Traveller’s Tales has been working on LEGO games for over a decade now, pumping out various compelling and highly comical adventures that both complimented LEGO and other brands in the process. This includes LEGO Batman, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, the popular Toys to Life LEGO Dimensions and so many more. The team has been working hard to bring players new and unique ways to play with LEGO bricks on the small screen and their latest entry, LEGO Worlds, has the feeling of originality, at least for the franchise. Released earlier this year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, Warner Bros. Interactive has decided to finally bring the Minecraft-esque world builder to Nintendo’s new platform. While it’s an appealing package, especially on a system that can be played on the go, there are a lot of core issues with LEGO Worlds that immediately pop up.
LEGO Worlds has a simple formula: find and build. The core game is situated in the Adventure Mode where players are tasked with going across the galaxy and finding various worlds to explore. The best part of this is just how many worlds are out there as we just kept finding new and creative areas to dig through. It certainly helps that it’s not just the outer layer that’s accessible, but you can create a network of tunnels below the earth with the right equipment. There’s a wide template of worlds to encounter, creating a game with seemingly no end.
With that said, the biggest downside to each area has to be the mission structures. As soon as you land on a new and uncharted world, there will be various characters scattered about with tasks for you to overcome. This drives the player forward to obtain gold Lego bricks which can be used to upgrade your spaceship’s travel capabilities, allowing it to go to bigger, more rich worlds. Unfortunately, these missions are incredibly tedious and go through a basic template. You either have to find a specific item to give to someone (which are either found in the world or obtained via another quest), add onto a building, create a pre-built structure, or paint something the NPC has already built. The lack of creative missions is apparent after a mere couple of worlds, creating nothing more than a laborious experience in a game that feels ripe with potential.
It’s almost discouraging to build anything creative during the various quests because they just allow you to get away half-assed jobs. So for example, whilst painting a house or flag, you don’t even need to color an entire surface most of the time to complete the mission, while building a structure sometimes just relies on a basic, and uninteresting approach. Granted, you can always take it upon yourself to spend more time and be more creative than the game wants you to be, but this seems to be at your disadvantage considering the campaign is about upgrading your ship and obtaining all items as soon as possible. Exploration may be fun, but it seems gated behind these mundane missions that do nothing but slow things down.
It certainly doesn’t help that the interface is incredibly clumsy. LEGO games have strived to be simplistic, easy to play experiences so players of all ages will be able to grasp it within a matter of minutes. LEGO Worlds is a little more unwieldy, at least on the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons, having to constantly swap between the different tools and work through various menus to get what you want. The free mode in the menu wheel does help get things roll a little quicker, but it will take a while before it becomes a natural means of creation. Navigating the surrounding can also be stressful, especially considering the little Lego protagonist will move around on his own while using various tools. It’s generally good about not moving into dangerous, health-depleting areas, but we have fallen into various holes, and finding ourselves stuck because of his moving around too much. The menus aren’t the only clumsy systems, as combat is less than ideal. There is no lock-on component, so you’ll either be flailing or shooting wildly hoping to hit the right target. Combat in general isn’t a huge part of the game, but there are specific missions that call for it, not to mention exploring will occasionally have you come across hostile enemies.
Outside of the seemingly unlimited number of world combinations, another aspect that LEGO Worlds does somewhat right is the custom worlds. As the name suggests, this allows you to fully customize and create a world to your liking, either starting off with a base idea, or putting in sections of specific worlds together. Want an oriental landscape mixed together with a frostbitten environment? Well that can be created in your custom worlds. They don’t contribute to your adventure mode, which is unfortunate and only situated in the Free Mode, but it’s still an attractive component that should have players building to their hearts content. Plus, having every single Lego piece and character available to you right from the get go ensures there will be very few limitations.
Graphically, LEGO Worlds can look beautiful with a grand sense of scale when it comes to the various worlds. In typical Traveller’s Tales fashion, the developer has crafted a visually stylish universe that looks as if everything were constructed with Legos. Unfortunately, there are some concerns, particularly when the system isn’t docked. While the Switch version in general suffers from pop-in and short draw distance, the handheld mode is intensified and contains frequent framerate drops. It’s nothing too bad that the game comes to a grinding halt, but they are noticeable occurrences. LEGO Worlds is also astonishingly buggy. All open world games have their issues, but LEGO Worlds has quite a few that can’t go overlooked. Because items in the world will constantly spawn around you, and because of the short draw distance, they will sometimes appear seconds after you crash into them, and many times halfway stuck in a wall. We’ve also had quest givers stuck in the ground, and disappear whilst trying to finish a mission. While not a bug, the world also doesn’t seem to follow any laws of physics, so creating a pit near lava or the ocean will do absolutely nothing. The final piece of presentational criticism before finishing off would be that there also seems to be a severe lack of music, which only adds to the somewhat dull trek through the various worlds.
There’s some fun to be had with LEGO Worlds, but you will need to trudge through a lot of problems to get to it. The UI is unintuitive, especially on the Switch, the combat is clumsy, there’s a serious lack of drive in the adventure mode, the missions are beyond repetitive and it’s buggy, just to name a few. With that said, there are a plethora of worlds to explore, and even after countless hours with the game, we were still seeing new environments. Creating a custom world is also an entertaining feature, even though it’s purely tied to the Free Mode. In the end, though, LEGO Worlds had incredible potential to be the next Minecraft, especially considering the pedigree of LEGO, but it winds up being weighed down by a lack of vision.