The video game publishers’ latest LEGO Star Wars release, based on late 2015’s The Force Awakens, is a little different to previous brick-based titles that they have produced. Not only has the company introduced new gameplay to their tried-and-tested formula, but they have also worked with Lucasfilm to develop exclusive new story levels to expand ever further into the Star Wars universe.
How was it returning to LEGO Star Wars, the franchise that started it all?
LEGO Star Wars was the first of this style of LEGO game that TT Games did, it’s held in really high regard within our studio. So in this we’ve got new features, such as multi builds where we can choose to build new objects rather than just one standard building target. You’ve got a flight section that’s moved on a lot, with full arena free flight rather than fixed on a plane. Then you’ve got the blaster battles, because there’s not as much lightsaber action in The Force Awakens.
Can you explain the levels that go beyond The Force Awakens movie?
You look at LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga and there’s six films’ worth of material at that point, 30 years of history to delve into. With The Force Awakens, Star Wars is very much going forward –people want to know how the story continues. You watch it and there’s a ton of unanswered questions, some of which Lucasfilm are going to answer in the films, so we can’t touch on, then there are others where it’s ‘yeah, we’re happy for you to tell that story’. It’s a real privilege for them to allow us not only to tell the story but have a part in crafting how it comes about.
Some of the stories are based on action that goes on in other media – for example we’ve got this Poe to the Rescue demo, that’s loosely tied into a LEGO short. But there’s some exclusive stories that we tell. So in the film, Han Solo mentions how he captured the Rathtars – the octopus squid creatures – and that he used to have a bigger crew. Can we tell the story of how he used to have a bigger crew? Lucasfilm said, ‘yeah, go for it’.
Were there any restrictions on what stories you could tell?
There were a few things where they said, ‘don’t set it on this planet, set it on this type of planet’. It’s just a nice flow to work with them, I was surprised by how much they allowed us to craft what it was. There’s a few things where they say, ‘you can’t use that character, we have plans for them’ – whether it’s in the next film, or in a tie-in book.
It starts off with very loose ideas and then those guys who know Star Wars inside out, they’ll say this is the planet you need to use, or ‘we don’t have a planet, you guys can make up that planet and name it’. I think we named five in the end. It’s like you guys are letting us name these planets? That’s amazing. Somewhere there’ll be a galaxy map, there will be five little dots that we’ve named.
How did you go about choosing what the additional levels would be?
I think we tried to pick parts of the film or characters that are really interesting, so you want to find out about their backstories. For example, Sidon Ithano – the red masked alien who Finn tries to leave with – I remember seeing him in some promo materials. He looked amazing, I wanted to know more about this guy, he’s far too cool to just be on the free play grid. Can we do something with him? Then it turns out that he’s the reason Poe Dameron gets this transport ship in the mission where he rescues Admiral Ackbar. It’s all about trying to give them more background, making it more fun to play as them as opposed to just going back through levels exploring as characters.
One of things we try to do with those levels is always give them really good visual gameplay contrast to the main story. We get to go to areas that look drastically different from Jakku, Takodana and Starkiller Base. It’s very alien looking, some of the planets are bioluminescent. We also try different things out in gameplay, things that we couldn’t do in the story which we try and stick faithfully to. So when Han and Chewie are being chased on the freighter, we can’t chuck loads of things in there, but in the level where they’re hunting the Rathtars we can within reason. It’s gives really good visual and gameplay contrast to the story levels.
Who is the most obscure playable character in The Force Awakens?
There’s a guy called Athgar Heece, he’s in The Force Awakens for all of about 10 seconds in the background. But he has an entire history. He’s a bounty hunter, he helps Lor San Tekka through his level – again, we get to expand on his background.
What’s your favourite gag in LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens?
If you watch the cut scenes and keep an eye out throughout the entire thing, there’s little moments with Chewie and BB-8. There’s one that’s really good in the background of one of the shots, when you just catch him spinning him on his finger like a basketball. I like anywhere when they use BB-8 as a football, I always ask to get a few football jokes in.
Jamie Eden explains how the team expanded the Star Wars galaxy.
Developed by TT Games and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now available for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system, Xbox One®, Xbox 360®, Wii U™ system from Nintendo, Nintendo 3DS™ family of systems, Windows PC, Mac and on the App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.