LEGO Dimensions – Expanalysis

This article gives our impressions on the Xbox One version of the game.

Where LEGO Dimensions is concerned, it always seemed like a matter of when, rather than if. Traveller’s Tales have been building towards this moment since the LEGO Star Wars games first graced our screens. What we have now is a brick-builder’s dream come true. Always wanted a crossover between Doctor Who and Back to the Future? Check. Wondered what would have happened if Peter Venkman took on the Nazgul? Wonder no more. Ever thought about who eats more, Homer or Scooby Doo? Actually, no, me neither…

Still, it’s a four-way battle this Christmas with Disney Infinity, Skylanders Superchargers, Nintendo AMiibo and LEGO Dimensions all setting out their stall, all wanting you to splash the cash to expand your gaming experience. It’s difficult to say who’ll come out on top, but what we can say is that LEGO Dimensions plays as brilliantly as you’d expect. If you’ve played any LEGO game the last ten years, you’ll know what to expect here. Smash things for blocks, collect mini kits, navigate tricky platforms and fight against epic bosses. TT have had plenty of time to perfect the formula and it shows. Dimensions offers a much more polished experience than Disney Infinity and, at times, Skylanders.

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Narratively, Dimensions also does great things with the licenses it has. It would be very easy to go off the rails when you’ve got Gandalf and Batman sharing scenes, but TT have been smart and played to each character’s strengths, making sure each one gets a chance to shine. Crossovers between worlds are fun, but also build well into the game’s story, which sees Lord Vortech, voiced by the ever-brilliant Gary Oldman, attempt to fuse the universes together in a bid for total domination. To do this, he must collect the Foundational Elements from different dimensions, being Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slipper, Kryptonite and the Ring of Power held by Frodo.

With Robin, Frodo and Metalbeard in possession of these items, they’re unsuspectingly drawn towards the center of the LEGO multiverse and Vortech’s domain, which, of course, brings Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle together as unlikely protectors of the galaxy. The game’s story sees you jump between different LEGO dimensions, from Jurassic World to Springfield, in an effort to thwart Vortech’s plans, helping heroes in their respective environments.

 

Level design is a key factor in the entertainment value of a game like this, and it’s clear that some licenses have been treated with more care than others. The Oz level is a solid way to kick off the game, and the designers clearly had a lot of fun experimenting in the long-awaited Doctor Who environments, but others seem short and bittersweet, sometimes failing to capture the essence of the world they’re trying to depict. For instance, it felt a bit odd fighting Joker in Springfield when you could be going up against a Sideshow Bob or Monty Burns. I fought Joker plenty in the LEGO Batman games, do I really need to do it again?

Some levels are also noticeably long-winded. The Dr Who level, in particular, becomes a bit of a slog, though the way TT handle the confrontation with the Weeping Angels is genuinely fresh and smart.

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I do love that many actors from their respective licenses have come on-board to voice their characters. Christopher Lloyd, Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Peter Capaldi, amongst others, are all in the game doing fresh lines and that’s a neat level of authenticity which Dimensions can boast over it’s opposition.

My main problem with Dimensions, however, is that, out of the box, you only get three characters. As anyone who has played a LEGO game will tell you, one of the most exciting things about the games is testing out the new abilities of characters. For the first time ever, TT have put them behind a paywall, and it sucks!

Right from the very beginning, you’ll also find that the characters you have can’t do things in the game world. It’s impossible for you to collect all the hidden secrets and extras in the game without buying some extra LEGO characters/vehicles, and that hurts a lot more than I thought it would. Having access to the portal will let you do some slightly different things with your characters throughout your journey. Place them on a certain square and they’ll turn into a wall of fire or become charged full of electricity, but after 5-6 levels, you’re still throwing batarangs and you’re still firing magic blasts.

That also goes for the dimensional rifts. You’re only able to access the world-like hub of each environment if you own a character from that universe. So, out of the box, you get access to Lord of the Rings World because you have Gandalf, the DC Universe with Batman and LEGO Movie land with Wyldstyle. But things like Scooby Doo, Portal, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future etc are going to require you to spend money. Yes, Infinity and Skylanders do similar things, but the whole concept has never felt more limited than it does in Dimensions. Here, you actually feel like you’re missing out on the majority of the game if you’re not willing to spend more money. The game can also feel more repetitive than normal because you’re using the same characters and moves throughout the world. So to prevent that, if you include the Starter Pack itself, you’d need to spend upward of £250 to get the most of this game and unlock everything. Let that sink in for a moment.

My recommendation, buy a few extra packs alongside the base game, ideally Level packs, as it will add a lot more to your Dimensions experience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s entirely possible to complete the main LEGO Dimensions  game with just Gandalf, Batman and Wyldstyle, but you’re going to miss out on a lot and considering one of the draws of LEGO games is to get everything to 100%, unless you’re willing to buy packs, it’s going to drive you crazy.

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LEGO Dimensions offers three pack sets at different price points. The Fun Pack retails for around £15 and includes one new character and one new vehicle or gadget. I was given access to Cyborg for this review, and with him I can break through blue-hued walls, access terminals and I got a Cyber-guard robot-like machine which hulks around and smashes things up with ease. There’s also the Team Pack, which includes two characters and two vehicles/gadgets. You’ve got Scooby and Shaggy with the Mystery Wagon and a Scooby Snack, or you can act out as Joker and Harley Quinn with a copter and mobile. There are various combinations and these usually retail for around £25 to £30. Finally, the Level Packs give you a figure, vehicle and gadget which also gives you access to a mission-based level set in that particular universe for around £30. While these do seem pricey, it is interesting to note that Infinity sell solo figures for around £15 retail while offering less benefits.

One of the fresh things about LEGO Dimensions is that there is a game outside of the game. While Skylanders and Infinity have helped break the fourth wall a little bit, LEGO takes things one step further. You’re required to actually build the LEGO portal at the start of the game, and also build the characters and vehicles you put on it. This is a really unique and smart concept which also develops throughout the game, as there are multiple phases and ways to build vehicles as you progress. You can upgrade the Batmobile, for instance, to enable it to do new things and will have to rebuild it into different forms using the exact same pieces in order to match the virtual counterpart. Electronic manuals will often pop up in the game to show you how, or you can try to work it out for yourself.

Dimensions is a lot of fun and is a comfortable, logical fit in this newly created collaborative genre of collectibles and gaming, but pricing makes this an expensive hobby and with so much of the content put behind paywalls, the burn in your wallet is sure to be a bitter pill to swallow. That said, i’ve never felt so compelled to want to spend extra money on a game and buy additional packs outside of the base experience.

There’s a lot of room for Dimensions to grow in the years to come, and there’ll be plenty more Level, Fun and Team Packs releasing up to the end of the year and into 2016, including the Twelfth Doctor and his Tardis, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And what about sequels? Success isn’t guaranteed, but it’s hard to see TT stopping at just one Dimensions. The good news is there are plenty of other worlds they could explore with other Hannah Barbara characters, Harry Potter, Turtles, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean licenses at their disposal, though we don’t imagine we’ll get to see the Marvel and Star Wars universes anytime soon.

What we have right now is an entertaining game which bests both Skylanders and Infinity in terms of quality and is further proof that Traveller’s Tales are not only modern-day masters of the platform genre, but are capable of creating a product that engages adults as well as children in exciting new ways.

The Good Stuff

  • Great level design and narrative direction
  • Epic boss battles
  • Fun to play

The Bad Stuff

  • Huge chunks of content locked behind expensive paywalls
  • Repetition out of the box with just three characters
  • Some levels are overly long. Others are over too quickly.
  • Some crossovers miss the mark.

Final Analysis

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Joy Award

After playing this, we had a smile on our faces. The experience was enjoyable, memorable and fulfilling. We’d definitely recommend

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,

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