|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: NetDevil||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: TBA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Q2 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: TBA||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
January 22, 2010 - The LEGO series of games has grown beyond what anybody thought it could achieve when it first hit store shelves in the form of LEGO Star Wars back in March of 2005. The series has become rampantly popular and has received multiple new iterations. Now, LEGO's latest adventure ventures into the crowded realm of the massively multiplayer online role playing game.
"I can't imagine a better property to work with as an MMO," said Ryan Seabury, Creative Director for LEGO Universe in an interview with us. "LEGO can combine completely different settings and ideas and make them work together, and it still makes sense, including past, present, and future. So the potential to explore infinite ideas exists in LEGO Universe like no other. Even reaching beyond all the official play themes that LEGO releases as toys and into what the player community will create and share themselves."
When it launches in the second half of this year, LEGO will have to face some serious competition for consumer's MMO playing time. Entrenched favorites like Wizard 101 and Free Realms have already been out for a while and have built-in player bases. So to succeed, LEGO is going to have to turn all of that around and truly break the mold in order to sway MMO-players from those other extremely popular games. But NetDevil certainly believes they're up to the task. While they think they've got lots of new ideas of their own, they're also playing other MMOs and gathering research of all kinds for inspiration.
"We certainly draw inspiration from countless games and styles, MMOs and otherwise," said Seabury. "Our team plays just about anything and everything, from big to small: We have players of World of Warcraft, Runescape, Wizard 101, City of Heroes, Villains, Everquest, EVE, Warhammer, Club Penguin, Free Realms, Aion...I could go on and on. You never know where a really cool idea might come from, so the more you take in the more ideas mix and mingle in your head, and that's the essence of being creative."
Some of our favorite new aspects in LEGO Universe are truly unique and a lot of fun to play around with. From the fully customizable and upgradeable "mini-fig" LEGO action figures that are your in-game character to the awesome and malleable way that character classes are being handled. Your character itself doesn't have a class of its own, but is instead a blank slate capable of becoming any class just by donning its equipment. Want to become a ninja? Just put on the ninja suit and you'll be sneaking past enemies in no time with silent footsteps.
Seabury also talked to us a bit about the new brick building system that's being implemented. "I especially love the idea of having my own world within the game where I can do some cool stuff with all the bricks and models I've been earning," he said. "For example, I'm a huge Starcraft fan, and I like building little homages to the units from that and my other favorite games."
However, with all of its original trappings, and innovative style, you might be surprised to see that the main gameplay of LEGO Universe plays a lot like many other MMOs you might be familiar with. Of course, the aesthetic and personality is all its own, but quests and zones will seem quite familiar to those who play modern MMOs.
On the one hand, you always hope that a game is going to usher in a new era of innovative design, but on the other hand it's always best to give an established launching point for fans of the genre so that they aren't confused.
Quests play themselves out very similar to fetch quests and puzzles found in other MMOs. The refreshing part of the game comes from the constant change of scenery. Zones don't gradually turn from forest into plains and then into desert (as you might find in games like World of Warcraft). Instead, one moment you're in the tutorial area in space, and the next you're in the jungle in a pirate-infested fortress, sneaking by in your ninja suit. There's never a dull moment, and the constantly evolving areas make sure of that.
The release date for LEGO Universe is still unannounced, but we'll be keeping a close eye on this title as it moves from open beta and readies for launch.
CCC Freelance Writer