There was a time in the LEGO games’ history where it felt like there was little innovation game-to-game. You knew exactly what you were getting; each game given a veneer of a different license, but gameplay-wise they were much the same. This wasn’t so much a problem; they’ve always maintained the overall quality and quintessential humour they’re known for. But I’m happy to report that, with LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, things are noticeably different and appreciably better.
I dived in and began playing through the Battle of Endor prologue. Having not read too much about the game beforehand I was surprised when, mid-level, the camera perspective changed, my character crouched behind a wall, and it all went a little Gears of War. The new ‘cover’ feature when embroiled in large battles is fantastic. The sections aren’t too regular as to become obtrusive but serve to break up the platforming and aerial combat sections rather nicely.
For those who’ve been away since the previous LEGO Star Wars games, rather than grunts and squeaks, it’s now customary for the LEGO games to feature a full voice cast. And we’re not talking just the movie’s audio track: all the key actors are back for additional dialogue where appropriate. The plot is stretched out a little as it’s covering a single movie rather than several but this doesn’t detract because the game makes up for it with a number of bonus levels, unlocked by the acquisition of those ever-present gold bricks (with even more additional levels available as DLC).
Instead of using a pile of blocks to build one item, in some cases you get to use the same bricks to create multiple builds to progress through a level. The feature, touted as ‘multi-build,’ is great except when it’s not all that obvious in which order the builds need to be created.
Jumping from platform to platform is a breeze and it’s much more rare that I find my character jumping wantonly to his or her doom. The puzzles, solvable by characters with a particular skill, are still present but, despite the repetitiveness of them, they felt shorter and I could breeze through without my blood pressure increasing to a dangerous level.
The result of all this may be an initially shorter playthrough, but it’s hardly like the LEGO games are lacking for replayability. After the credits (interspersed with short comedic videos) had finished rolling on my first run the story, the game smugly pointed out that I’d completed less than 20% of what it had to offer. Where TT Games’ LEGO Marvel’s The Avengers suffered from feeling rather disjointed; LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens feels much more cohesive.
It’s less frustrating and more innovative than previous LEGO games, it makes the most of its source material but the main story still ends up feeling a little stretched. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens left me wanting more, in a good way. The aerial battle sequences left me deeply desiring a LEGO version of the Lucasarts classic Star Wars: X-Wing, and wondering idly about the possibility of a special edition of the original LEGO Star Wars games to take advantage of all the new developments. But that might just be the George Lucas in me.