style="width: 640px; height: 305px;" alt="Lego Universe Logo"

I can still vividly
recall a countless
number of my childhood's afternoons spent sitting on the floor of my
bedroom surrounded by thousands of tiny plastic building blocks
strewn about in untidy piles and stowed in bins, bags and boxes. I'd
snap together wings, cockpits and laser guns and fly to the stars, or
craft fearsome mechanical-looking dragons to do battle against my
valiant miniature knights. Pirate ships, castles, race cars,
monsters, and endless other creations poured from the imagination of
my youthful mind and filled these blocky constructs with a life of
their own.

I know I'm not the only
with such
memories. You needn't look far in our modern world to hear a tale of
a structural engineer or architectural designer who
got their inspiration from LEGO building blocks as a kid. Somehow the
infinite possibilities these small and seemingly inconsequential bits
of plastic held allowed us to reach out to imaginary worlds that
other toys of our age had no chance of invoking.

And now it seems that
developers are showing off the results of their own youthful
inspirations. Developed by NetDevil and published by Gazillion Games,
it is obvious to me that LEGO Universe not only
pays tribute to those
childhood memories but seeks to create an entirely new set of them
for an entirely new generation of kids from ages 3 to 103.

The world of LEGO

is extremely
kid-friendly. The moment I entered the game I noticed several
restrictions put into place to protect younger players.
There are chat filters, two-sided friend confirmations, and even a
barrier to having a custom avatar name. But despite these
restrictions the game never feels tied down by them. The social
constructs are
easy enough to adapt to if you make the assumption that everyone you
meet online is 5 or 6 years old, which, given the marketing strategy
this title is employing, may not be far from the truth. The most
difficult hurdle to overcome is the chat filter, since each
individual word must be on the server's “approved” list in order
to appear in a sentence. For a writer accustomed to expressing
himself in a number of different ways this was less of a hurdle, but
I could see it quickly becoming frustrating for the average gamer. If
you’re an adult planning to play this game with friends I highly
recommend the use of a third-party voice chat system (such as
Ventrilo or TeamSpeak) to overcome this social restriction.

style="width: 400px; height: 356px; float: left;"
alt="Dr Overbuild"
src="" hspace="5"
you're even given the
opportunity interact with other players though, you are faced with a
series of customization choices that should immediately delight any
fan of LEGO toys. During the creation of your “minifigure,” you are
given a rotating display of hair, face and clothing options, many of
which can also change color. The interface for this is adorable and
even includes small vocal cues from your work-in-progress avatar as
you make choices regarding their appearance. Despite the multitude of
choices here, don't feel as though you have to get it “just right”
before proceeding. Almost every piece of equipment you will find and
equip in the game will change your default appearance in one way or
another – from headgear, to shirts and pants – so the only real
choice to worry about is your facial features. But even those are
frequently concealed by ninja scarves, helmets and such. Your name,
however, is completely unique and will stay with you for the
remainder of your days. If you choose to have a custom name, it will
be sent to the “Mythrans” (aka Customer Service) for manual
review and approved or denied on a case-by-case basis. You can
this review process by selecting your name from the presets
available, which can present options along the lines of
“FluffyBunnyPants” or “RexTreasureKing” depending on your

Once your minifigure is
created you will
be treated to a remarkable cut scene explaining the backstory of the
LEGO Universe. Here's a spoilerific summary:
explorers from across
space and time found a source of Imagination – the great power that
creates and shapes the LEGO Universe. But through
the twisted dreams
of one among them, the Imagination became corrupt, and the Maelstrom
was born. It is now up to YOU and your fellow adventurers to reclaim
the power of Imagination and drive back the Maelstrom, through acts
of creation and invention.

I have to stop here and
for a moment, because I feel this story is simply brilliant. It
summarizes a conflict and provides a reason for the game world to
exist, while at the same time offering players the opportunity to
overcome the enemy NOT with direct conflict and combat (though plenty
of that exists), but rather by creating things and using their
imagination. If that’s not the perfect set-up for a LEGO-based
story, then I don't know what is. With such a simple premise,
NetDevil has simultaneously reinforced the best aspects of a toy
created to inspire with a reason to seek out and embrace that
inspiration. I'd like to offer my personal kudos to the team for this
marvelous bit of writing.

style="width: 640px; height: 343px;" alt="The Maelstrom"

style="font-style: italic;">Do you have what it takes to
hold back The Maelstrom?

But, back to the game!
honestly, it doesn't matter so much whether or not the story is any
good, if the game isn't fun to play, right? Well, don't worry about
it, because LEGO Universe does not disappoint in
the gameplay

Upon entering the game
world, you are
faced with a tutorial meant to bring you face-to-face with the
conflict against The Maelstrom while simultaneously teaching you the
mechanics of LEGO Universe. Through a series of
dialogue pop-ups you'll be taught the basics of movement, item
collection, interaction and, most importantly, how to use your
Imagination. Imagination is more than just a concept in LEGO
, it is actually a resource you gather and use to
build and
shape the world around you through a system called Quick-Build. The
Quick-Build system will be recognizable to anyone who has played
single-player LEGO video games, because it consists of busting apart
in the environment, then rearranging their pieces into a more useful
configuration. The only difference in this game is that the act of
building these items requires a specific amount of Imagination.

style="width: 634px; height: 640px;" alt="Quick Build"

In addition to being a
resource for
players to use, Imagination is also used by the game designers to
gate off different types of content by requiring more and more
Imagination to build the means to access said content. As you
progress in the game (better gear, more achievements, etc.) your
available amount of Imagination slowly increases, allowing you to
build more and more complex items using the Quick-Build system. For
example, as a newly-minted minifigure you may not have a hope of
building the jumping pads required to propel you into certain areas
of the world. However, after completing several tasks, and receiving
your rewards, you may find yourself in possession of more than enough
Imagination to take you beyond areas that were previously out of

I can already hear some
you crying
foul about the Imagination/Quick-Build system. After all, we were
promised a nearly infinite range of possibilities. This is LEGO! What
happened to being able to build whatever we want?

style="width: 320px; height: 349px; float: right;"
alt="House Building"
src="">Fear not,
brave creators! One of the
first tasks you will be sent on after completing the first couple of
tutorial areas is to reclaim a portion of the land that has been
corrupted by the Maelstrom. Once you’ve driven the Maelstrom from
this tiny island, and unleashed the Imagination that was held captive
there, you will be free to claim the property as your own. And, once
claimed, you will receive the ability to build upon this property in
whatever manner you desire. Throughout your adventures you will pick
up “bricks” (individual building blocks) and “models”
(collections of pre-assembled bricks) as drops and rewards, and your
island provides a chance to bring them into the game world, and maybe
even help them come alive!

In addition to building
your own
designs and placing models, there is also a behavior editor that can
be used to breathe life into your creations. Examples include making
objects destructible, or giving them motions, or even having them
chase you around your property. The interface to add these behaviors
to your creations is much simpler than one might presume, and is
based upon a simple block-guided “If/Then” series of instructions
that can be snapped to one another much like any other LEGO creation.

we're on the subject of
free-building, I should go ahead and warn you that the virtual LEGO
experience is not without its pitfalls. While it was simple enough
for a kid in his bedroom to sort through buckets of physical pieces,
doing so in a 2-dimensional inventory space is both cumbersome and
unintuitive. There are no sorting options currently available, so
finding the bricks you want or need to complete your masterpiece will
not be as easy as you might have hoped. Additional frustrations may
occur when actually attempting to attach your bricks to your
half-built creations, since you are again working with a combination
of 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional interfaces, and they don't always
cooperate with one another, especially when dealing with large bricks,
since there are so many potential ways to connect them. The game
lacks any sort of intelligence or logic when snapping pieces
together, resulting in some very odd sudden brick movements, and
getting your pieces into the exact configuration you're aiming for
may take longer than expected. Still, I suppose some of these
limitations are to be expected from a system with theoretically
infinite possibilities.

Another major downside to
this system
is that it is not entirely self-contained. In order to obtain the
resources needed to build your own LEGO creations, you will have to
adventure and complete various tasks around the game world, while
collecting further models and bricks to flesh out your available
inventory along the way. However, getting all of the behaviors,
bricks and models you might need to bring your imagination to life in
the manner you prefer is likely to require hours and hours of
adventuring. I realize that saying it like that makes it sound like a
bit of a chore. Sadly, that's because it can be.

style="width: 640px; height: 339px;" alt="Nimbus Station"

style="font-style: italic;">Meet up with your fellow
minifigs here at Nimbus Station

Combat and conflict drive
the world of
LEGO Universe, despite the primary story motivator
being creation and
imagination. On the way to achieving your next creation-themed goal,
you will no doubt have to come toe-to-toe with any number of
different Maelstrom-infected bad dudes. And, unfortunately, the
combat mechanics of LEGO Universe stand out as the
biggest black mark
on its report card. The targeting mechanics are designed to be easy
to use by automatically locking on to a nearby target, but this
usually ends up muddying the controls, making it very easy to get
turned around and destroyed, especially when using one of the ranged
weapons that many will receive early on. It can sometimes be
difficult to see who you are attacking, and there's not much feedback
given regarding the effectiveness of your combat techniques.
Generally, you either win or lose, with no middle-ground.
Fortunately, “death” is relatively painless, since you suffer
nothing more than a slight penalty to the amount of coins you're
carrying (which seem very easy to obtain in large quantities) and a
reset to a safe place on the map. Still, I found myself avoiding
combat as much as possible, simply to not burden myself with the

style="width: 640px; height: 416px;" alt="Racing minigame"
src="" hspace="5"

adventuring areas in LEGO Universe
are created in such a way that you are continually given tasks as you
explore further and further into each instanced area. Along the way
you can also make discoveries and achieve any one of hundreds
(possibly thousands) of passive achievements that are tracked
throughout your minifigure's
lifetime. These can range from simply locating areas and collecting
items, to destroying a certain number of objects or enemies, or
completing a set number of Quick-Builds. The resulting combinations
provided by these many paths to progression creates a style of
gameplay achievers are likely to find extremely addictive. At every
turn you are given a new task or achievement to complete, and since
each one is relatively easy the chance for almost instant
gratification exists around every new corner. And, as if that wasn't
enough, there are also mini-games (like a race track and a shooting
gallery) to offer even more avenues for advancement and achievements.

Despite the vast amount
content and
possibilities contained in this type of gameplay model, I started to
feel like it all kind of blended together after a few hours. Since
each achievement was usually painless to obtain, I never felt as if
I'd done anything of particular note, despite having several upgrades
and a bulging bag of bricks to show for it all. I suspect that this
is an age-related issue, however, since LEGO Universe
is obviously
intended to be enjoyed by a younger generation, one that perhaps has
less experience with online gameplay mechanics. I would caution
NetDevil not to underestimate their player base, however, because
I've met young players who could outrank me in a number of online
games. Some deeper gameplay mechanics may become necessary down the
line. I'm not sure this system of collecting and achieving will give
the game the lifespan necessary to see a significant return on

style="width: 640px; height: 354px;"
alt="Shooting Gallery minigame"

Still, I can't deny that
have, on the
whole, had an extremely enjoyable time adventuring and creating in
LEGO Universe. As a kid in my 30s, I feel this is an
MMOG worth
checking out, and one that can safely be enjoyed by kids of all ages.
With a low client cost set at just $39.99 and a monthly subscription
fee of only $9.99 (or less if you buy in bulk) it is also more
affordable than many other MMOGs currently on the market. And
relatively relaxed system requirements keep the barrier to entry quite
low. No other
MMOG offers such a unique combination of creation, imagination,
socialization, and achievements, all wrapped up in an endlessly
charming package. I look forward to many hours spent in LEGO
, reliving those imagination-fueled afternoons of my
Only now I won't have to clean up after myself when I'm through
creating my spaceship. Or monster. Or whatever!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our LEGO Universe Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

A longtime fan of competitive gaming, Jeremy got his first chance to work in the field as a writer for eSportsMax. Now eSports Editor for TenTonHammer, he looks to keep readers aware of all of the biggest events and happenings in the eSports world, while also welcoming new fans who aren't yet sure where to go to get the most relevant information. Jeremy always looks to provide content for new fans and veterans alike, believing that helping as many people as possible enjoy all the scene has to offer is key to its growth.


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