Lego Worlds

I have never played a game as buggy as Lego Worlds (on Nintendo Switch) in my life. I’ve played Ride to Hell: Retribution on Xbox 360. I’ve played every Elder Scrolls and Fallout game. I’ve played a lot of early access games – including a far less buggy incomplete version of Lego Worlds on PC over two years ago. Lego Worlds tops them all. And its bugs sadly aren’t even funny. There are no vibrating ragdoll physics to be had here, just technical problems requiring frequent game reboots and workarounds and a high tolerance threshold. In a “complete” game.

So why did I fall in love with Lego Worlds?

If like me, you went into the retail copy armed only with the knowledge of the early access version and with no knowledge of what had changed, you’ll remember Lego Worlds being this: an unlimited, randomly generated world containing a handful of biomes. In each one there were built pieces of Lego scenery which you could “capture”, after which you could build any of them you wanted, along with any single bricks. It was an explorable world, made entirely out of Lego, and entirely editable. As a Minecraft fan, this concept was an instant hit.

The retail Lego Worlds builds on it, but does retain a few things. You still have to capture items (building an ever-growing collection that, for me at time of review, was close to 1,000 items). But now, rather than being an in unlimited world with no goal beyond that, you roam square maps that contain people and characters, who then give out quests. Rewards for these quests (other than always letting you capture a copy of them and spawn them like any other object) vary – some will only pay out “studs”, the resident currency that’s been a staple in Traveller’s Tales’ Lego games since they began. Others will give you items and weapons that you can use or turn in to other people to complete even more quests. The better rewards you get might include whole Lego sets (which also often allow you to complete other people’s requests). But the jackpot is the golden 2×2 brick.

The “aim” of Lego Worlds is to collect 100 of these golden bricks, after which you will be designated a Master Builder. Along the way, a variety of upgrades are awarded to you for certain milestones. You’re given a camera early on that opens a lot of (boring) quests involving pictures of things, a lantern which comes in handy particularly in dungeons, a grappling hook, a weird block gun that sort of turns the game into Minecraft by dividing the world into much bigger chunks and building and destroying huge blocks of Lego at a time, and eventually a jetpack. Given you can climb up any wall, the jetpack is a bit of a damp squib to end on, being a pain to control and only being slightly more convenient than any of the smorgasbord of flying vehicles you can spawn at any time (Team Broomstick!).

Although it costs studs to initially “unlock” the people, vehicles, animals, objects and builds you discover, after you’ve paid it once you can spawn the item for free as often as you like. And so many of the quests mundanely use this. Woman wants to see seven butterflies? Open the spawn menu’s Animal tab, select the butterfly, plonk seven down. Man wants a picture of himself with the town clock? Spawn a town clock next to him (easier than remembering where it is), switch to the camera, snap. Skater girl wants a skate ramp? You get the idea. And it’s exacerbated by the fact the game doesn’t even generate new quests. It has a pool of them to work with, and every single version of each biome contains the same people with the same quests – I’ve built about 15 of those skate ramps for identical skater girls just to make studs.

Some other quests do other things, such as requiring building, terraforming, painting, or use of one of the other tools in the game. These are where you are given a bit of creative freedom… and where, normally, you will just throw a massive splat of paint #1 or build a row of 1×1 bricks just to get the quest reward. When you can build anywhere, why would I bother building or modifying a specific thing in a specific location? Especially when it’s a gigantic Lego Traveller’s Tales logo you’ve plopped in the world as a bit of oddly chosen self promotion? (Reason #79 why your old logo is better – a Lego model of a homeless thieving raccoon leaning on a graveyard would have been way cooler.)

Every quest in the game is either trivial, or temporarily impossible until you discover an object or animal or find a Lego set that it requires, and rather quickly they just become something you grind through to acquire new gold bricks.

Speaking of, the other reward you get – you start off restricted to tiny worlds, which are boring, relatively featureless and only feature a small set of biomes. As you obtain gold bricks, though, you’re slowly allowed to access bigger maps (which is tied to your ship being upgraded). The second smallest map size makes little difference beyond adding extra biomes, but it’s when you start getting Medium and eventually Huge worlds that the game becomes more interesting, because it’s in those that you start feeling an actual sense of discovery. In the map chooser, you don’t get to see a preview of the whole map for Medium/Huge ones, only a small starting area. It’s beyond those confines that you can wander around and begin to discover new locations, which in turn contain new objects and quests.

And yet, again, gives Lego Worlds another problem related to the quest repetition mentioned earlier. When you unlock Medium maps and get access to new areas, such as the crystal zone that was the ultra-rare one in the early access version of Lego Worlds, you are naturally going to want to see them. But you might not see them for ages, instead getting world after world filled with all the biomes you’ve already seen and have no interest in re-seeing (or even worse, being ocean-filled). It’s a real shame how few and far between the “holy heck, this is cool” moments of discovery are. There are also populated towns in several of the game’s themes, but these are devastatingly rare and sadly quite pre-built like the quests – I did a lot of exploring and found a total of about six small-to-middling towns, three of which were the exact same T-shaped Western town with all the same objects, people, quests and treasure locations.

Speaking of huge worlds, let’s get into the bugs I started this review with. Because oh boy, they’re a major part of the experience, especially late-game. Lego Worlds is a buggy mess.

You’ll start off seeing minor things. For example, a lot of games are good at pulling off subtle model simplification in the distance – Lego Worlds isn’t. Beyond a very small radius around you, it reduces the number of bricks shown and tries to approximate the shape they form to keep the draw distance alright. It works competently on flatter terrain and smaller hills, but with taller things like cairds, trees, and particularly buildings, is awful – geometry flickers and morphs before your very eyes, being both distracting and ugly.

And the spawning of vehicles and people is even more ludicrous. In more barren areas of the game, there are areas where the game has clearly decided an unmanned vehicle should be. About 10% of the time, it will sit there. The other 90% of the time, it will be spawned from a massive height, crashing down infront of you and wiping out all the game’s flora and fauna, before despawning and being spawned from the height again. In towns and cities, it’s somehow even worse – it’s like the game forgets how to create traffic outside of your view and just does it front of you at all times. Manned cars will appear like magic in front of you, often spawning on top of people (killing them) or even within cars (destroying both of them and causing a stud explosion).

That’s some the minor stuff. But wait, there’s more! Treasure-containing areas, such as pyramids, junked robot heads and underwater ruins, have a bizarre tendency to spawn multiple times at the exact same coordinates. Not only does this deck the game’s performance, it also means that chests can often be opened multiple times. In a way, it’s handy – it means you can load up on money and never have to grind unnecessary quests again – but it’s also blatantly a problem.

This also occurs in dungeons. Dungeons are very half-baked in Lego Worlds. What should be the difficulty spikes of the game, requiring preparation and skill, are just kind of tedious here. A few easily dodged or built-around obstacles here, a few enemies there (which can be beaten once each, discovered, and then removed with the discovery tool from then on rather than having to meet silly special requirements like only beating minotaurs with gold-tipped spears), and a whole lot of wandering around mazes of dark, eventless corridors, and your reward is explosive weaponry like the Megazooka that exist less to kill enemies and more to ruin the aesthetic of places. You find yourself HOPING for the item duplication eventually because it makes proceedings more fruitful – although be wary of skeleton spawners. I once found 10 of them stacked on the same spot, accidentally walked onto it, and was suddenly surrounded by about 30 of them.

The bugs get worse. If you’re moving around undiscovered terrain too quickly, the game starts running out of memory to keep spawning new stuff in. Sometimes, you will just hit an invisible wall and have to wait a second or so, but sometimes the game just outright stops loading in anything until you reboot the game. (You can’t even escape this by teleporting to your ship from my experience, because while the teleport works, the game is braindead at this point, stopping you from getting into it or doing anything to cure it.)

It feels like exploring a lot can have other issues in the game, too. I’ve seen terraforming stop working or even completely break chunks of the game, leaving transparent voids that can no longer be interacted with. I’ve also witnessed the building of Lego models misbehave after a while. Sometimes, they get stuck mid-build. Other times, they visibly finish, but you keep hearing the building sound effect permanently. In both cases, you get stuck with the loading throbber as the game thinks the model building is still underway, and again have to hard reset the game.

These problems are prevalent in the medium and particularly in the huge-sized worlds, I didn’t see them in the smaller two. But it’s a real bummer, because it’s in those medium and huge worlds that the game contains the most fun.

And with all this said… I still loved Lego Worlds to (Lego) pieces. It’s been my claim ever since Minecraft first hooked me, that my ideal game would be one that brings deep, urban worlds like Grand Theft Auto together with full customisation as in things like Minecraft and The Sims. And Lego Worlds is, perhaps surprisingly, the closest a game has come to that by far. You can build a city. You can build a house within the city. You can explore the house in first person and interact with the stuff in it. You can get out, jump in a car and drive to a different place. It’s painful to do in Lego Worlds, but it’s doable. Although I do wish that the populated cities in the game were expandable – you can add roads to the existing road layouts, but no matter what I tried, the traffic will never consider using it.

It’s also the first game to fulfil a different wish I’ve always had – for a game prominently featuring ruins, like Fallout or the Legend of Zelda, to allow you post-game to go around and fix everything up, prettying up the location. You can do that in Lego Worlds – there are ruined chunks of castle everywhere, and you can spend hours laboriously building the rest of the building back around it. I’m aware that’s probably a concept that appeals to very few people, but I absolutely love it, and I love that it’s possible.

It is a hideous buggy mess of a game, but Lego Worlds still holds a huge place in my heart for letting me do something no other game has yet to, and to a level of detail I’ve always wanted to see. I’m crossing my fingers that patches might solve at least some of the more glaring problems and at least make the game more stable.

Until then, I can’t recommend it. But I did personally love it.

Allison James

Independent game developer, font creator and occasional casual writer.

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