LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review
Eleven years ago, TT Games jumped headfirst into its new forte: taking iconic franchises from the world of entertainment and mixing them with LEGO blocks. It all started in 2005, with the release of LEGO Star Wars, and has evolved into a behemoth that has since spawned block-based takes on many of pop culture’s most iconic properties. The studio’s fascination with George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away didn’t end in 2005, though, as sprinkled within the shelf’s worth of LEGO games lay a few other LEGO Star Wars titles, including the recently released LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
If you’ve played a LEGO game before then you know that they all follow a very similar formula. You take control of at least two characters, and use their abilities to solve puzzles while dealing with dangers of varying types. It’s pretty simple stuff, and requires you to smash the holy Hell out of everything around you, in an attempt to earn studs, find secrets, and more. The most important reason for this madness, however, is progression, as destroyed objects’ LEGO remains can sometimes be used to build new things. Mundane things like bridges and ladders, as well as much more interesting objects like catapults and turrets.
Whether you like it or not, this recycled formula has — with some tweaks and the odd change — lasted for eleven years and earned millions upon millions of sales dollars along the way. There’s no denying that it sells or that it’s successful, even if its repetitive nature has become frustratingly tedious.
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For those who are worried about the above, the good news is that LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens marks a step in the right direction, and is definitely less tedious than some of its peers. Sure, it still follows its series’ guiding principals of block breaking, stud collecting, and build-based puzzle solving, but there are new elements to take into consideration this time around.
For starters, TT Games has injected some Gears of War into its LEGO, through cover-based firefights that use the tried and true duck and cover mechanic. Just pop out when you want to fire, then release the button to hide and avoid taking damage from incoming fire. Think of it as Gears of War meets Time Crisis.
Although these blaster battles are somewhat plentiful, they’re not shoehorned in at every twist and turn. Plus, while they may be a bit basic in design, they show that the developers have been listening to player feedback and are trying to add more variety into their collectathons. So, even though their aiming has some flaws and their simplicity leads to them becoming stale after a while, I’m glad that they exist.
Another of this game’s three noteworthy additions is aerial combat, which fits in perfectly and comes with the territory that is Star Wars. Through it, we now have the ability to take to the skies and shoot down tie fighters (and other enemy transports) while in control of a Poe-piloted x-wing or the Millennium Falcon. The aerial controls are solid, the gameplay is fun and it all ends up becoming a key part of the experience.
Last, but certainly not least, are the multi-builds, which play a big role in many of LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ puzzles.
Instead of limiting your build options to just one object per brick pile, multibuilds give you choice, or the illusion of it. By pressing left, right or up while building, you can select what you build from two or three ghosted options. At times, building each one will lead to a hidden area or collectible, but in most scenarios every multibuild is a puzzle in and of itself. As such, they must be taken in steps and completed in the right order, which is made possible by the fact that you can break them down and reuse their parts over and over again.
The introduction of multibuilds obviously means more building, but it’s a fresh and interesting enough idea that it doesn’t end up becoming annoying. A few of the puzzles may frustrate, but they’re generally simple and just require a bit of thought and careful use of the mechanic.
That said, my experiences with this new set-up weren’t always flawless. When I went back and replayed a story level, I found that I was unable to complete a certain puzzle that I’d previously mastered. Although I did everything right, my character wouldn’t jump from one ledge to another like he was supposed to, and would drop to the ground instead. I tried and tried, but it simply wouldn’t work, so I reloaded the checkpoint in frustration. Not long after, the game crashed on me for the first and only time.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on this release, then you know that Warner Bros. advertised the Hell out of its inclusion of unique levels. By that, I mean individual stages that generally help bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. They even went so far as to have the stars record new dialogue, which will be a big draw for fans. However, while all of that is great, TT Games has locked these stages away behind collectibles, meaning that you’ll have to find 60 gold bricks before you’ll be able to play through all of them.
Twelve unique story missions make up the main campaign, including a Return of the Jedi-based prologue and an epilogue that covers the ending of The Force Awakens. The other ten are strictly based around the more recent film, and cover all of its major set pieces. Outside of the odd comedic detour, the developers stuck close to their source material, meaning that if you haven’t seen the film you’ll want to make sure to do so before playing.
As you travel around the galaxy, you’ll come across a few mini-hubs, but most of your free time (during the campaign) will be spent doing odd jobs aboard the Millennium Falcon or at your allies’ base. The hubs have quite a bit to offer, too, including scavenging missions, checkpoint races and faction quests for both the light and dark sides. That’s in addition to the plethora of collectibles that these games are known for.
Presentation-wise, there’s little to complain about. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a really nice-looking game, with lots of detail and shine to both its characters and its environments. It’s full of colour, shows lots of care, and has a good soundtrack that is made up of some iconic tunes. There is, however, some screen tearing and frame rate slowdown to be found in the base hub. On top of that, the audio mix leaves something to be desired, because its dialogue volume fluctuates on a scene by scene basis. There were times where I couldn’t make out what the characters were saying, despite having the volume set to a decently high level.
In the end, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an enjoyable and easy to recommend affair. While it’s a LEGO game at heart, and gets tedious like the rest of them, it marks a step in the right direction and boasts one of the best campaigns the series has ever produced.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
With LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, TT Games has shown its fans that it's listening. By adding new features and limiting the series' oft maligned tedium, the studio has delivered one of its better games.