Hoping to right the wrongs of Lego Universe, its spiritual successor Lego Minifigures Online has just gone into Beta. The game offers adventures in Lego themed worlds and combines the toy-game crossover fun of Skylanders with the role-play adventuring of games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
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Lego Minifigures Online is developed by Funcom and will be “free-to-play” for the PC and tablet devices. It is of the massively multiplayer genre and allows players to unlock and play as the different characters from each themed world. These themes are drawn from Lego classics like Castles and Space as well as extending things with the likes of new Mythology worlds.
The Minifigures angle here is a clever one that leverages the hugely popular collectable figurines purchased in blind bags. The game is reported to leverage codes in the physical LEGO Minifigure packs to unlock the equivalent in-game character. This is real Skylanders and Disney Infinity territory although the interaction here is a one way unlock, no information is stored back on the toy character.
Players have a choice of either unlocking new Minifigures through normal game-play, purchasing Minifigures via the physical product, making a virtual purchase in the game or paying for a monthly membership.
The parents section of the Lego Minifigures Online website explains these purchases as follows: “Lego Minifigures Online is a Free-to-Play game with optional in-game purchases, and the game can be played completely without paying. Diamonds (in-game currency) and Memberships are also available as optional purchases. Children below the age of 13 have to rely on their parents for such purchases.”
A membership option is required if you want to communicate to other players, and provides additional random Minifigures amongst other benefits. “Memberships yields several benefits for your child including a weekly allowance of Diamonds and a monthly bonus bag with a random Minifigure inside.” Membership prices range from $7.99 for a month to $39.99 for 6 months and $59.99 for a year.
The game plays in similar fashion to console Lego experiences like the upcoming Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, although with more multiplayer and character progression options. Rather than using a game-pad players simply point and click their way around the world. Clicking on enemies applies particular attacks and clicking on piles of bricks initiates building sequences.
Again like console Lego video-games, during play a swapping mechanic is used to manage a small party of Lego characters. Switching between these figures is important to defeat enemies and solve particular puzzles with their different abilities.
As with other role-play adventure games, Lego Minifigures Online offers a wide variety of themed worlds accessed from a hub. These worlds have multiple dungeons for players to party-up and raid. You can also fight other players in the game by forming teams, although the exact mechanics of this are currently unclear.
The game looks terrific and plays very well even in its Beta form. Most impressive is the way it intelligently links to the popular Lego Minifigs, giving collectors another reason to hunt down all the characters from each series. However, Funcom will need to balance one-off and membership purchases carefully, as well as “free to play” headlines, to ensure parents have clear guidance on the best value for their family.
Lego Minifigures Online will launch in the fall of 2014. It is currently in Open Beta for the PC, but will also be available on tablets.