LEGO Universe MMO Log One: Some Assembly Required

Join me as I take the first steps in a four-week journey into the colourful candy world of NetDevil's LEGO Universe.

Kotaku's MMO reviews are a multi-part process. Rather than deliver day one reviews based on beta gameplay, we play the game for four weeks before issuing our final verdict. Once a week we deliver a log detailing when and how we played the game. We believe this gives readers a frame of reference for the final review. Since MMO titles support many different types of play, readers can compare our experiences to theirs to determine what the review means to them.

One thing to keep in mind while reading this first LEGO Universe MMO Log is the fact that I was mighty feverish the first four days of play. It was technically vacation time for me, and that means my body lets its guard down and I get horribly, horribly ill. As long as you can get down with the sickness, we'll be fine.

Tuesday, October 26, noon: Getting Started

LEGO Universe is officially out today, and its finally time for me to play, after spending a couple weeks watching Crecente have all the fun.

Loading up the game I'm treated to a cinematic introduction, telling the story of four adventurers who went in search of the source of all imagination. Upon finding it, three of the adventurers displayed their creativity productively, but the last brought forth a horrible spider creature. It was a creature of the Maelstrom, the dark side of imagination.

The Maelstrom began to spread, turning regular minifigs into corrupted, evil ones. The remaining adventurers formed the Nexus Force in order to recruit LEGO people to their cause and save imagination.

Which brings me to character creation.

I could go for a custom name, but something about RumbleWarpWhistle appeals to my senses.

Once I complete character creation I find myself upon a crumbling space station know (to me at least) as tutorial land. Here I learn to jump with the space bar, click the right mouse button to smash things, and how to refill my life, defence and imagination, the three primary methods for tracking my progress in LEGO universe.

The gameplay is very much like one of Traveller's Tales licensed LEGO titles. Instead of collecting silver, copper, gold and blue bits, I'm collecting coins of the same colour.

Quickbuilds are present in the world as well. My first mission asks that I use my imagination to quickbuild a bounce platform so I can get to the next quest giver. Holding down shift near a pile of bouncing bricks sets the build in motion, and soon I'm bounding up onto an elevated platform.

My quest giver tasks me with smashing boxes to find rocket parts. The space station is crumbling, and my only hope is a speedy exit.

LEGO Universe's collectibility aspect kicks in here. There are three different sets of rocket parts to be gathered here. I could stay and collect the engine, cockpit and thruster for each, but I'm in a hurry.

The outline of a rocket ship sits on a platform. In order to build, I need to put on my thinking cap. The world slips away and I'm suddenly in build mode. Switching from my normal inventory to my build inventor, I pick three rocket parts and put them together in the ship's outline. Once completed I click done, and the ship bounces into my inventory.

Taking off my thinking cap, I'm back in the station, ready to rocket my way to the relative safety of my next destination, a place called Avant Gardens.

Tuesday, October 26, 1pm: A Questing We Will Go

Avant Gardens is a small island in the LEGO Universe, swarming with Stromlings - infected LEGO minifigs. As I make my way to my first quest giver, I'm attacked a couple of times. The Stromlings aren't shy about attacking. Neither are the Maelstrom-infected mechs that wander about. I die within site of my first quest giver.

Luckily the death penalty isn't much. You lose a little bit of coin and have to build up your health and defence once more, but minions drop health hearts, defence shields and imagination orbs like crazy, and when anything you smash gives you money, losing a little doesn't matter so much.

There's plenty to do in this little starting area. I get quests to receive my first weapon (a sword.) Quests to defeat Stromlings. Quests to defeat mechs. Quests to use the pieces of those mechs I defeat to build automated turrets that protect me for a short while.

Between quests and random item drops, I soon look completely different than the character I created. The smirk I chose is still visible under my helmet, behind my shield and between flashes of my swinging sword, but otherwise I could be anyone here.

The quests move me through Avant Gardens at a fast pace. Soon I'm heading through a cave, where I'm faced with a massive monument depicting a minifig hero locked in combat with a Maelstrom enemy. A minifig in a hard hat asks me if I'd like to race to the top. Why not?

I wish I had a game pad. I try connecting my Xbox wired controller, but LEGO Universe does not support it natively. It's a pity, as the platforming elements in the race up to the top of the monument might work much better with a controller.

Still the keyboard and mouse isn't all bad. I easily smack down deadly lasers, assemble buttons to turn off powerful fans, and use my imagination to create jumping platforms at quickbuild spots, propelling me to the top in a little over a minute.

My speedy time earns me an achievement. With the achievement comes some sort of shirt. I ignore it as it hops into my inventory; I like what I am wearing already.

On the other side of the monument is an area with launch pads. One takes me to my first property. As I leave, the game reminds me how similar to console LEGO titles it really is.

Tuesday, October 26, 3pm: A Place To Call My Own

I land on a tiny island of land that's been completely overrun by the Maelstrom.

This is my new home, where I can build to my heart's content, but first I need to do a little house cleaning.

An NPC welcomes me, urging me to defeat the Stromlings infesting my land, gathering the power needed to construct an floating platform and free the imagination the creatures have trapped.

At this point I've upgraded my weapon to a large axe, and dispatching the Stromlings is child's play. I float upon the platform, jump into the trapped imagination, and the land transform from ravaged landscape to verdant plain.

The NPC walks me through placing objects, manipulating parts and adding behaviours to my creations. I create a stick that moves in a circle when you touch it. Promising, but I plan on saving the building for next week. there are quests to be done.

Tuesday, October 26, 4pm: Decisions, Decisions

A quick trip back to Avant Gardens and I hop a rocket to Nimbus Station. the station serves as a hub for LEGO Universe, with exits leading to the major worlds currently available in game - the pirate-themed Gnarled Forest, ninja-themed Forbidden Valley, and Pet Cove, which is of particular interest to me.

See, ever since I started off, I've been seeing players wandering around with all sorts of adorable LEGO pets. Dogs, cats, turtles and bunnies follow their masters obediently, allowing them to dig up the odd buried treasure or activate a few special switches.

I must have a LEGO bunny, but first I need to pick a character class.

LEGO Universe has four factions, based on the original four adventurers that found the source of all imagination. There is the building Assembly; the exploring Venture League; the fighting Sentinels; and the Paradox, dedicated to harnessing the Maelstrom to fight the Maelstrom.

In Nimbus Station I am tasked with performing quests for each faction. The quests take me all over Nimbus, from the Red Blocks rock amphitheatre to the Assembly's Brick Annex. Once I receive a seal for completing each faction's quest, I am faced with a choice.

First I need to pick a faction, and then one of two specific classes in that faction.

I decide on the Assembly Summoner, a wizard-like class that can call forth creatures to do their bidding. I'm given a faction outfit (tier one of three), which grants me certain bonuses when worn in full, including the ability to summon a pet turret.

Now that I've joined a faction, smashing monsters and objects also earns me faction tokens, which I can spend on upgrading powers and equipment. I file that knowledge away for now. It's getting late, and I still don't have a bunny.

Tuesday, October 26, 8pm: Petville!

Or Pet Cove! either way!

Armed with my wizard hat and staff, I finally venture to Pet Cove, where I earn the power to tame pets.

Pet taming is relatively simple. If you have the required imagination, you approach various animals scattered throughout the worlds with collars over their heads, and press shift. This initiates a minigame where you have to look at a built LEGO model and pick a number of blocks making up the model from the selection provided.

In the bunny's case, it is a carrot. It takes me a few tries, but I get it. Then I pause for bunny dancing.

After receiving my first pet, I am tasked with collecting more pets. This will not be a problem, but it will have to wait until tomorrow. I've played a ton today, and I am looking forward to more.

Wednesday, October 27, 10am: In Which I Get Stuck

The first questing location after Nimbus Station is the Gnarled Forest. Upon entering the forest, I wander down a ramp and come to a broken rope bridge. On a raised column a long jump from the sheer cliff face the bridge spans, players are gathered, complaining.

Apparently there is supposed to be a platform players can build on the column that launches them across the ravine, but it is not spawning. Player after player arrives, jumps onto the column and is trapped. Many jump to their deaths, safely rebuilding back on the side of the cliff. Others just stand there complaining.

I file a bug report and wait. And wait.

Two hours pass and still no platform.

I take a short break, come back and find someone came and moved me across to the other side of the ravine. Curious, I make my way back to the entrance via springboard, only to find the entrance springboard still isn't spawning.


With my next series of adventures on the other side of an impassable ravine, I take a little break.

Wednesday, October 27, 10pm: The Fighting Escalates

The Gnarled Forest is open when I return, so I start killing some pirates.

The infected pirates that inhabit the Gnarled Forest are a great deal more resilient and dangerous than the generic enemies I fought in Avant Gardens. I die multiple times as the enemies swarm me, or when I accidentally swipe a trapped treasure chest with my weapon, which results in instant death.

Upgrading my equipment is a must. While the Summoner clothing I wore into the forest had its uses, I soon begin gathering equipment that bolsters my health, imagination and armour, negating the need for the set bonuses my profession armour conveys.

The quests become more elaborate as well. I build statues of sirens that lure the pirates to sleep, making them easier to kill. I use my pets to dig up buried treasure after building red X's out of wayward blocks.

At one point I have to steal a pistol from a monkey.

Maelstrom tainted apes are a bigger problem. Players team up for these beasts (meaning they fight at once; there is currently no party system in the game). The beasts must be beaten down until dazed, at which point bricks spill out. Players must rush to build giant anchors, which drop onto the apes, shattering them into pieces.

The pirate action culminates on the beach on the other side of the forest, where I have to complete a shooting gallery mini-game involving cannon balls fired from a pirate ship. It's all very LEGO whimsical.

Tomorrow I'll move on to the Forbidden Valley, where the ninjas roam.

Thursday, October 28, noon: Go Ninja Go Ninja Go

My play is moving along at a swift pace. The quests keep coming and the entertainment value doesn't falter. I'm having tremendous amounts of fun, even though I get the feeling LEGO Universe could just as easily been released as a standalone game for all the player interaction I'm doing.

That changes somewhat once I reach the Forbidden Valley.

Playing off the age-old pirates versus ninjas conflict, a lot of Forbidden Valley quests tie into Gnarled Forest quests, and vice-versa. I spend a great deal of time running back and forth between the two as I complete more quests.

Forbidden Valley is a dark and airy place, with steep cliffs populated with Maelstrom-infected samurai, the other classic ninja foe.

As I travel I encounter new pets. The preying mantis requires 18 imagination to tame, and at the beginning of my time in the valley I only have 15 available. Several equipment-earning quests later and I'm sporting a solid 25 and a very ninja look.

Some pets require a little extra work. The red and green dragons in the valley require I put out their flames with a squirt gun before taming them. The only problem is the ninja gi I wear that raises my imagination so high cannot be worn with a weapon.

So I spray the dragons, change clothes, eat a bit of imagination-restoring food, and I'm good to go. I find this is a good way to overcome many of the game's imagination-based challenges. If it requires more imagination than I have, I start building, eat some restorative food, and continue. It's a little bit of strategy in an otherwise straightforward game.

Several hours after beginning my quests in Forbidden Valley I am tasked with defeating a dragon. Doing so requires I join a mini-game with multiple players. We zone into a dark and dreary instance where three mighty dragons reside. Dark samurai spawn at regular intervals. The dragon's breath scorches us. The wind from its wings drives us over ledges.

After several death and rebirth cycles the first dragon goes down, and the game slows to a crawl as a giant outpouring of treasure floods the area. I have to delete several items from my backpack to gather it all.

My fellow players and I exchange cheers and move on.

Towards the end of the evening, making my way out of the Valley, I stumble across the 10th of 10 flags scattered through the zone. Collecting all 10 flags adds another life point to my total.

I didn't realise this. Tomorrow was going to be a busy collecting day.

Friday, October 29, noon: Collection Day

It's amazing how much easier the game gets when you let your compulsive desire to collect take over.

I go back through the zones I've visited, collecting flags to increase my health and backpack storage. I start hunting the hidden blue bricks in each level as well, which grant an additional imagination point when found.

I'm still collecting faction tokens to gain my profession gear, but it seems sort of pointless, considering how powerful the stuff I'm already wearing is.

I do manage to pause in my collecting long enough to try my hand at the game's racing segment.

players make their own cars and race against each other on these fantastic twisting tracks. Imagination globes act as power-ups, granting boost when enough are collected.

I win several races before moving on in my collection quest.

Towards the end of the day I realise I'm getting dangerously close to completing most of what the game has to offer quest-wise. Avant Gardens shows as complete. Gnarled Forest is complete. There are a few lingering quests in Forbidden Woods. I've collected all 18 of the pets currently in the game, as well as the bonus lion pet players can catch after collecting those.

I've still not completed my level two Summoner outfit.

Wary of burning through the game's content too quickly, I log out for the evening.

Kotaku's MMO reviews are a multi-part process. Rather than deliver day one reviews based on beta gameplay, we play the game for four weeks before issuing our final verdict. Once a week we deliver a log detailing when and how we played the game. We believe this gives readers a frame of reference for the final review. Since MMO titles support many different types of play, readers can compare our experiences to theirs to determine what the review means to them.

Saturday, October 30, noon: You Give Me Fever

I know I played the game today, but I can barely remember what I did. I know I knocked out my three daily faction quests, which are nothing more than simple kill X number of Y enemies deals.

I log in on ad off, but my flu is in high gear. I spend most of the next two days in bed and the first two days of the week stumbling through work and recuperating.

The Story So Far

So far, so good? I'm really enjoying my time with LEGO Universe, but as I said, I'm getting a bit short on quests. I know that NetDevil plans on opening new areas as the game progresses, but it might not be fast enough for MMO players with too much time on their hands or sick journalists on holidays.

Still, there are other classes to explore, and I've barely touched the creation aspect of the game.

This next week I plan on building something amazing, and then breathing life into my creation. I've got a backpack filled with LEGO pieces I've collected in my travels, and it's time to put them to use.

We'll see what comes of my creativity next week!


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