A LEGO game lacking the franchise affiliations of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Batman could have ended up feeling generic. Instead, Jumpgate developer NetDevil has delivered a massively multiplayer world where you get to bash ninjas, astronauts, pirates and medieval knights, all while platforming through castles and spaceships.
Rather than end up burdened by the dual expectations that come with being a massively multiplayer game and having to follow in the footsteps of those aforementioned and highly successful Traveller’s Tales games – LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Batman and LEGO Indiana Jones – LEGO Universe is using the best of both. In the process, it’s making something unique: a massively multiplayer platform game.
Consider creativity, one of the core expectations that come with a LEGO game. The beloved building-block toy is all about clicking pieces together to create your own toys. In the Traveller’s Tales games, building was accomplished simply by standing near piles of loose bricks and holding down a button to construct predefined objects. It was satisfying, but not exactly creative. LEGO Universe begins with that same mechanic and takes it three steps further.
The first of those steps is the ability to create your own ‘minifig’ – the little yellow men that embody everything LEGO. You cycle through the available trousers, torsos, hairstyles and heads, slotting them together before picking eyes and mouth to create a screaming businessman or ecstatic slacker. The second step is modular building. On your adventures, fighting through the enemies in each area, you’ll be rewarded with predefined building blocks that can slot together in creative ways. When we spoke to Ryan Seabury, the game’s Creative Director, he told us of one mission – acquired, in the usual fashion, by speaking to NPCs – that involves constructing a spaceship to escape from a dangerous situation. Nice and vague, but the spaceship you design goes on to feature throughout the game in later missions.
The third improvement Universe makes is brick-by-brick building. That means creating objects exactly as you would in the real world, by slotting individual bricks together to create absolutely anything you want. You have total control. You can use this method to create your own in-game house, a meeting point where all your friends can congregate, and potentially much more.