LEGO Dimensions Review

By Blair Nokes on October 21, 2015

The talent over at Traveller's Tales have been in charge of developing Lego-based games for a decade now, and during those ten years they have managed to build solid games around specific brands. Lego Batman has been wildly popular along with Lego Marvel and The Lord of the Rings. There has been a market that has been previously untapped for the Lego brand and Traveller's Tales; one that almost seems like a perfect and natural fit. The Toys-to-Life genre, currently maintained by the Skylanders, Disney Infinity and Amiibo figures have all provided their own niche markets. Skylanders has taken Spyro the Dragon and build a great world around it for kids, Disney Infinity has the Disney name behind it and include Marvel and Star Wars because of it, and Amiibos "“ while they don't necessarily have any one game behind it, are multifunctional across Nintendo software.

The thing about Lego is that it is near-universal in what it can potentially cover; I have a hard time thinking of what Lego hasn't released as far as movie, video game, television or comic-related characters or even full playsets. The possibilities are not only endless on that front, but also when you consider the fact that Legos are highly customizable as well. Realizing this, Traveller's Tales, Warner Brothers, and The Lego Group have worked hard at releasing the next evolution of the Toys-to-Life genre. Lego Dimensions may be added to those previous list of games, but what it does, what it seeks to do, and what it's future potential can be all make it a first of its kind.

Your main characters out of the starter set are Batman, Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, and Wildstyle from The Lego Movie. The game's main storyline is about an evil antagonist named Lord Vortech who is seeking out the Foundational Elements "“ the Pillars of the Lego Universe. With them he hopes to merge all of the Lego universes under his control. Theses elements are in the form of various items "“ the first being the Ruby Slipper from the Wizard of Oz. Your main characters all meet by chance when they stumble into each other's worlds, and eventually decide to squad up and take on Lord Vortech and other villains from each universe that he has recruited.

Using vortices is the main plot device to travel between dimensions, and it works exceptionally well as an explanation for why we get to see Homer from the Simpsons ride a Turret Sentry from Portal 2, or Batman riding a Velociraptor from Jurassic World. It's a brilliant idea of taking something so popular like Lego, and using all the brands within the Lego figurines to tell a story using them all.

To take it one step further, there are vehicles that you are given both in the starter set and additional toy sets. These can be customized to your liking; what you amend or create will be present in the game world. How this actually works is that you need to purchase ten upgrades for any vehicle or gadget, and you can unlock new building instructions which allow you to great new and wacky iterations on things like the Batmobile. Its second build is called the Batblaster and gets a Sonar Smasher "“ used for destroying glass Lego bricks. It may seem optional but they've successfully managed to weave the imagination aspect of Lego into a game mechanic. You now how the possibility to rebuild things in clever ways, and they seem to have a viable function in the game world as well "“ so they aren't just visual cosmetics.
Lego Dimensions gives you a taste of the roster with Batman, Gandalf and Wildstyle. Additional level and character sets can be purchased on day one and greatly increase the replayability. At launch, Back to the Future, The Simpsons, and Portal are the available level packs that all add their own adventure, team packs such as Jurassic World and Scooby-Doo offer two characters and a combination of two vehicles or gadgets to expand your roster, and fun packs consist of a character and a vehicle or gadget, and have a large range of different sets like DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings, or Lego-owned sets like Chima or Ninjago. There are of course plans for future sets including a Doctor Who level pack which will be coming out this November and a Ghostbusters level set coming out next year. There is definitely a strong focus on continuinal support for this game, as Lego Dimensions has the potential to be endless.

Unfortunately, my biggest concern is the possible exclusion of some of Lego's biggest themed sets. Lego Star Wars is insanely popular physically, but with Disney Infinity 3.0 covering all of Star Wars, I have doubts that we may see any representation in Lego Dimensions, which would be a real shame "“ but understandable as I'm sure Disney wouldn't want to pull sales from their title.

One deterrent for customers is most definitely going to be the price of it all. The starter set itself is about $110, and level sets are $30 each. While these may sound steep at first, I would like to point out that you are purchasing the Lego bricks as characters in Lego Dimensions, but you are also purchasing Lego. They are all real Lego pieces and can be used amongst your vast Lego collection of pieces, sets and bricks, and functional exactly like Lego ought to. It's a two-in-one combo here as you're actually getting multi-purpose toys as opposed to competitors that really are only meant for the software they're tied to.

Something extremely impressive about the production values for Lego Dimensions is that Traveller's Tales and Warner Brothers reached out to various actors to reprise their role in Lego form. Will Arnett voices Lego Batman once again from the Lego Movie, Elizabeth Banks voices Wildstyle as well. Chris Pratt is both Emmet from the Lego Movie, and Owen Grady from Jurassic World. Orlando Bloom and Sean Astin reprise their roles as Legolas and Sam; Dan Castellaneta takes on Homer Simpson and a slew of other Simpsons characters. They even reached out to Christopher Lloyd and Michael J Fox to lend their voices for Marty McFly and Doc Brown. Aside from actors who actually came in to lend their voices, there were loads of archived voices that were licensed to be used; for example all the Doctors available in the Doctor Who set ranging from Christopher Eccleston to Tom Baker all have their actual archived voices to add to the authenticity of their Lego characters. There are a ton of other actors in the roster, and it's just such a fantastic way of going that extra mile to ensure quality. One fantastic thing to note is that with the Doctor Who level set, when your Doctor dies it actually cycles through all 12 Doctors!

Similar to the Psycho Mantis fight in Metal Gear Solid, Lego Dimensions uses a clever way of making sure you are within reach of your Toy Pad. Certain bosses will trap your characters, forcing you to move their physical piece onto another port on the Toy Pad so you can continue. It's a great device that breaks the fourth wall as you're directly influencing the game's world by interacting with these physical toys. Adding onto this gimmick are keystones; objects that imbue the Toy Pad with additional powers for you to utilize. Shift is the first one you receive and it allows you to open three portals all colour-coordinated based on the colours that are lighting up on the Toy Pad. Scale is another ability that allows your character to become larger or smaller in size. When the Pad lights up green and orange on either size, green grows and orange shrinks. Elemental keystones naturally give elemental powers to your character and are coloured as you would expect: red for fire, blue for water, green for earth and turquoise for electricity. This for me is something unlike other Toys-To-Life games; you really have an emphasis on playing with these toys and playing in the actual game. A lot of this is due to the fact that Lego exists as its own form of play outside of the video game. Traveller's Tales, Warner Brothers, and The Lego Group all recognize this, and made sure that the Lego characters, vehicles and items you build and construct are just as playable physically, as they are digitally. For the first time, a Toys-To-Life game has successfully placed equal focus on the toy and its digital representation.

The game is also visually crisp and quite good looking in motion. One of the best nods to detail is how some of the characters move, looking exactly as Lego pieces would move in real life. This was showcased during the Lego Movie with stop-motion inspired movements and Traveller's Tales made sure to do the same when displaying movements like Wildstyle's flips and leaps as she darts around the map mid-combat. Each world and level is vibrant and unique, and like traditional Lego video games, all incorporate the same build mechanic that allows the characters in game to build pieces that they use to manipulate the environment.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Lego Dimensions is a tremendous collaborative effort, and encapsulates the central idea behind the Toys-To-Life genre by doing exactly that; it brings your Legos to life in more ways than just placing them on a pad and forgetting them. You are actively playing with them alongside the actual game. This has the appeal for every age group; children are going to be the most fortunate here for having a childhood where playing with Lego and video games are one and the same, but I can see a lot of adults (myself included) fascinated with Lego figurines and perhaps nostalgic with some of the sets they're planning on bringing out. I never really thought I'd be praising a Toys-To-Life game, but Lego Dimensions has definitely proven just how unique the genre is, and I expect big things from Traveller's Tales going forward as they have a winning formula here.

Playing with Legos both in the real world and in the game make me feel like I’m 6 again.
Loads of different Lego-themed worlds.
A slew of actors reprising their roles is a fantastic touch.
The price point is admittedly steep, despite knowing what you’re getting from it.
Due to its competitors, there’s the possibility that we may not see Lego Star Wars or Marvel figures, which I’m hoping isn’t the case.
I am impatient and want the other level sets, now.
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