LEGO Dimensions is the first toys-to-life effort from Traveller’s Tales and Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment and arguably, at first glance, the most enticing. The genre was established by Skylanders in 2011 and since popularised by Disney Infinity and Nintendo’s amiibos, the late-to-the-party Dimensions employs a unique twist: the player gets actual LEGO figures with the game to build, and then use in-game in several creative ways.
Priced at $169 RRP, the LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack comes with a copy of the game, three physical LEGO figurines (Batman, Gandalf, Wyldstyle), Batman’s Batmobile and the Toy Pad portal for placing LEGOs into the game. There’s also instructions on how to build them all, and the game provides all schematics in the menus as well. Even at its base package, Dimensions is one of the most expensive video game propositions of recent years.
When it comes down to it, Dimensions is for the hardcore LEGO fans above all else: kids and “kidults” who love to build with LEGO and have the budget, patience and space for creating, displaying and using a ton of figurines. This is a toys-to-life game that integrates its physical merchandise in a whole new way, and the gimmick is easily its strongest suit. But the hefty investment needed to unlock most of the content and an unevolved and boring combat system brings down what is otherwise a solid package, one that matches past LEGO game titles in quality and polish.
LEGO Dimensions’ main story is a fun “What if?” scenario involving interdimensional travel and multiverses to give an excuse for characters across popular media franchises like DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings and even the LEGO Movie to co-exist in a video game. Beginning on the planet Vorton in the LEGO Multiverse, evil Lord Vortech plots to retrieve Foundational Elements, items which represent time and space itself, to merge and control all universes as the ultimate villain.
Vortech opens vortexes to each world where the Foundational Elements are located. Predictably, they are iconic objects like the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings and kryptonite from the DC Universe, and his activities begin to pull heroes and villains from each world into others in mass confusion. In LEGO Dimensions, the main heroes are Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle, who are pulled into Vorton and decide to work together to build a vortex generator to travel dimensions and stop Lord Vortech.
The plot premise allows the game to give players a huge diversity of worlds to explore in the linear main story missions. As the three main heroes, you’ll travel to Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz, Springfield from The Simpsons, Metropolis from DC Comics and even less well-known properties like a coliseum from LEGO Ninjagos. For players on a budget, rest easy knowing you’ll be able to visit all these iconic locations in the main story with just the base game’s contents.
For those out to collect all the LEGO Dimensions merchandise, every Fun Pack, Level Pack and Team Pack you purchase is essentially DLC, and unlocks an additional hub world of that franchise to explore, collect studs and minikits, and complete side-quests in a more open-world setting; Springfield in the main story is only a portion of the location, while the Level Pack unlocks the entire playground. You have to get the additional Simpsons Level Pack to access the latter, as well as complete any puzzles or areas only Homer might be able to do, as an example.
The extra characters and vehicles you get can be built and used on the Toy Pad to use alongside the three main heroes in the main story, though they don’t appear in cutscenes and are mostly useful for their unique abilities, which can unlock secrets in the stages.
At $50 RRP for Level Packs, $40 for Team Packs and $25 for Fun Packs, it’s evident you’re paying premium for characters, gadgets, levels and vehicles. The difference from other DLC is they double as physical items and its value largely depends on whether you appreciate owning figures made of actual LEGO. Level Packs unlock the associated hub world, a unique mission, character, and two objects; Team Packs are the same minus the hub world, and Fun Packs come with two characters and two objects.
Whatever your stance on the pricing model or value, Traveler’s Tales gives each character and world the careful attention and care and are extremely faithful in their adaptations of the properties while still imbuing their own trademark charm and humor we’ve seen time and time again from past LEGO game titles.
It’s extremely funny to see Batman mistake Scarecrow from Wizard of Oz for his arch-nemesis from the DC Universe, and cool to witness Gandalf smackdown Sauron while Orcs destroy Superman’s Metropolis. Lord Vortech and other original characters aren’t as memorable but serve their purpose well and fade into the background while the multiple franchises rightly get the spotlight.
Overall, it’s an enjoyable adventure, but it’s lack of focus in some portions (particularly levels with less popular or well-known media properties) makes some parts of the narrative a slog to get through and your enjoyment largely depends on if you actually like or know the franchises in question.
The core gameplay in LEGO Dimensions will be familiar to anyone who has played a LEGO video game before: explore a variety of levels full of studs (the game’s currency), minikits (secret collectibles) to gather, while solving puzzles, discovering secrets and battling enemy bosses.
Every character has unique abilities and attack animations, such as Batman’s grappler gun or Gandalf’s wizardry magic, and you’ll need to employ each of their talents to progress. There’s also heaps of Golden Bricks and Red Bricks (which unlock special content and features such as a 2x stud multiplier and 8-bit soundtrack) and vehicle upgrades to purchase by having the right amount of LEGO studs and meeting certain requirements.
Dimensions takes it all a step-further with the added integration and interaction with the special LEGO toy portal, which transports your LEGO figurines and vehicles into the game. Many puzzles and obstacles require the use of the Toy Pad; one such example is teleporting your characters into colour-coded vortexes in out-of-reach places using the different sections of the Toy Pad, or summoning vehicles or add-on figures which have abilities the main cast don’t have to blow a door open or hack a computer for extra secrets. Some boss fights even require you to move your figures around to escape traps or harness elemental powers – be prepared to have one player overseeing the Toy Pad
Alternating between Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle to solve each level’s multiple puzzles and obstacles is necessary – even if you buy other additional toys to use, you must use the core three characters regardless. Along with Batman’s Batmobile, which is upgradeable and transformable into two additional types, you need to build and place the four core figurines and any other LEGO toys you purchase onto the Toy Pad and register their toy tags, which keeps track of who and what you have ‘unlocked’ in-game.
LEGO schematics are provided should you wish to modify the Batmobile or other vehicles into their alternate types physically, but you can simply swap between model types in-game without having to actually rebuild the vehicle every time you swap types. This was an appreciated option, as it would be tiring dismantling and re-building LEGO all the time just to have the desired type.
Where the overall quality took a dive the most for me is the combat system, which remains identical to all past LEGO entries with minimal evolution. Fighting baddies is easily the weakest part of the game, requiring little thought but spamming the attack button as hordes of mindless A.I. swarm your heroes. Some effort in advancing the battle mechanics would have been appreciated, and even with the Toy Pad’s unique abilities adding to the core formula, it still feels lacking in natural progression.
Once past the initial levels and the amusement of seeing some of my favourite media franchises (The Lord of the Rings and Scooby Doo) collide in LEGO form, reality soon sunk in and my overall enjoyment of the core gameplay lessened somewhat. Exploring through the main story missions and seeing so many secret areas or collectibles out of reach and being told you can only access them with additional LEGO packs also gets old real fast.
In past LEGO video games, being unable to access these elements was never an issue because you knew you would unlock said characters eventually and revisit the area with them – it added to the replayability of each level and series as a whole. In Dimensions, the cold hard truth is you won’t ever 100% complete the game or be able to collect all items or experience all hub worlds or secret areas without forking over hundreds of dollars to own every LEGO pack for use in-game.
The lack of unlockable content compared to past LEGO titles is most apparent when you open up the menus for hub worlds and characters you currently own – we’ve gone from hundreds of unique LEGO characters and levels unlockable with good old fashioned playthrough progression to having these elements locked behind toys.
In my opinion, while LEGO Dimensions objectively offers better value than Skylanders or Nintendo amiibos in the fact that the toys are high-quality LEGO blocks with the added entertainment of having to build them and the content high-quality (the DLC hub worlds and missions are fantastic recreations of each media property), but the average consumer will never be able to experience the entire package unless they’ve got a large amount of disposable income. it’s a bit sad to realise future LEGO video games from Traveller’s Tales will probably never be as jam-packed with content straight in the box again, as the success and future of the toys-to-life model for LEGO is an unavoidable proposition.
The Final Verdict
With its high price-tag and multiple waves of LEGO toys from over 14 popular media franchises announced to trickle out over the course of the three years, LEGO Dimensions is a wacky adventure of fun pop culture mash-ups, but it’s also a hugely expensive investment for any fan or parent of excited children to make.
While you can certainly get through and enjoy the package with just the base LEGO provided, the fact that multiple collectibles and secrets in the main story are inaccessible without additional LEGO pack characters makes Dimensions feel incomplete compared to past content-packed LEGO video games.
Sure, the DLC here is actual physical LEGO you get to own, but the huge emphasis on needing physical toys to access characters, levels and secrets muddles the great existing gameplay formula. The game will resonate most with parents of young children who love building LEGO both physically and in-game or anyone else who loves the toys-to-life fad going on at the moment, but for fans of past LEGO video games which were full of content without the need for figurines and who aren’t too hot on the toys, it’s probably not worth it in the long-run.