Legos have been around since 1949. They’re a favorite for kids of all ages. The little interlocking plastic blocks inspire children to create, build and play. There have been many Lego videogames, and with computers being a mainstay in today’s society, it was only a matter of time before a virtual universe of Lego where you can build and create and share worldwide was bound to be built.
Lego Universe is a full-featured massively multiplayer online game for kids. It’s currently targeted toward young boys, but if successful, content for girls will be added quickly. I don’t think girls will be too averse to playing the game in its current incarnation, though. There’s a simple story plot that ties the game together, but it isn’t really the focus. It’s a basic adventure tale about good versus evil (called Maelstrom). Maelstrom is basically chaos, and your mission is to build and help keep the chaos at bay.
The game isn’t about leveling like a lot of MMOs; it’s more of a collecting game — similar to other Lego games. I was particularly excited about this aspect and think I’ll really enjoy Lego Universe because of it. I don’t necessarily love leveling, but I do love collecting stuff. Similar to other MMOs, though, Lego Universe will have skills and items (thousands for each), housing, and even pets that you can collect and tame. You’ll also be able to play with others online and party up.
The items you collect will range from every type of Lego piece ever built (except for intellectual property, such as Star Wars or Indiana Jones) for building stuff and weapons — like a fishing pole that would allow you to agro enemies so you can punch them to pieces. There are currently about 20 different pets, which can give you information or directions. I think this is particularly helpful and will be great for kids (and me).
Gameplay in Lego Universe is similar to that of other Lego games on the market, so if you’ve played one, you won’t be lost with the MMO. However, a couple things are different. The world is a fully open 3-D environment in which you can move around freely, and the camera will move with you. This excited me to no end. Other Lego titles have annoyed me due to poor controls. Lego Universe isn’t like that, which is good.
One of my favorite things about Lego Universe isn’t the storyline or the general Lego destruction; it’s the fact that you can build Legos just like real life. Build stuff on your homestead, or build items that are required at showcases throughout the world so that other players can vote on your creation. The showcase areas will tell you what to build but not how to build it. I was shown a showcase that asked players to build a bat. There were many different kinds of bats that were built in various ways. It was cool seeing the different ideas come to life. All voting is positive and kid-friendly in Lego Universe, and you can cycle through the various creations either one at a time or sorted by friends, top-voted or other options.
Another awesome thing about Lego Universe is that beyond building static objects, you can assign behaviors to items and add actions to the stuff you build. This is similar to Lego Mindstorms that you buy in real life and will add a great deal of replayability to the game.
If you build something in Lego Universe and wish you had it in real life, you’re also in luck. You can export anything you build in game to Lego.com and buy that item. Lego will create a kid and customized box and send you the product. I thought this was a marvelous feature. Kids can’t just click and buy, but if you’re in game and add it to your treasure box and export to Lego.com, the item will be available for you (or your parents or grandparents or friends, etc.) to buy. I think this will be a great option for gifts for kids — a real-life toy that shows the fun and creativity from their online world.
The graphics in Lego Universe are like those of similar Lego games, so nothing is too new. However, this isn’t all that important. I think having the similar look and feel is a good thing. There will be a small monthly subscription for Lego Universe, but that cost is not being disclosed yet. I’ve been told it will be modest and less than most MMOs, though.
Lego Universe looks like it’s shaping up to be quite the MMO for kids (and some adults). I know many adults who love Legos and may not have much time or room to play with them in real-life. But Lego Universe just may keep them building and entertained. For kids, this is definitely a game I’d recommend. It’s rare nowadays for videogames to promote such problem-solving and imaginative learning. For more information about Lego Universe, visit www.legouniverse.com.