upon the success of single-player titles like style="font-style: italic;">LEGO Star Wars and style="font-style: italic;">LEGO Batman,
NetDevil's LEGO Universe
promises a massive online world filled with imagination and mayhem for
children and adults. The developers have endeavored to create an online
experience that takes the fun and quirkiness of previous LEGO titles
and infuses it with the social interaction and limitless possibilities
of an MMOG.
So, how'd they do? Is such a feat even possible, or will the addition
of an online experience to LEGO
Universe somehow interfere with the overall enjoyment?
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/91848"> style="font-style: italic;">LEGO Universe is a
game marketed toward children and their parents, and every mechanic is
developed in a way that allows kids to safely enjoy their online time
without fear of inappropriate behavior from other players. It's also
not quite as deep or content-rich as many premium MMOGs simply because
it is aiming for an audience with a different type of attention span
Despite this fact, I'm going to be reviewing the game from my own
perspective as an adult and veteran MMOG player, similar to the bulk of
Ten Ton Hammers audience. So, while the LEGO brand definitely spans
generations, it may be best to keep in mind that I am not style="font-style: italic;">LEGO Universes
primary target demographic.
Gameplay - 75 / 100
the program as a whole: building (which takes place on your private
property) and adventuring (which is done everywhere else).
very little to say against the Building side of this game, which really
shouldn't come as a surprise given that it bears the LEGO brand.
Sorting through the large number of bricks you'll obtain during your
adventures can be quite a task, but NetDevil recently implemented a few
sorting options to ease this pain (though they take a little getting
used-to). The actual act of snapping together three-dimensional blocks
while utilizing a two-dimensional interface represents a unique set of
challenges, but there's really not much alternative to this method.
Despite these minor inconveniences, the practically infinite amount of
content that LEGO
Universes Brick Build system offers is more than enough
to make up for a few lumps. It really does capture the joy and wonder
of creating things with your own two hands, even if the results only
exist in a virtual space.
Sadly, I can't say anything remotely as nice about the adventuring side
of the game. Combat in particular comes up short, with the outcome
determined basically by how fast you can click, and how lucky you get
with the interface. It probably would have been a lot easier, and ended
up making more sense, if NetDevil had implemented some form of standard
MMOG target and hotkey system, instead of the action-oriented hit
what's in front of you system they've used. The controls for combat
are occasionally unintuitive, and ranged combat is so frustrating that
I ditched my guns within hours of first receiving them. When I want to
shoot a pirate, I don't want to suddenly turn 90-degrees and fire at a
nearby banana tree. That's not how you win battles. Furthermore there's
very little feedback on whether or not the tactics you are using are
effective in any way no traditional numbers scrolling up over the bad
guys' heads, and no combat log.
Ultimately the main drawback of adventuring in style="font-style: italic;">LEGO U is that
there's simply not enough to do. After just two weeks, I felt as though
I'd explored almost all of the content available to me, and was
probably within just a couple dozen hours of having achieved all I
could before the game degenerated into a grind-fest for gear upgrades.
Fortunately, I could always unwind by heading back to one of my
properties and building a pirate ship or a fancy floating house.
Graphics - 65 / 100
when I first got a hands-on glimpse at style="font-style: italic;">LEGO Universe. One
of the key points in our conversation revolved around keeping the
barrier for entry to a game like this very low, and that meant dialing
back the graphical requirements of the game to ensure that it would run
on systems that are exactly not state-of-the-art.
While I will give NetDevil full marks for achieving this feat and
keeping the game crisp and clean looking on even low-end machines, the
lack of many modern lighting effects and complicated texture and
modeling techniques does stand out in today's world of photo-realistic
scenery and avatars. They're able to get away with cutting quite a few
corners graphically, since LEGO is by definition blocky-looking. But
beyond the avatars and buildings, even the scenery shares a similar
two-dimensional look much of the time. It is by no means an eyesore,
but at the same time not eye candy either.
alt="aerial view of Nimbus Station"
I get the feeling that NetDevil simply doesn't feel that a LEGO
experience needs to be graphically rich. In a way I agree with them
after all, that's half the charm of games that fly the LEGO banner
but at the same time, I was disappointed with jerky animations,
lackluster environments and rendering issues that would sometimes leave
floating objects suspended over strangely misshapen landscapes.
Sound - 95 / 100
cut scene narrated by none other than renowned actor Sir Patrick
Stewart. Accompanying this epic introduction is a score that is heroic
and inspiring, urging you to pick up your sword/hammer/wrench/flowerpot
and slay the nearest Maelstrom critter. The quality of the soundtrack
continues through every zone you visit and not once did I feel the need
to turn the volume down or off the way I might in other games.
Combat sounds and random snapping noises of LEGO bricks getting smashed
and reassembled are all handled perfectly subtle where needed, and
overwhelming when necessary. Whether snapping a couple bricks together
in Brick Build mode, or doing battle with an enormous
maelstrom-infected gorilla, the sounds you are treated to are always
appropriate and high quality.
The only detractor is that many elements within the game seem to be
missing their sound effects entirely, or simply fail to activate them
on a regular basis. What is in the world is excellent and never fails
to impress me, but I feel as though a lot more needs to be included.
Multiplayer - 40 / 100
is intended to be played primarily by kids. As such, every single
social interaction is tightly controlled by a series of draconian
checks and balances to ensure that children, and their parents are
never subjected to inappropriate material. All words spoken in public
channels must come from pre-approved lists, and you can't even give
your avatar a custom name without being approved manually by the
customer service staff. Most players seem to avoid grouping and
interacting since these restrictions are so heavy-handed that theyre
simply not worth the effort to work around.
alt="Free your Imagination"
way to avoid the aforementioned social restrictions is by making anyone
you know a Best Friend, an act that includes both of you revealing
quite a bit of personal information to one another. Engaging in
something with a total stranger on the other end of the Internet that
you'd only feel comfortable doing with a real-life friend or family
memberit is probably best avoided. Of course that's exactly the point,
but it leaves the game world feeling like nothing more than a
single-player experience you happen to be enjoying alongside other
people playing the same game. Alone in a crowded room.
So what's the point of socializing? All of the mini-games included in style="font-style: italic;">LEGO Universe will
score you against your friends whenever you complete an objective,
allowing you to compete with them even if they are offline. There are
also a few specific mini-games and quests that are nearly impossible if
attempted solo. Unfortunately, the game fails to distinguish group
content from solo content so it's never a matter of encouraging you to
group but instead simply penalizing you for not doing so.
At this time there is no end-game content in style="font-style: italic;">LEGO Universe.
There are no raids or dungeons, and there is also no direct PvP combat.
Did I mention the game was light on content?
Value - 87 / 100
followed the same design philosophy when setting up the pay structure
for this game. The retail box will run you only $40 with a monthly
subscription of just $10 (or less if purchased in bulk).
I'll gladly admit that this slightly lower-than-average price point
makes up for a lot of the game's other shortcomings.$10 is less than a
single movie ticket, and I'm likely to get more than a few hours of
enjoyment out of LEGO
Universe on a monthly basis. As long as I can easily
obtain the bricks I need to build my next masterpiece, the Brick Build
function alone is worth the retail and subscription fee.
However, not everyone is a fan of bringing their imagination to life
through the Brick Build system, and many seek to enjoy the adventuring,
questing and combat of
LEGO Universe. For folks with that specific content in
mind, I can guarantee you'll be disappointed in the value, due to the
lack of different types of adventuring content to enjoy
Lasting Appeal - 100 / 100
offer players the opportunity to create and build in such imaginative
ways. Until another contender comes along that can offer me a building
system as rich and limitless, LEGO
U will remain installed on my system for many months to
come. I believe the same would be true for any other builders out
there, as well.
Note that I'm only considering the Brick Build system in this rating.
The adventuring content in LEGO
Universe could barely fill one month of enjoyment. The
replay is entirely in bringing your imagination to life in brick form.
Pros and Cons
- Music and sounds are incredibly well-crafted
- Appears stable and relatively crash-free
- Low system requirements
- Great value for the cost
- Incredible, nearly limitless Brick Build experience
- Backstory of the universe is excellent and appropriate
- Flat, unimaginative quests
- Not enough content
- Overbearing social restrictions
- Ranged weaponry practically unusable due to unpredictable
- Sorting through massive piles of LEGO bricks is more fun in
with an infinite number of bricks, I would. Until such a program is
offered, I'm going to make-do with LEGO
Universe. The adventuring side of the game is really just
a distraction and a way to waste time until the next bout of
brick-related inspiration hits, and will not offer sufficient content
to satisfy the appetites of most gamers. Unless you, too, are a
building fanatic then you're in for a potentially limitless amount of
creativity-fueled play time.
Overall 70/100 - Okay
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