Building with LEGO every child’s dream! But wait, an online giant lego MMO? Could it be magic?
Could it be even remotely fun? Find out in my review for SquareGo.
Imagine being asked to create a new concept for a Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO). What would you think? Where do you begin? Considering that MMOs are hardly thin on the ground these days, with new games cropping up (and dying out) with startling regularity, it’s clear that what every good MMO requires is a catchy hook, to make it a winning proposition to the willing cash-paying punter. Ideally, it needs to be both appealing to children and adults. If suitable for both, then it’s accesible to all.
Well, it might strike you to think of something simple, a child’s toy, say perhaps LEGO? Bingo! Surefire no-brainer hit on your hands. Let’s look at the pedigree: 60 years of building toys and in the last five years a slew of unbelievably successful movie tie-in titles such as LEGO Batman or Indiana Jones. Genius! It has it all; family friendly, cutesy but clever and above all creative. LEGO is Universal, there’s even a title in there somewhere, you might ponder. Well that’s what NetDevil did, they took the appeal of LEGO and applied it to the structure and concept of the MMO, and the result was… Sadly, hit and miss.
LEGO Universe begins beautifully, from the seamlessly simple and intuitive opening menus, to the way that the game chooses a character name for your avatar while it checks the name you input wasn’t offensive. The opening introduction sequence, shows a host of good LEGO people being attacked by grim purple-smoke billowing ‘slightly nasty’ LEGO people, and quite apart from looking very similar to the South Park episode Imaginationland, this is the perfect intro to the world. In fact the game is brimming with ideas!
There then follows a short segment detailing how the four wise, and very different LEGO leaders found the essence of pure Imagination on the planet Crux. One, however, was a little shifty and managed to unleash the Maelstrom, an evil purple smokey cloud of general unpleasantness which creates Stromlings, the enemies of imagination, thriving on disorder and chaos. Okay, so hardly original, but still a fair setting for a challenging world.
The problem is that after setting up this world and the four ‘factions’ to choose from, there isn’t much else to do other than wander through the relatively few worlds and hit things. There isn’t any fom of levelling up in this game, the only progression a player can hope for is to kill enough enemies to be able to buy new armour or weapons. This doesn’t sound that bad in theory, until you realise that the amounts of coin you receive from killing the Stromlings mean you need to slaughter them on a scale usually reserved for the evil genii in fantasy movies. Well, if you want to get anywhere in the game you do.
The other aspect of the game is the inevitable building segment. In LEGO Universe that’s reduced to building your own home, which can then be visited by other players to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at your imagination and your talent, or lack thereof. Which would be great, except it’s a finicky and cumbersome building tool. It might work eventually, but it’s a dozen times harder to use than actual LEGO, which defeats the purpose somewhat.
What’s also annoying is that the few other ‘missions’ the game lays out are easily completed in seconds, or involve massive amounts of trekking around the sizable maps at the speed of an ambling duck. Now while in the grand scheme of MMOs this isn’t a terrible thing, it just emphasises the utter lack of forward-thought in the game. Yes, the LEGO aspect is there, the game looks and sounds great and the controls are simple yet effective. However the game consists of hitting things until they break, then running around until they respawn, over and over again. What’s worse the game at time of writing is quite short, presumably new worlds will swell the playable areas in the coming months but there just isn’t anything here to warrant continuing to pay for the game.
As it stands it’s a hugely average MMO with a massive lack of scope. So unless you’re the sort of grind-loving player who will happily repeat the same action a thousand times, and then wait until expansions are released, or maybe you’re a building fanatic with a LEGO fetish. It’s hard to recommend this over the other existing online worlds.
To think it all started off so promising.