50 MMOs in 50 Days #27: LEGO Universe

Last played: 2011
Experience: Very Minimal

It wasn’t exactly Gods & Heroes bad – LEGO Universe actually worked, at least – but what it delivered in the game seemed a whole lot less than what was promised on paper. The buzzword for the game was “Imagination” but all I saw was a bland, outdated, and completely unimaginative game.

My gameplay can be summed up thusly: I made a character, killed some stuff, killed some more stuff, joined a faction, killed some more stuff, moved on to the next zone, killed some more stuff, and then set it down. I could smash the environmental items to get blocks and currency, but that was about all it had that made me think of the single-player LEGO games, which is what I thought (perhaps not due to any reason other than desire) it would be like. Otherwise, it was a typical 90-percenter MMO: do the same stuff you do in any MMO 90% of the time and occasionally do the fun and interesting stuff the other 10%.

LEGOUniverse_World_5662750_lrgThere was some kind of “freeform” building in the game, and it sounded pretty neat, with AI and everything, but it wasn’t available in the beta build I played, I didn’t get up to it in the time I played on live, and, based on the kinds and numbers of blocks I was getting, got the impression that it was very grindy and would have taken me a long time to accumulate enough blocks to do anything interesting.

It really is staggering that a game with such a major license and a pedigree of great video games behind it could fail so badly by ignoring everything that it did well in order in its offline versions to wedge itself into an MMO-style design (kinda like this). At least Gods & Heroes, which was bounced around and in development purgatory for the better part of a decade… you can see how that went bad.

LEGO Universe went free-to-play and then folded in about a year’s time (yet there’s still a website), which shows how badly it was managed. It was so bad, NetDevil’s lead developer left the company and the MMO industry as a whole.

I haven’t tried Funcom’s LEGO Minifigures Online yet, but I’m more hopeful for it, if only because it hasn’t gone overboard trying to convince me it’s something it isn’t, which was the distinct impression I got with LU. Funcom is basing it more on combat and treating it more like a “traditional” MMO – which may carry with it its own hazards – but at least I have a decent idea of what I’m getting into, rather than feeling like there’s a bait-and-switch going on. Imagine(ation) that.

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