Developer Traveller's Tales has been working on the LEGO franchise for more than fifteen years now, and the fact that the series is still so popular is a testament to how willing the company is to evolve. Like other big franchises such as Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed, there are times where risks need to be taken in order to keep gameplay fresh and exciting. There can be times where some of these experiments fall flat, but when a franchise finds a new ingredient for success, it will usually stick to it. The LEGO games have routinely followed this philosophy of risk, and it's paid off for the series on more than one occasion.
When LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game released in 2005, it proved successful enough to warrant a sequel. Just one year later, Traveller's Tales was able to tackle the original trilogy of Star Wars films with LEGO Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy, and with it came some welcome additions. One of the biggest new features of this game was the introduction of a custom character creator. This allowed players to make the LEGO character of their dreams, using the various pieces of other Star Wars characters to make a creation all their own to use in the game.
This small feature proved to be a highly popular part of LEGO Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy, and it's become a staple feature of the LEGO series ever since. Traveller's Tales has expanded the feature dramatically since it first debuted, giving players more customization options as more games released. Some of the most robust character creators can be found in LEGO Jurassic World and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, and the feature was a key aspect of LEGO DC Super-Villains. The popularity of the character creator speaks to what makes the toy bricks fun to begin with, the unlimited potential for creativity.
Local multiplayer has been an integral part of the video game industry ever since its earliest days. One of the best things about playing a video game is enjoying it on a couch with some friends, but ever since the rise of online multiplayer, local co-op has largely fallen by the wayside. There has been a slight couch co-op resurgence in recent years, thanks to releases such as It Takes Two, but there aren't many major franchises that have consistent local multiplayer features anymore. The LEGO series has been the odd one out with this industry trend, as every licensed LEGO game has had some sort of drop-in/drop-out co-op.
Unfortunately for some early LEGO series fans, it took some time for the games to adapt to how some gamers play together. In the first few LEGO games, whenever two people played at once, there was a limit to how far away each player could be from one another. It was mostly dependent on the position of the camera at any given time, and if one player moved forward too much it would pull the other along and often to their death. This was remedied with the release of LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues as the game introduced true split screen, and it has made playing with others a seamless experience ever since.
If there's one thing that the video game industry has consistently fought over for the past few years, it is which game can have the biggest and best open world. Some games will approach this differently than others, like how The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's open world is focused on exploration and Grand Theft Auto 5's open world centers on interacting with the dozens of different stimuli in the game. Regardless, being given such a large playground to run around in is enticing to a lot of gamers. Traveller's Tales caught on to this trend pretty early on, and now open worlds are a pivotal part of the LEGO series.
The first LEGO game to have an open world was LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, and the way it was integrated into the usual linear structure of the missions was rather clever. Instead of shifting gears to a completely non-linear open world, Traveller's Tales instead made an open hub world of Gotham City, and then directed players to certain landmarks where they could begin a mission. This made starting a new mission into its own adventure, and the open hubs have only gotten bigger from there. The recently delayed LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga looks to be expanding on this concept the most, allowing players to explore multiple planets in the Star Wars galaxy which will serve as their own individual hubs.
The LEGO games have proven to be immensely popular due to the way they adapt well-known properties into humorous toy bricks, but the staying power of the franchise also comes down to the evolution of its gameplay. Traveller's Tales treats the series like its baby, and any opportunity for innovation has been taken with gusto. It highlights the seemingly endless ambition of the developer, and it's this ambition that keeps every new LEGO game fresh. Although fans have had to bear a number of delays with LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, the new features that Traveller's Tales has promised should prove to be worth it.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is in development for PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.