Lego game first and foremost, but that point in itself brings a bunch of legacy issues.
This being a Lego game, there’s still some unwieldiness to the engine and in the way that characters behave. Attempting to help a caveman to cross a lava stream, for example, required building a bridge far wider than was needed, as he’d otherwise get stuck. Of course, they could have deliberately programmed the caveman with suitably Neolithic AI on purpose, but probably not.
The biggest problem though is with the building itself. Traveller’s Tales have done their best to make things as intuitive as possible, and the controls map to the controller in an understandable fashion. It nearly works, but it’s still rather cumbersome to use and that’s probably not nearly good enough, particularly when a large proportion of those playing the game are liable to be young children. My son is nearly six, and merrily plays the mainline Lego games on his own, but Lego Worlds is far more complicated, and far less welcoming, despite the developers best attempts.
That’s not to say that you can’t build some amazing structures. Lego Worlds provides you with the tools and means to put together something that you could likely never afford the bricks for in the real world. You can create mountains with castles atop them, surrealist forests teaming with Lego life, or indeed nearly anything you can think of, and the Traveller’s Tales engine will present them vibrantly in all their brick-y glory.
While it’s visually smart enough, and there have been some nice improvements, such as the fact your character can now clamber up from ledges, it’s still beset by the bugs that have plagued the Lego fraanchise throughout it’s life, and the control and camera issues we’ve become accustomed to. In some ways Lego Worlds is a huge step forwards for the team, but in others remains utterly stuck in the past. Some of the negative points might be forgiven given Lego Worlds’ budget pricing. You’re not expected to treat this as being on the same level as the movie tie-ins, and indeed it really is a wholly separate undertaking.
This is a platform that Traveller’s Tales are looking to build on, and indeed have since its original launch on PC, and with continuing growth there’s the potential here for something essential for Lego enthusiasts. As it stands though, for all of the merit and freedom that Lego Worlds affords, it’s still bound by many of the same problems as its predecessors.
Version tested: PlayStation 4