LEGO Dimensions Wave 6 Impressions – Bugs, Battles and Brilliance

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LEGO Dimensions - Wave 6 Impressions

LEGO Dimensions Year 2 finally began last week, with the release of Wave 6. This included six packs covering Mission Impossible, Adventure Time, Harry Potter, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, and The A-Team. We’ll have some reviews of the Level Packs and Story Packs going up over the next week or so, but until then I figured I’d give my thoughts on the wave as a whole, particularly how it stacks up to the content from the previous year of releases. In general the packs are a big step up in quality, but there’s some big issues that really need to be discussed.

Content Roll-Out

It needs to be said that the way the new content was actually delivered was a total disaster. Here in Australia the PS4 patch I needed to play it wasn’t released until 3am – a mere 5 hours before the earliest store openings, and at an hour where almost nobody will be up to trigger a manual update. My console decided it wouldn’t start the update automatically, which meant I had to wait hours after I’d gone out and bought the packs before I could actually play them. And get this – THAT PATCH DIDN’T INCLUDE EVERYTHING. It turns out that new content packs have to be downloaded separately, and they’re included in a new menu you need to go digging for. To play the actual levels in each pack it would’ve been another 6 gigs or so and I ended up blowing more than half my mobile data downloading a few of the more important ones on my faster 4G connection so I could have SOMETHING to play before the end of the day. Not only do all these updates take forever to download on some people’s connections, but quite a few people are still struggling to work out how to actually trigger the downloads. I’ve seen numerous posts from non-gaming parents online who can’t work out how they and their kids can actually play the new packs they’ve gone and bought. It shouldn’t be such a convoluted process to play a game, especially in a game targeted towards families and children, and releasing about 16 GB of data necessary to play new content on the day of the content’s release was a terrible idea. But wait, it gets even better! If you’re playing on PS4 in Europe or ANZ, then the packs you need to download are no longer available. If you didn’t download them on launch day then you just outright can’t play any of the new content you paid for. UPDATE (07/10/16): This issue has been fixed as of this evening.

LEGO Dimensions - Download Bug

New Levels

How about some more positive words? The team has evidently taken on board the criticisms aimed at a lot of the Level Packs from Year 1, as the new ones present a much better deal in terms of length and presentation. This wave features two Level Packs, one for Mission Impossible and one for Adventure Time. The Mission Impossible pack is one of my favourites – it retells the first movie LEGO-style, and comes with an Adventure World that lets you explore areas from other films in the series. The Adventure Time pack follows the plot of two episodes from the show (The Enchiridion and Mortal Folly) and presents a more action-focused style of gameplay than other packs, with multiple bosses to fight. It’s a quality level, but I feel as if it won’t be as memorable as some of the top-tier level packs like Doctor Who – definitely in that ballpark though. It also contains what is undoubtedly the best Adventure World to date.

LEGO Dimensions - Adventure Time Level Pack

One of the best improvements in these levels is the variety of activities on offer – some of the packs in Year 1 had you repeating the same things over and over which, while enjoyable enough, paled in comparison to the better packs like Portal or Doctor Who that had you more involved. The characters and gadgets in the new packs come loaded with abilities, and there’s more hands-on puzzles that require more effort like a new hacking minigame in Mission Impossible, and puzzles using the Keystone abilities from the Starter Pack that were oddly absent in Year 1 Level Packs. For those who didn’t play the original story mode, Keystone abilities are ones that require you to use the physical Toy Pad and LEGO minifigures to solve puzzles – for example, the Locate Keystone makes the lights on the portal transition from red to green the closer you get to a hidden object in the game. As a result of the jump in quality here we’re going to be tweaking the scores of the reviews of our Year 1 packs to that there’s a more varied scale of quality – what was considered a good Level Pack then is much different to what we have now.

Year 2 has also brought us a new type of pack – Story Packs. These are like big Level Packs that provide six levels instead of just one, which follow the plot of a specific movie. The Story Pack in this wave was based on the Ghostbusters reboot, which had me wary since that movie hadn’t appealed to me at all. Thankfully the level design makes it an enjoyable time regardless, with some interesting features. The first is that you play as multiple characters in the level just like a normal LEGO game, all unlocked with just a single figure. While you only get a minifigure of Abby Yates, you also get to play as Erin, Holtzman and Patty, each with their own set of abilities. You also get some abilities provided by the Ecto 1 vehicle, which means there’s a large pool that puzzles can draw from. There’s also a new Keystone ability introduced – the Rip Keystone. This divides the Toy Pad into three colours – white, pink and yellow. Moving a figure into one of the coloured zones will warp them into an alternate reality of the area they’re in – for example, one area in the Aldridge Mansion from the film will be a robot assembly line in one alternate dimension, and a disco diner in another. You’ll need to warp between both and solve puzzles in order to bring parts you need back into the main reality. If you’re playing co-op you can both be in different dimensions solving puzzles separately and see ghostly imprints of the other player on your half of the screen.

LEGO Dimensions - Ghostbusters Story Pack

There’s a couple of general downsides to Story Packs, however. The Dimensions Starter Pack was praised for its big mash-up story, but we don’t get anything like that in Year 2 due to the packs following the plots of movies and shows. There’s a few cheeky crossovers in some cutscenes (and one amazing and fitting crossover bit towards the end of the Ghostbusters Pack), but having the bulk of the story content being things that other LEGO games could have done just fine is a bit disappointing. I wanna see Harry Potter meet Gandalf, or Mojo Jojo going after the NOC List! By the end of Year 2 we’ll be seeing more levels overall than Year 1, so we’re set from a gameplay perspective, but I sure will miss the brilliant crossover madness.

My other problem with Story Packs is their pricing – $80 RRP is nuts, it’s the price of a full LEGO game. I imagine a large portion of the price comes from the ‘Portal rebuilds’ which are decorative scenes you can place on your Toy Pad instead of the default portal design from the Starter Pack. There’s a lot of expensive LEGO bricks used in these, but they don’t do anything aside from look pretty, which isn’t what you want from a Toys to Life game. It doesn’t help when the first one is a Chinese restaurant from the new Ghostbusters film that I have no attachment to. It means you get less functional toys as well – 2 of the 3 Story Packs revealed so far include only two toys opposed to the three toys included in Level Packs. The discounted $64 that I paid for the Ghostbusters pack is much more reasonable, but still – that’s the price of a full handheld game. As a Toys to Life addict connoisseur I’m used to paying this much for things, but if people weren’t onboard already I doubt expensive packs like this will sway them.

Adventure Worlds

The Adventure Worlds aren’t as consistent an improvement over Year 1 as the Level Packs are. Mission Impossible‘s and Adventure Time‘s are both excellent (the latter especially), full of references fans will love to death and some great puzzles and quests. Especially the quests! Remember in Year 1 how every world pretty much had the same quests? Escort this person, find 50 of these things, fight some more baddies… it got a bit stale towards the end when you were doing this in every world. Mission Impossible has a few quests of that nature, but there’s also some great ones that loosely follow heists from the movies – like one where you and Benji (voiced by Simon Pegg) explore the catacombs under Rome in search of the Rabbit’s Foot from the third movie. The Ghostbusters world is quite good as well – it suffers from a rather uninteresting design due to being an open world New York (seen one of those before?), but it features some great puzzles and quests. One quest involving Kevin the receptionist was particularly funny.

Worlds also include interior environments now that are separate from the overworld – when you find one and enter it you’ll end up in a different area with a few puzzles inside. They’re like miniature level segments that you’d find hidden in a story level when you’re searching for minikits. They make for some deeper puzzles than those you’d find in some of the previous Adventure Worlds. The races are another area that has been improved – many of them in Year 1 were rather janky due to the vehicle physics and checkpoint placement, but I haven’t had any issues in Wave 6 thus far.

LEGO Dimensions - Mission Impossible Adventure World Quest

The Harry Potter world was quite disappointing. I mean, it checks all the boxes on a basic level – Hogwarts is here, Diagon Alley is here, you can ride the Hogwarts Express, cast members reprise their roles for quest dialogue… but it just doesn’t impress as much as the rest of this wave. It feels like a Harry Potter Adventure World would be expected to, but when it comes to actually playing it it’s quickly apparent that there’s not a whole lot to do here. Sure, Diagon Alley’s here, but you couldn’t really tell if the game didn’t point it out, – it’s just a bunch of old timey buildings. A few open buildings would have gone a long way – nothing too flash, even just some like in the Simpsons world. The Kwik-E-Mart wasn’t a hugely fleshed out environment, nor was Flanders’ disaster shelter, but the world benefitted a lot by letting you go in there (and smash things in there, let’s not kid ourselves). It doesn’t feel right not being able to walk into Ollivander’s or the Leaky Cauldron. Don’t get me started on Hogwarts – driving across the viaduct while the iconic Williams theme played was amazing, but then I discovered you can only really explore the exterior of Hogwarts. The castle itself just serves as pretty scenery, which was disappointing, although there are multiple puzzles in the castle grounds outside. The Chamber of Secrets and the Great Hall exist as separate interior environments, but that’s it. Then there’s the quests, which are just like those repetitive Year 1 quests I was talking about before – when I got asked to collect yet another type of item scattered across the world I just rolled my eyes. This world’s more like Harry Potter lipservice than a truly satisfying addition to the game. That sounds incredibly scathing, but let me just say that there’s no Adventure Worlds that I would say are bad per se – there’s just a few that I found a bit wanting. Especially with a franchise like Harry Potter, that’s one that should’ve had no expenses spared.

I had’t jumped into the A-Team world until yesterday because I’d heard it’s buggy to the point of unplayability, and sure enough within about twenty minutes of playing in it I got a crash. Which brings me to my next talking point!

BUGS

Wow. Let’s not beat around the bush – Dimensions has always been pretty dang buggy. But Year 2? Wow. I had the game crash during a Ghostbusters cutscene which corrupted my save data, resetting it to a new game state. If I didn’t have a back-up then all my toys would’ve been thrown out the window and I’d never have looked back. I, and others, have encountered a multitude of errors – from crashes, to questlines not working, to characters getting stuck or frozen and the game needing to be reset. When you’ve spent hours downloading new content and spent hundreds of dollars on the game the last thing you want is for the whole thing to just outright break. The dev team must’ve had a really tight schedule to stick to because the lack of polish on the new update is evident. When I review the packs later I’m going to stick to the content of the packs themselves as the whole game has been affected by new bugs, but it really needs to be mentioned how error-prone the game is at this point. I’d definitely recommend that those who aren’t hardcore Dimensions fans wait for a patch that stabilises things before jumping into Wave 6.

Battle Arenas

Battle Arenas are a new feature added to Dimensions in Year 2, and allow for 4-player local multiplayer against human and AI players. Each pack in the new waves unlocks a new arena – the Adventure Time Level Pack unlocks a Pillow World arena, while the Adventure Time Team Pack unlocks a Breakfast Kingdom one. And all the other packs unlock an arena matching their particular franchise. Within these arenas you can use any characters and items from any of the waves to compete in four different modes. Capture the Flag is self-explanatory. Objective mode gives players differing goals that they earn points for completing like collecting studs and beating enemies. Tic, Tag, Boom! is tag with bombs – the player who’s ‘it’ rolls around on a large bomb and has to tag another player before it blow up. Finally, in Base Bash you have to knock a volleyball-like weapon into an opponent’s base to damage it.

LEGO Dimensions - A-Team Battle Arena

I’ll have to give the Arenas a bit more time because I haven’t settled onto an opinion of them yet. They’re really odd. They’re not required for 100% completion, nor do they seem to reward you tangibly for playing them (fun is a reward, of course, but there’s no stud rewards or anything). It’s a really surreal experience because there’s so much going on. Before I came to grips with what the modes entailed it was kind of like an out of body experience with voices yelling and bright colours all over the screen and a feeling of lack of control of the proceedings.

The game is at its best when you can play with other people because you can all make full use of your characters’ abilities and the intricacies of the map designs. There’s many ways of getting around the map, for instance in the Harry Potter Arena (a Quidditch Pitch) if you’re trying to get into an opponent’s base you can:

  • get an elevator up to the top
  • climb into a Mini Access hatch if you have the ability
  • fly to the top if your character or a vehicle you’re driving can fly
  • shoot a Target on the side to activate a climbing wall along the side of the base
  • get flung up to the top by jumping onto an Aerial Faith Plate from Portal

Other arenas have different gimmicks like underground pathways and vehicle ramps that spice things up. Not every map works well in every mode – Base Bash mode causes problems with a few of them because the ball gets stuck on top of things and you can’t knock it off.

LEGO Dimensions - Harry Potter Battle Arena

When you’re playing with AI it’s not as enjoyable, but it’s a fun palette cleanser when you want something different from the rest of the game. The AI can’t measure up to human players, obviously, but at times they’re totally moronic. I’ve caught them running into walls or just standing around not doing anything on a few occasions. You can’t appreciate the effort that’s gone into the arenas because you don’t need much strategy to beat them. Another annoyance when playing with the AI is that you can’t select who they play as (or if you can, the game makes no effort to explain how). A big part of the appeal of this mode was meant to be seeing dream match-ups play out, but you can’t actually do that unless you get four people to play the game at once.

There’s been a noticeable effort put into balancing this mode the best they can while still keeping characters unique. Flying characters have their speed limited, and actually can’t fly at all in some maps and modes. In Capture the Flag fliers can’t fly while holding the flag. Some maps have areas designed for certain abilities, like Mini Access hatches that allow smaller characters to make up for their speed by bypassing some sections of the map. Of course things aren’t totally balanced and you’ll want to implement some house rules to stop people ruining your parties. Lasers are problematic because they can keep enemies in stunlock til they explode, and characters with a BigFig mode benefit from increased mobility with few drawbacks.

The Arenas are a feature that have my attention and I look forward to seeing what gimmicks arise from future packs.

Conclusion

Overall, Wave 6 is definitely one of the strongest waves  from a design perspective, and it shows that the team have learnt some important lessons from Year 1. However, on the technical side of things it’s shown a lot of problems. The delivery of the new content was terribly mishandled, and there’s a frustrating amount of bugs present in the new wave if you do actually manage to download them. I’m sure they’ll be weeded out as the majority of bugs have in the past, but it’s really disappointing to have your hype dampened by glitches and errors. If the rest of Year 2 can deliver levels and worlds on par with these but without the glitches, then we’ll be in for a treat.

Be sure to check out our Level Pack Playthroughs page, which will gradually be updated with reviews and gameplay footage of each of the new Level Packs and Story Packs.

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