Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Format: PS4 [Reviewed], Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS
Released: June 28, 2016
Copy provided by publisher
In some ways, it feels like a futile exercise trying to review a Lego game at this point. The franchise has largely stuck to the same formula since the original Lego Star Wars came out in 2005, and while it’s a bit unfair to the fine folks over at TT Games to say that if you’ve played one Lego game, you’ve played them all, this statement isn’t entirely inaccurate either. The latest entry in the long-running series, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a Lego game through and through, which will undoubtedly turn off those that long ago tired of brick building and stud collecting. That being said, The Force Awakens not only offers a faithful adaptation of the third highest-grossing film of all time, but actually introduces some new gameplay mechanics to break up the usual monotony, making this probably the best entry in the series since 2013’s Lego Marvel Superheroes. Plus, you’re not going to find any other games right now that allow you to motor around as BB-8.
As you might expect, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens offers a relatively faithful adaptation of the 2015 film’s plot, with players taking control of multiple characters over the course of the 10 chapter story mode. Surprisingly, the game doesn’t open with Poe Dameron’s botched retrieval mission on Jakku, but with the Battle of Endor from Return of the Jedi. This was clearly done to help fill in the gaps between the end of that film and The Force Awakens, as many among the game’s younger target audience audience likely haven’t even seen the original 1983 film. It’s a bit of an unnecessary diversion considering we already got to play through the events of RotJ in Lego Star Wars II, but this focus on filling in gaps in the story of The Force Awakens pays dividends later on, as you get to play through chapters that tell you how C-3PO got his arm, for instance. TT Games has always gone above and beyond when it comes to fan service and Lego The Force Awakens doesn’t disappoint in this area.
When it comes to the actual story missions, it’s surprising how much variety TT Games has been able to inject into each, especially since the basic gameplay still largely consists of solving simple environmental puzzles and breaking stuff. Part of the reason for this is that each of the main characters has their own unique abilities, to the point where you’ll want to switch back and forth between them just to take out the game’s neverending stream of Stormtroopers in different ways. Admittedly, some elements get annoying after awhile (the hacking puzzles being the biggest offender), but fulfilling moments like the first time you get your hands on a lightsaber help to keep things moving at a relatively decent pace.
As previously mentioned, there are also some new gameplay mechanics that haven’t been seen in a Lego game and while none of them change things up significantly, they do offer some much-needed variation in the minute-to-minute playing experience. The most noteworthy addition is probably the cover shooting, which allows you to engage in basic firefights at specific junctures throughout the game. It’s no Gears of War, but it’s perfectly serviceable. The other new mechanic of note is the multi-build, which allows you to select between a few different objects to build. Again, these aren’t gamechangers by any means, but the fact that TT Games is even bothering to try and introduce new mechanics at this stage when they could just as easily sit back and churn out the same game with a different skins is certainly commendable.
This wouldn’t be a Star Wars game without ship combat and fortunately, the ship combat sequences in Lego The Force Awakens are actually pretty good! The great thing about them is that they alternate between on-rails and free roam sections and it’s hard not to feel a bit of Rogue Squadron nostalgia while flying Poe Dameron’s X-Wing through tight corridors and dogfighting with TIE Fighters. If anything, this game could use more of these sequences, as they’re much more exciting than the traditional on-foot gameplay. Hopefully TT Games recognizes this and includes more of these sequences in the game’s future DLC.
Each Lego game arguably begins once you finish the story mode, as you finally get to explore all of the game’s HUB worlds and start truly collecting everything. Lego The Force Awakens is no exception, as there are a number of new areas and missions that unlock after the story is over, which is a relief considering how much of a grind the story mode can be at times. Thankfully, it’s worth trudging through the story to get to the post-game content, as the missions are much more engaging overall and even offer a Legofied version of new canon material. Some of the highlights include a team-up between Poe Dameron and Admiral Ackbar, and a missions dedicated to Captain Phasma, which has the added benefit of giving Gwendoline Christie more lines than she had in the movie!
Presentation wise, Lego The Force Awakens is easily the best sounding and looking Lego game to date, with the bright, colorful characters and landscapes of the film translating well in brick form. The game features full voice acting and even includes many additional lines from all of the principal cast. Unfortunately, you may have a hard time hearing some of those lines, as the series’ penchant for terrible audio mixing is on full display yet again. For a game that’s so polished in most other areas of its design, it’s disappointing to see just how little effort seems to have been put into getting the audio levels mixed right. Sound effects and music regularly drown out dialogue and don’t be surprised if you finding yourself jumping out of your seat the first time you earn “True Jedi” status on a level, as the sound effect seems designed to blow out your speakers. This isn’t something that you can fix manually either, as the game offers no option to change individual audio levels, meaning you’ll probably have to keep readjusting your TV or sound system’s volume levels as you go.
Overall, Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens isn’t the most thrilling of games (I fell asleep at least three times while playing it), but as far as faithful, kid-friendly adaptations of extremely popular movies go, it could be much, much worse. Whether you’re a Star Wars fan or just enjoy the simplistic, humorous design of the Lego games, you’ll want to pick this one up. That being said, it might be better to wait for the game’s price to drop a bit if you’re not exactly in a hurry to see how The Force Awakens plays out in Lego form, as this isn’t exactly the can’t-miss gaming experience of the year. Still, there’s a ton of value to be had here and seeing as how this is pretty much the only option when it comes to video games based on the last Star Wars film, it’s worth returning to a galaxy far, far away even if you’re a bit over the Lego formula.
Did I mention BB-8’s in it?
Star Wars fans will find a lot to like in the overly familiar, but charming Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens