No matter what its developers say, there's no escaping that Lego Worlds bears uncanny similarities to Minecraft. Of course, Mojang's sandbox build-'em-up itself taps into the same simple pleasures of building whatever the imagination wants afforded by real Lego. This cyclical influence, along with two years of early access experience on PC, has allowed TT Games to craft a title that, while familiar, also stands on its own. Well, mostly.
For one, Lego Worlds has a story. Not a terribly complex one – it taps into the ‘mythology' of the Lego movies, presenting players with the end goal of becoming a Master Builder, following a spaceship crash in the game's opening moments. It's scant plot material, but it does give players some direction, and a nice contrast to Minecraft's sometimes daunting wilderness.
There's more complexity to the worlds you'll be exploring too. Rather than one near-infinite mass, Lego Worlds is split into biomes, each with their own challenges and resources, and drawing from real Lego toy sets. Exploring these environments will introduce plenty of recognisable gameplay mechanics to anyone who's played the standalone Lego games – destroying objects to gather studs; easily dispatched foes to smack the plastic out of; simple quests to complete.
Unfortunately, not all biomes are available instantly. Access to new areas is awarded through collecting the now-familiar Gold Bricks, earned through completing tasks. This is the awkward trade-off that sits at the heart of Lego Worlds – it wants to give players the freedom to do whatever they like, but also guide them; to give access to all its features while using progression mechanics to reward completing missions.
Where matters get substantially more complex is in how you actually build and reshape the biomes once you've unlocked them. Lego Worlds packs in thousands of objects to build, but you uncover plans for them rather than construct at will, building them brick-by-brick. These often factor into quests, with characters asking for certain structures to be built or items delivered, but they can be placed or used ad-hoc. However, to add an object to your catalogue you'll generally have to scan an existing version in the world, meaning the game feels padded as you run around committing everything to record.
Worlds feels fiddly, too. With a radial wheel of building tools to choose from, and an increasing library of menu screens for object designs, it can become frustrating trying to find the exact thing you're looking for. With categories and subsections, TT Games has done a commendable job of trying to make the extraordinary volume of objects more accessible, but there's still an almost overwhelming volume of stuff to wade through.
Vehicles prove a highlight too, something that, mine carts aside, Lego Worlds' chief competition doesn't have an easy analogue for. From Lego staples such as cars and boats to deep-earth mining drills and even dinosaurs, tearing around a biome without a purpose is still fun.
Ultimately, Lego Worlds isn't as ‘pure' a building sandbox as its rivals, but its also not as well-polished and focused as the likes of Lego Star Wars or the Lego Marvel games. Straddling the line between the two, this will pick up some fans of either, but doesn't yet feel competent enough to take their places.
Hopefully, Worlds will prove more engaging as the game is refined – despite leaving Early Access, TT Games has plans to keep the game updated, and more user-created objects filter into the ecosystem, but for now, it's likely to be the reserve of hardcore Lego fans more than anyone else.