When Funcom, the publisher behind Age of Conan and The Secret World, unveiled their in-development MMO based on the LEGO franchise dubbed LEGO Minifigures Online last summer we were very skeptical and none too impressed. Warner Bros. had previously attempted to breach the MMO market with Lego Universe Online but that game’s servers were shutdown less than a year and a half after launch.
Would Minifigures online offer a “LEGO” experience worthy of the brand and the toys? Would users finally be able to explore a world made of LEGO, building and creating wherever and whatever they please?
This is the official description of LEGO Minifigures Online from Funcom:
Get ready to meet the Minifigures! Collect them all and bring them with you on grand adventures in LEGO Minifigures Online – an epic online adventure where you get to explore colorful locations such as Pirate World, Space World and Medieval World!
Play together with thousands of other players and battle your way through monstrous riff-raff as you develop your Minifigures’ unique and powerful abilities. Smash, build and collect – thousands of exciting adventures are just a brick away in LEGO Minifigures Online!
The emphasis is placed on the online aspect and adventure, promising players and “build and collect” through different themed worlds. We knew from the initial announcement that Minifigures is designed for kids with “maximum accessibility” (their words), but from the gameplay trailer up top and screenshots below, it appears the game may be taking the route of generic, simplified adventure game with traditional character and environmental designs substituted for LEGO minifigures and constructs, respectively.
Outside of the branding then, what about this game and its gameplay truly make it a LEGO game and why will this succeed where Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s Lego Universe Online failed? Could the LEGO aesthetic of the minifigures and interactive objects be stripped away and make no difference?
Having not played the game, we can’t say for sure, but from the trailer and screenshots, it seems Minifigures doesn’t attempt to explore the simple ability to share a large world (made of blocks) and build whatever they want wherever they want. Many of the licensed LEGO games over the years provided fun – albeit dumbed down – adventure game experiences, but LEGO was used in all of them as a gimmick (hold ‘X’ to auto-build predefined object, smash LEGO object to pick up LEGO coins, etc.) and not as the core pillar of the game design. Players took on the role of characters in a standard third-person or top-down (linear) adventure, the only difference being that their characters look like LEGO people.
Our question to you then becomes, do you want a LEGO game where you can actually collect and play with LEGO as you would in real life, something akin to a more visually pleasing Minecraft built on a better game engine, or do you want more linear adventure games with LEGO characters in a non-LEGO world? Tell us what your perfect online LEGO would entail.
The free-to-play LEGO Minifigures Online does tie-in with actual toy purchases where players can buy a minifigure pack and unlock that character in the game. It looks like it has the potential to be fun, and we hope there’s more under the surface than traditional MMO fair, stripped down to make it “accessible” – we’d have enough of that over the years already. We want to know what this game offer that’s new and unique.
LEGO Minifigures Online releases late 2014 on PC, iOS and Android platforms.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.