A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the combination of a famous toy brand and an epic forty-year spanning saga has returned for the third instalment in an already beloved gaming adventure.
Let’s face it, everybody loves Star Wars. And just about as many people love LEGO. So when a clever soul decided to merge the two together back in 2005, it was going to be anything but a failure. It is a franchise enjoyed by gamers around the globe, both young and old, and whether you’re looking for a quick gander about or a lengthy lightsaber battle, nothing comes close.
With the official saga out of the way, ranging from The Phantom Menace to Return of the Jedi, the folks at Traveller’s Tales have turned their attention to the more recent take on George Lucas’s creation, The Clone Wars. From the viewpoint of a passer-by, this game doesn’t really stand out from its predecessors as far as box-art goes. It sticks to the typical Star Wars theme of smashing the player in the face with the main cast, however the game that lies within is a coiled spring of games development.
For anyone who has played the previous chapters in the LEGO Star Wars adventures, the immediate difference that strikes you is what an outstanding job the new game engine has done for just about everything. First used in LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues, the new Unity engine is an impressive feat. The most captivating aspect without a shadow of a doubt, is the visuals that this game delivers, not just in comparison to other games of a similar nature, but how it looks on its own two feet.
Games don’t really come much better looking this. The many LEGO pieces that surround you as you fight your way through numerous environments have been completely revamped, and now carry a smooth, glossy finish that really adds to the Star Wars feel that fans have come to expect. This metallic look doesn’t just apply to your heroes however. Gone are the bland and lifeless visuals of the latter, and now every single panel, armour plate and corridor glistens as if it was taken straight from the saga.
Another admirable addition to the games visual prowess is the lighting effects that can be seen at every turn. Lightsabers purr and coat the area around in a bask of colour, and environmental tweaks like sun and light fixtures bring the world to life. A particularly impressive spot of lighting appears when Jedi Knights Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are in a ferocious pursuit of General Grievous. The flagship that the player finds themselves in during this level feels eerie and dark, until a large hangar door opens later into the set, causing a nearby star to cast a bright orange light across the floor.
The second stunning visual piece lies with the games many environments, which are as gorgeous as they are fitting. The older LEGO instalments, although released on the same generation of console, are mere shadows of what The Clone Wars development team have managed to design. Where the previous environments were simplistic and lacking in a number of textures, this game has environmental tricks that range from sleek, sexy spaceship interiors, to vast plains of alien desert where our protagonists make the most of the Clone Army at their disposal. But no LEGO game is complete without an abundance of animations, and this title is no different. Gradually increase the pressure on your controllers’ analogue sticks, and you will see your hero flow from a cautious creep into a pacing sprint, with just about every variation in between. Unlike other Star Wars games, where you are forced to gad about with your lightsaber constantly humming away, a short sharp press on the relevant face button will see your character dis-ignite their blade and tuck it into their pocket, or bring it bursting into life just in time to deflect that stray bit of blaster fire. The authenticity doesn’t stop there however, and the ‘cute’ appeal of LEGO as we know it has been added into the animations aswell, so you’ll occasionally find yourself bouncing around like a baby or shattering into pieces as your health reaches zero.
It is clear to see that over the years, LucasArts games have always been compelling, and never fail to succeed when it comes to gameplay. Fortunately, this trend is instantly apparent with this game, and never becomes repetitive. Fans returning to the franchise will feel right at home with the single-stick controlled movement and delightfully clunky fighting style, where cutting through droids is as easy as it sounds. Another familiar face is the ‘force grip’ ability, which allows you to interact with a number of objects within the universe. As you’d expect, building things is the order of the day, and players will sometimes be encouraged to blast something to pieces, only to assemble it moments later into something more mission-handy. The fighting style is essentially dealt with in two different ways, lightsabers and blaster rifles. Although this does consist of a lot of button mashing, it looks and feels fantastic. The ‘saber lock’ move, although rarely seen, is extremely satisfying and reminiscent of so many golden film moments, where the Jedi you control clashes his lightsaber with an enemies and you are left trying to force them back in a flurry of colour.
Along with the saber swings of old, comes a brand new gameplay aspect which could quite frankly sell the game by itself. The latter games were built around an entertaining but extremely linear layout, where you would find yourself in tightly packed interiors where ducking and diving was a must. In The Clone Wars however, Traveller’s Tales have taken advantage of their brilliant new game engine and created magnificent and epic bouts that tear across the battlegrounds of the galaxy. This will see you marching across the frontlines of such infamous settings as Geonosis, Ryloth and many more. You still control the one character, but instead of cutting your way through a few droids at a time, you will go up against literally hundreds of completely interactable and individual droid units, where bouncing bullets comes naturally. You can also turn the tide of battle by hopping into the seat, or indeed onto the flesh of a vehicle or beast, which can be steered about to create absolute havoc and hours of enjoyment. A Clone Trooper astride an alien rhino will become all but familiar as you tuck into the vast battles of the game.
These battles aren’t just about mindless killstreaks however. Each battle is filled with primary and secondary objectives which the player can accomplish in their own time, and these range from powering down enemy deflector shields to smashing through scattered statues around the battleground. Larger enemies such as the recognisable ‘Spider-Walker’ and artillery serve up a real challenge, and you will find yourself swerving about to avoid hails of glowing gunfire. The battle also continues up above in the black of space, and your trusty four-legged steed is replaced by a number of signature starfighters from the saga.
The game follows the trend of its predecessors with the always clever ‘level hub’ system. In between each mission you face, you are flown back to a Republic Frigate, where all your levels and achievements are stored. This is seemingly efficient, and it even takes a leaf from the book of Bioware, introducing a ‘Galaxy Map’ to help you browse through active missions as seen in the Mass Effect franchise.
Also sticking to the theme of the franchise so far, the overall objective of the game is to collect ‘mod-kits’, which in turn represent rewards that can be used, or individual LEGO pieces that go towards building characters. There are 10 to be found in each level, and although you will pick up the first few relatively easy, the remainder can only be obtained by returning to the level later as a relevant character. This could vary from a Sith Lord with the ability to open a secret door, or a Trooper with the explosives necessary to destroy a crate. This increases the games length ten-fold, and is another reason why this game is so special.
Although this game is now over twelve months old, you would’ve still landed on a bargain if you paid the full price for it on release day. The main story alone will take well over twenty hours to complete, and when you see the credits roll at the end, it is anything but complete. For the trophy and achievement hunters among us, you will find yourself pouring up to fifty hours into the vast content that this title has to offer. This is mainly down to the revisiting of pretty much every chapter, more accurately named ‘Free Play’. When choosing to play this mode, you can choose from any of the characters you’ve unlocked, and to anyone familiar with the Star Wars universe and the patience of the 3D modellers at Traveller’s Tales, that is a great number of protagonists. You will undoubtedly lust after the many shiny ‘Red Bricks’ dotted about the level hub, which when bought for an astonishing amount of in-game plastic money, will reward you with game changing perks. Any gamer will also find hours more to be found in the co-op side of this game, where anyone can literally drop in and out of gameplay, taking control of an AI ally until their work is done.
As to be expected from a LEGO game, the humour is on top form. It is spontaneous and witty, and even the older fans of the adventure will find themselves chuckling at the humorous takes on classic Star Wars cinematography. Anakin and Obi-Wan playing football with Jango Fetts’ head is among the first of many hilarious cut-scenes.
For a combined total of nearly 100 years, the colours of LEGO and the beauty of Star Wars has captured the hearts and minds of millions worldwide. Everyone was a child playing with a tiny yellow man, and everyone still remembers growing up with the terrifying breathing of Darth Vader ringing through their ears. And it is because of games like this that these incredible creations will still be around for years to come. The force is strong with this truly beautiful title.
Design and Presentation
The LEGO Star Wars instalments have always been good looking games, but this one raises the bar. What you have to remember is, it’s a LEGO game. It doesn’t need the blood and guts of Gears of War, nor does it need the graceful facial animations of Uncharted, it just needs to be LEGO. And it is, and then some.
Although there will always be more gripping releases on the market, this title does exactly as you’d expect, and it does it wonderfully. Its’ quick to play control scheme turns into hours of gadding about.
Anyone who has paid a good amount of Republic credits for this game will feel extremely satisfied with the games length, but the replay value of this game pushes the boundaries and it is almost impossible to put down.
Disclaimer: All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.