Ever since the launch of LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game years ago on the PlayStation 2, the LEGO games have enjoyed a lengthy, if somewhat predictable, lineage of excellent platformers. The formula is relatively set in stone at this point, as you build, fight, and explore LEGO universes across a broad variety of franchises. LEGO Worlds is the next entry in this series, and it feels equal parts a continuation and spin-off. The open ended gameplay that it features allows for quite literally endless replay value, but it comes at the cost of focus.
LEGO Worlds is essentially Minecraft with a LEGO twist, something that seems to come as a double-edged sword. You explore an ever expanding collection of procedurally generated worlds, in which you can do just about anything. All the creative parts of the gameplay are handled by a helpful inventory wheel that can be accessed at any time. From here, you can spawn other creatures in the world via a special gun, change your character's costume, utilise a level editor with access to hundreds if not thousands of different bricks and pieces, etc. In short, if you can think about it, you can probably build it, and everything that you can build in game is technically possible in the real world if you can get your hands on all the right materials.
That's all well and good, but this is certainly looking like a game that will be extremely dependent upon the player's ability to make their own fun. There's not much in the way here of objectives, so it all depends on how much you like to play in the sandbox. We were told that there will be a handful of pre-made worlds early on that will serve the purpose of teaching players about the various systems, but players will be turned loose from that point onward. New items and characters will be unlocked by a simple fetch quest system, such as giving an apple to a horse or finding a king's sword, and this will also be how one obtains golden bricks that unlock even bigger worlds.
The problem with this is that it seems just a bit too freeform. In our demo, we had a blast ravaging a village from the back of an angry gorilla and drilling through the earth in a giant drilling machine, but there was a niggling sense of shallowness to it all. Sure, it's fun to faff about and see how various NPCs react to certain stimuli, but it starts to get a little boring as time passes because there's no point to it. In Minecraft, the constant struggle of survival is enough motivation to keep exploring and finding new materials, but here, you just kind of do it for the sake of doing it.
Granted, maybe the point of this game isn't to give you much to do, but to just let you do whatever you want. Though the editing controls can be pretty hokey and difficult to come to grips with, we can see a creative player building some truly impressive constructs with enough time. And for those of you that aren't very creatively driven, there's a whole wealth of premade structures that you can spawn into the game at any time to make the world more interesting. This game is like a bottomless bin of LEGO pieces; there's almost unlimited potential for what you can do with it, but it won't have a ton of use if you aren't creative enough to utilise it.
Another point worth mentioning is that LEGO Worlds seems to have a lot of issues with performance. It's likely not easy to render these massive worlds with so many interlocking and unique parts, and it definitely shows. Even when there's not much happening on screen, the framerate tends to oscillate, and it just goes lower and lower the more action you have on screen at once. Also, a thick gray cloud in the near distance calls to mind the days of the N64 as we look to the horizon in any direction, and as we move towards it, there's a ton of pop-in as new elements are loaded in. Of course, we were playing an early build and the rep assured us that programmers are still working hard to optimise the game's world, but there's a feeling that LEGO Worlds may be just a bit too ambitious for the PS4. This game will have online and local multiplayer as well, but we honestly can't see that going over too well given that one player was obviously pushing the limits of the game's engine.
LEGO Worlds is due out in February, and we're quite interested to see what becomes of it. Based on what we saw, it definitely did not appear to be a game that will be ready in two months, but we believe in the abilities of TT Games to deliver a quality product on time. The open ended nature of the gameplay is obviously quite a break from the core LEGO games, and it seems to be targeting a whole new audience. If you're the type who likes to build things and never seems to run out of ideas, this is a dream come true. If you're the type who likes to be given objectives and to work towards predefined goals, this is a nightmare come true. Either way, this is a wonderfully ambitious game, and we can't wait to see what the community does with it when it launches next year.
Will you be building a path to LEGO Worlds next year, or does this sound like the kind of construction sim you'd rather avoid? Hit us with a brick in the comments section below.