Forget TT Games and its never-ending skein of spin-offs, sequels, and mash-ups, because LEGO Minifigures Online is a completely different beast. Developed by the talented folks at Funcom (Age of Conan, The Secret World) the latest game to carry this world famous toy brand does away with the license-aping it has recently been known for and heads in a different direction.
Since LEGO Star Wars touched down just over a decade ago, Traveller’s Tales has continued to reiterate on the 2005 classic, helped along by big names such as Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, and Jurassic World, as well as both DC and Marvel comics. People forget, however, that before Star Wars came a run of highly popular LEGO games, the kinds of which we’re starting to see reemerge.
Although we’re never likely to see a revival of LEGO Island or the sublime LEGO Racers any time soon, studios have been trying to recapture the essence of what these games were. That means mimicking other genres yet with enough of that classic LEGO charm to avoid shameless knock-off territory.
Having just released on PC and Mac, alongside iOS and Android versions which we’ll be looking at separately, LEGO Minifigures Online can easily be compared to the likes of Diablo III and, more relevantly, Marvel Heroes 2015. In a nutshell, it’s a dungeon crawling RPG targeted at a young audience. The main appeal here is that kids, or LEGO fans of any age, can use codes found in LEGO Minifigure packs to bring these characters to life in-game.
As collectors will know, these Minifigures come in all varieties, from pirates and princesses to pizza delivery guys, all of which are fully playable. With an already bulging roster of characters, Funcom has had to scale things down a bit, giving each one a basic attack and a special ability.
That may sound stingy but, in truth, Funcom has been clever in the way it handles the use of Minifigures. For a start, players can switch between any three equipped characters on-the-fly while also being able to substitute these when accessing the in-game menu. Although you’ll have a few in your roster to begin with, this number soon expands, giving players almost a dozen different characters to mess around with in the first couple of hours.
Each one also has its own unique development tree, as we’re use to seeing in most roleplaying games. By spending points, you can upgrade a number of your Minifigures’ stats while also unlocking bonus perks and abilities. Thankfully, the currency needed to do this is independent to your experience guage, eliminating the need to grind with underused characters. Instead XP will increase a player’s overall rank with many Minifigure abilities requiring a certain level prior to purchase.
Gameplay, as one might imagine, is incredibly straightforward. Using any of a number of control schemes, you can move your active character around the game’s 3D world, clicking on objects and NPCs to interact with them. In combat, even when surrounded by enemies, seasoned games will never feel a genuine sense of challenge. However, battles are paced well enough to prevent Online from ever being a monotonous clicking simulator. Like any dungeon crawler, LEGO Minifigures Online is mainly combat focused although there are plenty of side quests to do and hidden areas to explore.
It’s also refreshing to see older LEGO sets come to life on screen. Years ago, when I had a sizeable LEGO collection as a child, I was obsessed with the pirates sets, building huge warships, ports, and tribe-infested islands. A lot of effort has been put in here to emulate the look of historic builds and figures with the same level of detail hopefully invested in other playable worlds.
During its beta phase, LEGO Minifigures Online was a free-to-play title, but this has seen a dramatic U-turn to now bundle the game’s entire contents for a one-off fee of £24.99 – on mobile, it’s £3.99 with subsequent worlds costing £2.99. As someone who detests forking out for premium game memberships and ludicrously-priced micro-transactions, I can appreciate why the switch was made on PC, and although the game’s current price tag isn’t perfect, it’s a lot better than booting up a free version only to find that every character and area is sealed behind a paywall, especially if the devs ever decide to release new content.
Business models aside, so far LEGO Minifigures Online continues to impress. Even if you don’t collect the toys, there is still a solid albeit basic action RPG to be had here. Older, more seasoned players shouldn’t complain however, given that it’s a game primarily built for younger users. For them, the 100+ Minifigure catalogue and fun combat makes it the perfect download for any young LEGO fans out there.
When playing LEGO Minifigures Online, we were given access to the full PC/Mac version. For mobile gamers we plan to write a follow-up in the near feature for iOS/Android devices.