The lights are on
Everything is indeed awesome for Lego fans, with the popular bricks starring in movies, TV shows, and games. We had a chance to play Funcom’s upcoming Lego MMO, in which we battled pirates, ghosts, and a sea monster with some serious anger-management issues.
We've seen the game before, but this was the first time we've gotten our hands on it. In my demo, I joined up with two other players to pass a pirate trial. It seems Crikey the Kraken has been causing trouble in the realm, so we banded together to put a stop to him. The instanced area was filled with nods to the classic Lego pirates theme, from the look of the soldiers and islanders to the architecture and foliage. Unlike other Lego games, things don’t explode into piles of studs when they’re destroyed. Instead, players get loot, like potions and building elements.
Instead of focusing on a single, player-created hero, Lego Minifigures Online is structured around managing a team of characters. These are distributed in virtual blind bags earned through quests or microtransactions, or in redeemable codes that will be included in upcoming editions of the physical toys. Funcom says that not every character from every series of the blind bags will be represented, but that many will be. I’d be surprised, for example, to see characters from the upcoming line of minifigs based on The Simpsons included.
I swapped between a variety of characters during my hands-on time with the game, including a paintball enthusiast who blasted enemies with his marker and had a defensive flip; a skydiver who beat enemies with his fists or dropped from the sky with an area-of-effect belly flop; and a wrench-wielding mechanic who could summon a motorcycle into groups of enemies for some crowd control. Every character in the game has a main offensive capability, as well as a special ability that can be either offensive or defensive. The special abilities are activated with a press of the right mouse key, and they’re on a cooldown timer to prevent overuse.
I didn’t see the entire roster of characters in action, so I can’t definitively say that every one plays differently, but those I did use had enough variation to give me an incentive to swap between them. I ended up using the paintball guy regularly when our group was close together, though, because he was such an effective marksman. He was especially useful teamed up with a bumblebee girl. She’d cover clusters of enemies in sticky pots of honey, restricting their movement speed – making them perfect targets for my paint-filled orbs.
Our adventure took us from the sandy shores of the pirate isle, deep into the jungle, and in and out of rocky caves. There’s visual variety on display, and Funcom seems to have settled on a similar balance between having things made from Lego or realistic elements, as in the Traveller’s Tales Lego games. There don’t seem to be quite as many things to bash here as in those titles, however.
Characters are rated in a variety of areas, including their power and building ability. Building ability directly affects the speed with which they construct things in the world. Having a high ranking comes in handy, as I saw in one stretch during which we assembled some bonfires on a beach. Unlike the quick builds in other games, these can take an agonizing amount of time if your ranking is low – not a great thing since you’re often being attacked during the construction. It made for a surprisingly tense time, and it also encourages cooperation to speed up builds.
Eventually, we found our way to the boss, Crikey the Kraken. The battle stretched across multiple phases, including waves where we faced off against his minions. While my teammates were dealing with them, I frantically assembled a pair of machines positioned at either end of the arena. I didn’t know then what they would do, but I was certain that anything that swings an anchor around could only help. When Crikey started swiping at us with his giant tentacles, I was proven right. He broke the machines with each attack, but coming into contact with them also dealt him a considerable amount of damage. The battle ended with all of us attacking his grotesque eye simultaneously, and he went down for good.
Funcom has a history of developing MMORPGs for adults, including Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, and The Secret World, and I’m excited to see how they apply the lessons they’ve learned to Lego Minifigures Online. The game is due out on PC and iOS and Android tablets in 2014.
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I wounder if there will be any Lego Movie cameos in the game.