Discovering the good, the bad, and the blocky in a diverse adventure/creative sandbox hybrid.
In concept, LEGO Worlds seems like a total home run: You explore Minecraft-like, procedurally-generated worlds made entirely of LEGO bricks with total freedom to build, paint, copy, paste, reshape, and destroy anything you see. Actually getting my hands on it, though, I found that for almost every really cool moment of accomplishment or discovery, there was another moment of frustration, confusion, or bugginess to clip the wings of my inner child’s imagination.
From its blocky foundations, LEGO Worlds is two games with two different goals that don’t always harmonize. One is a journey of exploration and adventure across a potentially infinite number of randomly generated worlds that can be traveled between at will by means of a snazzy spaceship. The central goal is to collect golden bricks by finding hidden chests and completing quests for NPCs – from building a treehouse to giving a fire station a fresh coat of paint to fighting off zombies. Enough golden bricks will allow you to level up and gain more character abilities or world generation options, which serves as the only real motivator to continue pursuing these increasingly repetitive activities when you’d rather be building a skyscraper.
The other half is respectably versatile editor that lets you build just about anything you can think of, either brick-by-brick, using a 3D copy/paste tool to grab things you see in the generated worlds (like, say, a wizard’s tower) to save them for later, or by placing prefabricated structures that can be earned by completing quests and exploring. What’s truly impressive is that there’s no trickery going on here: everything in the world, including dirt, rocks, clouds, clock towers, and even lava, is made entirely out of LEGOs and can be built, disassembled, or copied one brick at a time.
There’s nothing stopping me from deleting walls to get around hazards.
Where the two halves really clash are in scripted areas where it’s apparent you’re meant to complete a task in the manner of an adventure game, but the unlimited use of the creative tools makes any challenge easy to circumvent. On a medieval-themed world I came across a handcrafted dungeon, complete with monsters, fire traps, dead ends, and a reward of a rare weapon at the end. It seemed like I was meant to progress through this area like a swashbuckling adventurer… but there was never anything stopping me from deleting the walls to get around any potential hazards. Another time, I found a giant beanstalk in a fairy tale area that could be climbed to reach a castle full of treasure in the clouds… except that I’d already unlocked a helicopter that could be spawned anywhere, so I just used that instead. When I saw a hidden treasure chest on my minimap, it became standard procedure to simply delete the ground under me until I reached it rather than looking for a cave entrance and traversing the depths to uncover its reward.
The variety of biomes and imaginative LEGO creations to discover is truly admirable.
On the other hand, the variety of biomes and imaginative LEGO creations to discover is truly admirable. Just when I thought I’d seen it all, I’d wind up on a world with several city blocks’ worth of a modern-looking town, complete with a bank, a laundromat, furnished houses, and empty lots for adding my own new homes and businesses. On the outskirts of that town was a spooky forest full of witches and zombies, terminating at a span of sea that held sunken temples beneath its surface. Spotting land on the far side of the strait, I found myself coming ashore in a dry, windy gulch straight out of the Old West, with cowpokes and rustlers to match. Across the dozens of hours I’ve played so far, I’m still finding new things and feel I may only have scratched the surface of what’s out there, which is genuinely exciting. It’s just hard to get away from the feeling at the back of my mind that I have godlike cheat code-level powers available at a whim that can trivialize the sense of place these scenes might otherwise provide.
Interacting with the array of LEGO worlds isn’t as simple or intuitive as snapping blocks together, either. The mouse and keyboard controls on the PC, especially in the menus, are fiddly and take a lot of getting used to. Building brick-by-brick is straightforward and intuitive enough, but becomes tedious for larger projects. Sooner or later, you’ll have to learn to use tools like copy/paste, which aren’t always forgiving if you hit a wrong key or don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Similar problems crop up while adventuring. Combat, though diverse and offering everything from swords to six-shooters to bows with explosive arrows, is one of the few systems I’d call outright bad. There’s no precise aiming for any of the weapon types, so you pretty much have to point your character in the right direction, click furiously, and hope you hit the thing you were trying to hit. Sub-par controls across the board are definitely the primary reason I didn’t have more fun with LEGO Worlds than I did.
I also experienced some significant performance drops on my system (Intel Core i7-4770K, GeForce GTX 1070, 16GB RAM) consistently in two scenarios. First was any time I was deforming a lot of terrain at once, either with the included terrain tool or just trying to blast my way through a mountainside with a bazooka. The other was when moving quickly across a world, especially in any kind of aircraft, which would lead to significant visual lag and lots of cases of world chunks not loading in until I was more or less right on top of them.