The biggest and most obvious inspiration for Minecraft is LEGO. Those venerable little stacking bricks rose from humble Danish beginnings to become one of the most popular toys in the world. Over the last decade, the brand has successfully expanded into video games using its incredibly lucrative licensing deals, making games of popular franchises like Star Wars and Batman. The focus on kid-friendly, cooperative gaming has made these games hugely popular for families.
Now we have finally come full circle, as LEGO returns to its block-building roots by lifting core gameplay from Minecraft. LEGO Worlds was recently released in Early Access on Steam, meaning the game is still in active development, but can be purchased and played right now. Despite a current lack of major features like multiplayer, LEGO Worlds expertly captures the feel of playing and building with LEGO bricks with the addictive open-ended exploration and building of Minecraft.
Unique Twists in LEGO Worlds
Anyone who has played Minecraft will be instantly familiar with the basic controls and central gameplay concepts of exploring and building. LEGO Worlds, however, offers a few unique twists. After you select your own randomly generated world made entirely of LEGO bricks, your male or female LEGO figure flies down and lands onscreen.
Running up and touching any object in the world adds it to your library. I found dozens of neat LEGO objects in my travels, from trees and giant mushrooms to lamp posts, flowers, bones, and more.
Once an item (or person, or vehicle, or animal) has been found, you need to unlock it using the in-game currency of studs. These bright LEGO pieces come billowing out of any object you interact with, which is something that’s familiar from other licensed LEGO games. Purchasing and unlocking these discovered objects allows you to instantly place them in the world. The more things you find, the more you can build and customize your world. Unlocking new special figures like Evil Wizard, Surfer Girl, or Werewolf allows you to change into that figure, as well as mix and match various parts. I created a warrior princess with a cape and wizard hat, for example.
Switching over to building mode vaults your character into the air with an overhead view of the land, armed with a magic gun that spits out LEGO pieces. Here you can quickly craft several pre-made buildings in a matter of seconds, such as large castles or cute cottages. You’re also given full freedom to paint the terrain in any color or texture (a feature my three year old daughter was particularly smitten with). Finally you can build anything using the robust LEGO builder, which allow any sized LEGO brick and color to craft your carefully constructed project.
The world comes alive, thanks to the random roaming LEGO figures and animals all around you. All of them are tied to whatever local biome you’re in. A biome is a geographical area defined by its ground and objects—desert, forest, volcanic, snowy, etc. In the desert you’ll find cowboys and outlaws, cacti, and lots of horses. There aren’t any real limitation on biomes, so get ready to see fun combos like lava spilling into snowy mountains. Vast stretches of ocean also surround most worlds. Sadly, the oceans are completely empty right now, though you can find and use various water-based vehicles.
Ridable animals and vehicles are a big selling point at this early juncture in the game’s development. Like everything else, finding and unlocking a new mode of transportation allows you to instantly place them whenever you want. From motorcycles and airplanes to adorable little husky dogs and giant fire-breathing dragons, the mounts and vehicles are a ton of fun, and make exploration that much more enjoyable. And yeah, riding a dragon is totally awesome.
Unfortunately, I ended up fighting with the camera just as often as I fought with the world’s random skeletons. Digging underground with the fancy drilling car often caused my screen and point of view to jarringly spin around, completely disorienting me. A similar effect occurred when driving or riding an animal up a hill. It makes simply getting around far more difficult than it should be. I fully expect this to improve in the coming months.
Currently LEGO Worlds is missing two major features that Minecraft fans would expect: digging underground and multiplayer. By the look of the next upcoming content update, natural caves will soon be added that lead to new underground areas rife for exploring. The lack of multiplayer could be a glaring red flag for many gamers that prefer exploring with friends and building on each other’s servers, and it is probably the biggest thing stopping many gamers from jumping in with LEGO Worlds. Online multiplayer is listed as a planned feature, but for now LEGO Worlds is strictly a solo affair.
Without any actual mining resources, LEGO Worlds aims for a much easier and more intuitive crafting system that involves finding and unlocking everything you need. Given the widespread appeal and familiarity of the brand, LEGO Worlds easily cements itself as a kid-friendly, mainstream experience. The cutesy LEGO animations represent the unbridled joy of play so well. I dare you not to bust out laughing the first time your character rides an ostrich.
Whether any game can actually come close to Minecraft’s incredible popularity remains to be seen, but Lego has successfully incorporated its popular toys and leveraged their fun and light-hearted tone, and that is a wonderful start.