Minecraft was always intent on being a virtual Lego-style toy, but no one could have predicted the game’s meteoric rise to fame and profit. Given all the money changing hands for virtual blocks, it’s no surprise that WB Games and Lego have decided it’s time to officially put in their bid for a piece of the pie. Lego videogames have always focused on what’s great about the venerable toy line—breaking and building—but they’ve never gone to the depth that Minecraft offers. Until now, anyway. Enter Lego Worlds, which is a direct contender for the crafting crown, but in execution still remarkably different from anything out there.
In many ways, Lego Worlds is a bold and almost arrogant move. Minecraft helped create the idea of the “early access” game, forever in alpha and beta while still making money hand over fist. But Mojang was also the ultimate Cinderella indie-dev story. It went from a guy making a cool virtual toy for his kid to a two billion dollar deal. Lego Worlds is not, by any stretch, an indie game. It’s got massive AAA backing, yet has been released on Steam Early Access—a bastion previously almost exclusive to decidedly non-AAA development.
Frankly, it shows. Lego Worlds is definitely early, but already gorgeously polished in presentation. Gone are the primitive blocks of Minecraft in favor of Lego worlds that look like toys in motion. Currently, the game creates randomly generated worlds based on popular (non-licensed) Lego themes—desert, lava, mountains, forests, and vast bodies of block-built water await explorers.
Lego Worlds is Windows-only at the moment, but absolutely designed with a control pad in mind. The game is third-person and plays like an action game, but not a first-person shooter. Moving around with the pad feels natural, but players using a mouse and keyboard will find it a clunky, unpleasant experience.
Characters, vehicles, structures, and specific blocks populate the worlds and are unlocked simply by finding them. The beta-state of the game is such that this is a single-player, sandbox-only experience. It’s all about getting a feel for the mechanics and playing with the toys. Find the fantastic fire-breathing dragon, for instance, and marvel at the sheer level of destruction possible.
Fireballs collide with the ground in glorious explosions, leaving massive craters in their wake. Giant eagles can fly you through the air with the greatest of ease. On the ground, horses, camels, a variety of cars and other vehicles await discovery. Anything you find that could rode/driven/flown is generally available to hop onto and most of them have specific attack moves as well.
What Lego Worlds gains in visual panache and power, it loses in ease of use though. The user interface is, at the moment, a convoluted mess. There are menus and sub-menus to wade through and even just exiting the game took several minutes of searching options to figure out. Building a structure is a complicated affair to say the least. Unlike Minecraft’s uniform block design, Lego Worlds gives players massive amounts of differently shaped Lego blocks.
This leads to battling with the interface to find the blocks you want and then deal with constant camera changes to figure out how to smoothly place each block and then build on top of them. It’s probably the most in-depth and amazing building system in all of video games, but it’s far from intuitive and user friendly.
"Lego Worlds is definitely early, but already gorgeously polished in presentation. Gone are the primitive blocks of Minecraft in favor of Lego worlds that look like toys in motion."
This brings up the real problem of audience. Kids used to the simplicity of Minecraft will likely be overwhelmed and frustrated with the prospect of trying wrangle the same effect out of Lego Worlds. In short, Lego really needs to consider a Duplo option here as well to get novice and younger players started.
The other issue is that Lego Worlds is a stunning resource hog. The game is virtually unplayable on lower-end machines and even on higher-end gaming rigs, it still suffers from unreliable framerates and performance issues. Obviously, it’s still early, but it’s pretty clear WB Games and Lego are aiming for a decidedly console-style experience all around, but things are far from optimized.
If you’ve got the hardware to handle it, Lego Worlds is still an incredible virtual toy. There’s no real game here yet, but what the early access offers is an unprecedented level of building power across an endless array of gorgeous block landscapes.