Your path in Lego Worlds begins in humble circumstances, crash landed in tutorials and collecting your building tools on your way to becoming a Master Builder. Little do you know just how hard this journey will turn out to be.
The three small tutorial planets present you with a good sample of the quests you will face in an effort to build up your skills and tools. Your mission is to collect the gold bricks that you will need to restore your ailing rocket ship, as well as beefing up its engines to get you to bigger and better worlds. These gold bricks mark your progress towards the rank of Master Builder - your ultimate goal - along with the powers it grants to craft your own worlds and decorate and populate them as you see fit.
Alongside this search for mastery is the Herculean collecting effort you will undertake as you build up your arsenal of characters, buildings and other landscape features for you to add your own personal touch to each world you set foot on. To do this, you are provided with the Discovery Tool, which will collect up the various plants, people and pachyderms that you bump into and then fire them back out again at a later date. That it looks uncannily like the gravity gun from the Half Life series is, I am sure, entirely coincidental. You are also provided with a more conventional set of building tools to construct, paint and copy your own designs.
Visually, the game is breathtaking. From watching the water around you fragment into tiny bricks as you move, to gazing off at a golden sunset as you ride a giant eagle over a desert plain, there will be something in the shining plastic landscapes that will leave you staring, open-mouthed. The night brings complex and dazzling starscapes; the ocean depths teem with life amidst fascinating shipwrecks and intricate rock formations. It has remarkable detail and each different biome is packed with its own wonders and hidden secrets. The biomes are impressively diverse and cover all bases, from the ridiculous candy worlds with their gingerbread houses and lollipop trees, to the imposing haunting forests filled with witches and dungeons. These all come packaged with an amazing soundtrack that has been perfectly designed to lull you into each world and take you from bounding and rambling through jungles to relaxing by a campfire and just taking it all in. The soundtrack also, however, shows a glimpse of what is to come, as before too long I found myself wandering around with just the hissing of snakes or weird shuffling noises of zombies around me after the soundtrack had, for some reason, given up the ghost.
The game has drawn inevitable (though not totally undeserved) comparisons to Minecraft, but the central tenet to gameplay draws stronger parallels to No Man’s Sky, as you scour new worlds for resources to progress to bigger and better things. The process of building your worlds is more comparable with Little Big Planet, collecting the things that catch your eye as you mess about in each world and popping them up onto your own constructions once you master the game. You do end up underground, picking your way down to treasure chests and dodging angry beasties, but this is a jazzed up and extreme sports version of mining, letting you use a pneumatic hammer to ride down like an express lift through to the very base of the world or blast your way through the rock with a bazooka. Lego Worlds does its best to keep the gameplay simple, exciting and flowing.
Building is certainly an easy enough and satisfying task, though with the odd fiddly bit as you get more precise. Any slip ups can be quickly corrected and you can knock a wall up in next to no time. Any fancy decor or particular thematic elements you are extremely proud of can be copied precisely and easily dropped into each project with the Discovery Tool. Lego Worlds is, at its best, a very smooth and intuitive construction game with a lot of diversity and choice to help you maintain your own sense of style. You are more than adequately equipped to construct the house, town and world of your dreams.
But there are obstructions, not least in collecting the gold bricks you need to get to the good stuff. Quests, for instance, can be somewhat erratic. Whilst those that test your skills with the construction tools are often straightforward enough, there are little quirks that can leave you frustrated. When building a nice wooden house for a frontier farmer, I was left scratching my head in bemusement at the extended dissatisfaction of the client when, to my eyes, I had crafted a quite attractive bungalow with ample attic space for an extension. The source of the farmer’s displeasure turned out to be simple. I had left the door open as I came out from adding the final touches. In another quest, I was asked to spring a bandit from his prison which I accepted only to watch him jump over the admittedly tiny wall himself. The quests lack substance and can often feel like busy work for gold bricks keeping you from the fun of construction.
Another source of gold bricks can be found underground, as you mine out the numerous chests hidden away in tiny caverns below the surface. And this brings its own problems. Chests will show up as icons on the minimap, along with a beam of light from the heavens. However, these offer no indication of depth, and it becomes a case of trial and error in tracking it down if you happen to miss your mark. These chests are also placed randomly as part of the procedural generation, which often sees them in tiny isolated pockets with the side with the prompt for opening the thing buried in the rock, or simply underwater where they become impossible to open. What makes this disappointing is that the game will create interesting cave systems with entrances in the landscape (or even along the side of the world, letting you climb down the edge to reach your treasures). Unfortunately, these caverns often end up without an accessible entrance or lack the coherency to make traditional spelunking worthwhile and leads you to just blasting your way in from above.
It was also when underground that I found most of the technical problems bothering Lego Worlds. After finding and opening a chest after digging down from above, there was a tendency for the game to have difficulties determining my position and hastily throw me back to the surface. Another glitch comes when using the pneumatic hammer to carve your way to these chests and the surrounding rock would either blink out of existence or let you phase through it like Kitty Pryde. On a couple of occasions, I got locked into the Discovery Tool when changing between items, with one occasion being right in front of an NPC holding a gold brick in exchange for help. It was with a tear in my eye that I had to exit to the main menu in helplessness. These problems only became more frequent as the game went on and worlds got bigger.
And, about halfway through the 100 bricks to Master Builder, things start to get sluggish above ground as well. This might be improved on the PS4 Pro but, as I was playing through, more and more bugs seemed to be slipping in. The player character began trying to run up walls rather than climb, causing the engine to spit you up to the surface in panic. When flying about the worlds, draw distance would reduce to the point that I would get held up on invisible walls whilst it tried to build the landscape below me. Your inventory gets slower and slower to load with each new item you collect, and there are an awful lot of them about; created for randomness rather than fulfilling any necessity. The bigger the worlds get, the more it becomes clear that the game is showing real signs of strain from the weight of all the bricks below.
This problem of trying too much at once affects it in gameplay as well as graphically. Collecting gold bricks, either through quests, and excavation is just the start. There are so many other things to collect alongside this which is partly what makes it a hugely exciting and versatile outlet for creation. But it also hinders you. When you start the game, you have a simple set of basic bricks to build with but there are loads more parts to collect, most of which are either found digging for chests again or through Troublemakers. These are little green guys that pop up out of the ground with a new brick type, and you have to chase them down and tackle them in order to add that new brick to your toolkit. These guys have a frustrating habit of skirting with the edge of the world a little too much and are, all in all, a bit tedious when all you really want to be doing is messing around, collecting bricks and recreating Metal Gear Solid in Lego.
And this is where the game does save itself. It is fun when you take yourself off the hunt for gold and simply muck about. There are a whole heap of biomes to discover and vehicles to tear around in and eagles to ride and the worlds themselves are incredibly rich. Diversity of gameplay may suffer a little bit as you get towards the home stretch and quests repeat themselves and chests simply end up dumping a load of studs at your feet, but visually there is nearly always a new type of forest to get lost in and new animals to feed and follow you as you tramp about.
There is an awful lot to enjoy in Lego Worlds and a lot that will give you real satisfaction as you put together your world, as you see fit. Unfortunately, so much will bog you down along the way. With time and patience, you will get to Master Builder status and enjoy the benefits that come with it, but this game is definitely a case of the destination being more rewarding than the journey.