Lego Worlds Preview: the toy box built by its own community

Lego Worlds Preview: the toy box built by its own community
Alice Bell Updated on by

Video Gamer is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices subject to change. Learn more

Lego Worlds has been on Steam Early Access since June 2015, but it is imminently getting a proper retail release, with boxes and everything. I got to play hands on with this build, which is coming to all the current gen on March 10 and the Switch at an unspecified future date.

Many people have been comparing Lego Worlds to Minecraft, because that’s the easiest comparison for a sandbox where you build things with blocks. But it’s also an unfair comparison, because Minecraft is basically Lego fair enough removed to not infringe copyright, which means you are comparing Lego Worlds to Lego, and duh. Also, as far as I’m aware, there is no mechanic in Minecraft whereby you can continually fire cats into the air.

Cat firing isn’t the first thing you can do, though. Another difference is that there is a kind of quest progression in Lego Worlds. Your aim is to become a Master Builder by collecting gold bricks (by e.g. building a piratey throne for a piratey king). As you get more gold bricks you unlock larger worlds to explore until finally, you, who started life as an astronaut hurtling towards a procedurally generated pirate island, are able to build your own worlds from scratch. The example given by Chris Rose, an Associate Producer at TT Games who gave me an intro to the game, was an arctic tundra he recently created — and populated entirely with monkeys.

As you progress through the game, collecting gold bricks, you unlock a range of tools that do different things. The first one you get is the Discover tool, which allows you to clone almost anything you find in the game (including buildings and vehicles) and, once you’ve unlocked it in your inventory, recreate in the world. This is how the cat firing occurred, although I also built a gingerbread house on a volcanic world full of skeletons, and filled it with snakes. I called it the House of Snakes. In my mind.

LEGO Worlds Release Date Screens

Your full roster of tools include a painting one, which changes the colour of whatever you’re aiming it on; a landscaping tool to level buildings, dig holes in the ground, or smooth out mountain edges; and Freebuild, which is a more advanced way to create things. You can even place bricks one by one, choosing their size, shape and colour individually if you want to. This was, however, more difficult to do accurately using an analogue stick than I imagine it would be using a mouse and keyboard. In either case becoming proficient at building will take a bit of fooling around, if only to get used to all the controls and how they all work together — it’s not going to be as accessible to children as sticking two physical blocks together with your hands, like how a caveman plays with toys.

In fact, Rose explained that the feedback from the early access was that ‘Getting everything at once was overwhelming’, which is why the different tools are introduced gradually now. ‘That was born out of a lot of questions, the starter worlds which sort of teach you the tools and give you the reason behind why you do the things you do.’

UI niggles aside, Lego Worlds looks like getting access to an infinite Lego toy box, which in the long term is cheaper than buying loads of actual Lego, and without the danger of stepping on any blocks you’ve left on the floor — one of the most painful experiences known to man, ranking just below ‘stepping on a plug’ but slightly above ‘sitting on own leg until it goes dead and then falling on your face when you try to stand up’. If free form building seems daunting at first, there’s a server with pre-built models that the devs will refresh every so often, and they eventually want users to share their own designs on it. The game will be theoretically limited not by your imagination, but everyone else’s.

The users on the Steam Early Access, having had almost two years practise, are taking full advantage of what’s available to them. 

LEGO Worlds Release Date Screens

‘There’s a lot of LotR fans out there, we realised. They love making Mordor in our volcanic biome, and we’ve had these guys making the mines of Moria from scratch,’ said Rose, excited and surprised by fans of his game in equal measure. ‘Some guy built a giant octopus in the clouds. Huge, absolutely massive. There’s been just unbelievable things being made.’ He showed us the octopus, a cephalopod rendered in deep red bricks, tentacles curled languidly around the clouds keeping him aloft, at once majestic and terrifying. ‘Even really small things, people were like, “Where’s the dinosaurs?” We went “Where are the dinosaurs?! Here’s some dinosaurs.” So we added some dinosaurs.’ 

‘The biggest demand was the online mode. It was originally going to be the last thing we did,’ Rose explained, ‘We released the online mode and people went mad for it, and it’s helped because we’ve seen them do more things that we didn’t expect them to do, like creating racetracks, capture the flag courses, paintball arenas — people love making paintball arenas!’

Lego Worlds certainly looks slick in the way one now expects a Lego game will — shiny, plasticated, brightly coloured, giving you a vague desire to eat everything in it because it all looks tasty — and you’d hardly expect the large group project that’s gone into it. ‘We’re ever so grateful to the players,’ Rose said, incredibly earnestly. ‘Everything that’s in the game now has definitely been sculpted by what they’ve helped us do.’ Not only that, but the experience was surprisingly positive, rather than people sending feedback that just says ‘u mad lol’ and spending all their time building giant dicks out of Lego bricks. ‘There’s not been any negativity, if there’s a negative comment there’s something positive behind it,’ said Rose. ‘It was just investment, people were so invested.’

As a sandbox game Lego Worlds isn’t necessarily going to steal all the Minecraft players who are already entrenched in their own world of cubes. But then, it might not need to. It’s been quietly growing a community all of its own for a while, one which seems to be having a marvellous time: over 80% of the reviews so far on Steam are positive. If it keeps building on that, presumably with bricks, then it’ll do alright.

LEGO Worlds Release Date Screens