“Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Review
In life, there are a handful of guarantees: death, taxes, and Star Wars merchandise. I’ll argue that the most latter is definitely a fact because I mean, come on. Force Friday much? And with Star Wars merchandise comes another close guarantee: Legos! Hence, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While Star Wars Battlefront only loosely connected to the latest Star Wars installment, TT Games takes the opportunity to showcase the future of Star Wars by being the first to adapt the story to a video game.
So, there’s been awakening. Have you built it?
What’s It About?
The game is actually just an uninspired clone of A New Hope. Just kidding – I had to throw in a Star Wars in-joke! But Lego Star Wars: TFA does follow the film fairly faithfully with some legitimately good exceptions.
Rather than start with the Assault on Jakku, Lego TFA jumps into a lengthy epilogue with the Battle of Endor. It’s a good primer to show you the newer mechanical features of a cover system and reusable bricks, which I’ll build upon later (pun absolutely intended). It’s a great bit of excitement despite having been covered in Lego Star Wars games before. After that, the game jumps into the main story of The Force Awakens.
I don’t necessarily need to explain the plot here since, you know, the film made over $2 billion. That would sort of indicate that nearly everyone in this galaxy saw it. However! Lego TFA does a solid job of turning even the most transitional moments of the film into enjoyable levels, but perhaps more importantly provides unlockable side missions to get deeper insight into the main story’s situation. For example, you can play through Han Solo wrangling rathars or Poe Dameron rescuing Admiral Ackbar—the latter of which provides a solid throwback to A New Hope’s jailbreak on the Death Star. These can only be unlocked by collecting the ever-present gold bricks, but completing the main campaign and gathering enough studs should buy you access to at least one or two extra campaigns. There’s even a bonus level of dajarik, the chess-like onboard the Millennium Falcon, that will net you a few playable characters.
Why Should I Care?
Despite being generally well received, the Lego games can perhaps be knocked for their limited growth. They’re enjoyable, yes (I’ve even reviewed some of the games with positive words), but perhaps better at cutting movie moments together and telling jokes rather than introducing mechanical growth. Enter Lego The Force Awakens, which I feel actually will start to push the Lego franchises to a more modern level.
The biggest nuance here is the addition of a curated cover system. What does that mean, exactly? Well, it won’t be available 100% of the time. There are mandated moments in various levels that will prompt you into cover mode in order to place you into Blaster Battles. This will have you fight a countdown of enemies, typically 90% cannon fodder and 10% mini-bosses. The longer you last without dying, the better medal you will earn to cash in for studs. You’ll need to use a face or trigger button to pop out of cover and auto-aim assist will target your enemies. It’s an easy transition to target control. It’s simple but effective in increasing the engagement in what could otherwise be simple running around a sandbox of enemies, which the game can still struggle with at times. Mechanically, it works well if just a little slow at times. There were only a few times where the view was obstructed, but it was great for the most part because the camera would move much tighter behind your current character. I found it quite enjoyable because it tended to offer more challenging moments over the sandbox moments.
As for building, Lego TFA takes advantage of reusable bricks. Where most bricks were meant for a single purpose, some bricks in TFA give you the option to build upwards of three things. For the most part, it’s part of a low-level puzzle to help you advance through a level; you’ll need to determine what should actually be built first to progressively move characters along. Other times, it’s just to offer up more than one way to attack an enemy in comical fashion. I liked how it tempered the gameplay without dramatically slowing it down.
Other improvements are on the subtler side. For example, health levels can vary depending on character and your combat success (mostly the latter, from what I could tell). Success can be built from stringing together both hits on enemies and the collection of studs throughout a level. On a character power level, Lego TFA has characters such as Leia and Wicket (Ewoks have ranks!) be able to gather a small group of non-playable characters to complete tasks. They’re only meant for curated moments, much like the cover system, so don’t expect to go into complete strategy mode during the game.
It ends up being put together with what’s already a solid Lego game base. The gameplay felt like it flowed a lot better than the last few that I’ve played, making for a more comfortable run. It only ever gets hampered down by some exposed quirks that can bug out the game. In the last chapter (the story is split into 10), I inadvertently got Finn sucked into an otherwise inaccessible area. Losing my progress and starting the entire level again, I moved him and Rey into positions that would easily get me access to a collectible minikit, but that somehow made Kylo Ren disappear and Rey got stuck in a Force Freeze. Such freezes tend to be an issue in Lego games, perhaps overlooked because it’s a simple game where a AAA title would get reamed harder. It’s hard to ignore such a hangup, but thankfully it’s not horribly present.
In other mechanical wonkiness, the vehicles tended to react in erratic ways. Flying had this weird learning curve to it. By default, flight inversion isn’t turned on but the heaviness of the shifts made controlling them difficult. Personally, I don’t care for inversion in games but the heaviness made it feel like there was some level of inversion. A more inversion-prone gamer may not feel that as compared to me. However, land-based vehicles felt clunkier, most notably Rey’s speeder. This is likely the biggest lack of progress for Lego games as vehicle mechanics have never felt all too great. However, I did find Lego Jurassic World’s vehicle use to be much smoother.
On a final “why you should care” note, I appreciated how much Lego TFA really went for some of the more intense and dramatic moments of the stories. It can goof on a majority of areas to not show much violence, but in the epilogue the Emperor really goes barreling down that Death Star shaft. And in the main story when you-probably-know-who meets their conclusion, that’s another shaft death that gets shown. So maybe that means if you tumble to your death down a shaft, Lego will respect that moment and show it!
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
Naturally, this going is going to target major Star Wars fans and the family market. But just like most Lego games, it does a solid job balancing being a game that a toddler can complete and one an adult can manage to enjoy without being insulted. By no means is it a groundbreaking game, but it felt like a fresh Lego opportunity because of the way its mechanical upgrades overshadow any of the flaws it may face throughout the game.
Ultimately, it’s that sort of side that will take up some of your gaming time, enough to dabble in for some the completionist types but not one that will dominate a ton of your time. And with the subject matter being Star Wars, TT Games already has an opportunity to capture a large audience to show off how well it can tell a story and introduce newer mechanics. So if you’re a big Star Wars fan and/or have kids who love the franchise, it’s absolutely worth your time. If you’re not quite that big of a Star Wars fan, it’s something fun to dabble with through at least a rental.
|Title:||Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens|
|Platform:||PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows, iOS, Mac OS|
|Publisher:||Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment|
|Release Date:||June 28, 2016|
|ESRB Rating:||Everyone 10+|
|Editor's Note:||A copy of the game was purchased for PlayStation 4 by the reviewer. Story mode played to completion; roughly 30% of the overall game completed.|