LEGO Worlds – Review
When Minecraft first hit the scene years back, many likened playing it to building with LEGOs, which wasn’t an entirely amiss comparison to be made. The charmingly blocky sandbox game went on to effectively create a whole new genre of its own, and while LEGO games did exist they were more focused on action platforming than creating our own adventures. So, when LEGO Worlds was announced, it seemed logical that finally we were receiving a LEGO game that’s actually about building things. Unfortunately the end product doesn’t work quite as well as you’d expect it to, but it’s still an enjoyable game in its own right.
The gameplay of LEGO Worlds is similar to that of previous LEGO games, but rather than combing through relatively linear levels while looking for secrets, you’re tasked with running around procedurally generated worlds solving generic quests for characters. The focus, though, is less on the abilities of your avatar and more on the creation tools that are quickly given to you. How you choose to shape the world around you is largely the focus here, and it’s done well at some points, and not so well on others.
For one thing, the game’s free build mode — which is arguably the main selling point — is pretty confusing until you make a great deal of progress in the rather flimsy story mode. The story mode acts essentially as a massive tutorial; you control an astronaut traveling between worlds as he or she comes across various tools that allow you to terraform and shape the world as you wish. For its part, the tools are introduced to you at a pace that ensures you understand how each one works before the next one is put into your arsenal. By the time you have everything unlocked it’s a bit staggering how much you’re capable of doing to the world — it feels a lot like switching on a “God Mode” — but it doesn’t feel like there’s too much to handle.
Of course, you can just choose not to use the abilities available to you, but this goes against the whole design philosophy of the game. The point being, the quests often feel as though they would belong in a conventional LEGO game; here, they feel ill-fitting and tossed in to give players something to do just for the sake of it. Additionally, the game often fails to communicate the parameters and requirements needed to complete quests. A character may be asking you for a particular item, but unbeknownst to you that item itself is a reward for an entirely different quest which requires another item to complete. It’s expected that you figure this all out on your own, and that can lead to frustrating bottlenecks in the game’s flow.
The game’s main strength comes when you play in sandbox mode, where you’re given total control and can build whatever your heart desires. There’s a massive amount of unique LEGO pieces that you can utilize here — you don’t need to ‘discover’ stuff in this mode, it’s all unlocked from the get-go — and part of the fun is that many builds which work in real life can be replicated in-game, too. There’s a virtually limitless amount of content on offer, then, but it does largely depend on the creative tendencies of the player. The toolbox is incredibly deep, but there’s not much to do if constructing your own cities and structures isn’t your cup of tea. Sure, it can be fun to goof around on the back of a dinosaur and ravage villages with laser cannons, but that kind of thing can only entertain for so long.
From a performance perspective, LEGO Worlds is definitely not a showcase of the Switch’s capabilities. Docked or undocked, the draw distance occasionally calls to mind the age of the N64 as not-too-distant mountains disappear into a grey fog. Fortunately, the tradeoff is that the game’s framerate does stay relatively close to 30 FPS, though it is prone to oscillate and dip as you navigate busy areas. Granted, the draw distance and framerate are at the very least manageable for most of the game, but this plays more like an early demo build of a game than a finished product.
The game seemed to perform at a consistently poorer level when a second player was thrown in, but it does add much to the experience to have a friend helping out with exploration and construction. The online mode (which took its sweet time to finally show up) leaves a bit to be desired, however, as LEGO Worlds limits your online experience to only those in your Switch profile friends list. Don’t have any friends that play LEGO Worlds? No online for you. Now, this obviously can be circumvented by doing a little bit of forum interaction and just adding strangers to your friends list before joining a game, but it still adds unnecessary, tedious steps to the process which sour one’s enjoyment of the experience.