Monday, July 4, 2016

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review (XONE)

My basic rule with the LEGO games is that you’ll love the games as long as you like the license.  That doesn’t mean the games don’t have any problems, but your love of “Star Wars” or “Jurassic Park” or whatever will easily outweigh any issues and you’ll have fun.  This applies to the latest LEGO game, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well.  It has its fair share of issues, but fans will enjoy it regardless.  Forget that my opening statement sort of renders this full review of the game pointless, though, and read it anyway.   

Game Details

  • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
  • Developer: Traveller’s Tales
  • ESRB Rating: “E10” for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Pros: Great presentation; prologue missions; flight missions
  • Cons: Unlocking prologue missions; repetitive minigames; formula is getting old; cover sections are lame
  • MSRP: $60

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens tells a LEGO-fied version of the story in “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens”.  You’ll go to Jakku, Takodana, the Restance Base, and Starkiller Base just like the movie, though the game fills in some of the gaps between events to stretch the story to a solid 10-hour runtime.  In addition to levels that follow the story from the movie, there are extra levels such as the final battle in “Return of the Jedi”, Poe Dameron rescuing Admiral Ackbar, and even showing how Han and Chewie captured the rathgars, among other bonus missions.  These bonus missions have to be unlocked by playing the rest of the game to earn a ton of gold bricks, unfortunately.  It is a shame you have to work your butt off to see the objectively most compelling content the game has to offer.   

As with all LEGO games, just beating the 10-hour story doesn’t mean you’ve finished the game.  There are 200+ characters to unlock, red cheat bricks to find, hidden canisters, and much more to discover in order to 100% the game, which pads the overall length to a solid 20-25 hours. 

Gameplay here is pure LEGO simple button mashing through and through.  You break blocks, collect studs, and occasionally have to build something out of LEGO bricks to proceed.  Different character types have different abilities, such as blowing up gold or silver blocks, lifting heavy objects, crawling through narrow passages, or using the Force to move stuff.  It is good simple fun that works well here.  LSW The Force Awakens does also have some new tricks of its own, of course. 

First off are the multi-build sections that use the same LEGO pieces to build 2-3 different items you need to progress through the level.  For example, you’ll build a control panel first, then destroy it and build a jump pad, then destroy it to build something else.  This is an interesting concept, but there isn’t really any choice involved.  You have to build the items in the proper order in order to proceed, so it all just ultimately seems tedious and pointless.  Another new gameplay addition are cover-based shooting sections where your characters can pop out from behind cover to shoot enemies or destroy LEGO items before ducking back down for protection.  These sections are totally brainless with auto-targeting and no challenge whatsoever.  Again, they just seem tedious and pointless. 

Faring a little better are the new open world flying sections where you can actually fly an X-Wing or TIE Fighter freely around a battle.  The controls are dead simple, but these sections are very fun and work well.

All in all, though, the fundamental gameplay formula here is really starting the wear thin.  Traveller’s
Tales has been trying to update the series’ gameplay to be more interesting over the last several years, but most of the new additions have been worse instead of better.  There are so many different character abilities now that it is kind of confusing.  And every character type in The Force Awakens also has some sort of ability that requires either button mashing or playing a really dumb minigame (Finn has to align stormtrooper armor, druids “hack” stuff by rotating puzzle pieces, etc.) that are repetitive and obnoxious by the second time you have to do them.  I don’t have any answers for how TT can “fix” the LEGO games, but I do know that what they’ve added here, as well as in LEGO Avengers, is not the way to go.  The games are fine and perfectly playable, but they’re just not as fun as they used to be.

As you might expect, presentation is one area where LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens excels at.  Being a Star Wars game and all, the sound effects and music are absolutely outstanding and the voice work – much of which is new dialogue from the actors from the movies – is well done.  The visuals are also fantastic and easily stand as the best looking LEGO game yet. 

As I said to open the review, your enjoyment of LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens largely depends on how much you like the license.  If you love the movie, you’ll have a good time with this game despite some of the issues it has with the LEGO game formula really starting to lose its luster.  With that said, it is still a solid game all around and kids will love it, but it isn’t exactly a must-play experience like LEGO games used to be (they were for me, at least).  I’d say rent it rather than buy it. 

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.