Another year, another licensed LEGO game and, indeed, my third one in a row for review! For those of you not up to speed on the general concept of LEGO games, they are third person action titles, aimed at younger players with a penchant for being based on licensed properties. Following a story, you barrel through stages solving puzzles, smashing bad guys and objects into tiny tiny LEGO bricks, collecting studs (the games currency) and hunting out hidden items. Some items require specific character abilities, so levels can eventually be replayed with any character to help you hunt down those elusive shinies. Right, now we’re all up to speed, where does LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens digger from the slew of other bricky auctioneers?
While TT Games have been building on the successes of their “Toys to life” version of the LEGO franchise, LEGO Dimensions, I found their last stand alone title, LEGO Avengers to be fun but somewhat lacking, a mish mash of not quite developed ideas. Colour me very pleased to find out that all the things I had issue with have been refined in The Force Awakens which also brings with it a bunch of new features. Bottom line, this is the most fun I’ve had with a LEGO game since my personal high point of the series, LEGO Marvel Superheroes.
As one would expect, the game follows the story of last years Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, albeit opening with a slightly surprising prologue taken from earlier in the Star Wars lore. As well as the usual brick smashing, platform ping antics, this prologue also introduces players to one of the games newer play modes – flying sections. These play out pretty much the same as Factor 5’s much missed Rogue Squadron games and see players zipping either along set paths or navigating open sections, and feel very fresh for the series. There are also some canned cover shooter sections when on foot, but these feel less like “my first Gears of War” and more like a shooting gallery. I guess the closest comparison would probably be the old arcade game Cabal. They add a bit of spice to the game but not as much as the flying sections. Seriously? I’d buy a game comprised ONLY of those sections.
Between stages are open world areas for players to explore; these can be revisited at any time in the course of the game and provide a distraction from the main story where you can search for secrets, unlock new characters and collect gold bricks (more on those in a moment). The open world areas were one of my prime complaints about The Avengers game, with their lack of full screen map making it incredibly hard to actually find the secrets, and the convoluted way of accessing them leading to a lack of desire to return and mine them for secrets. All of this has been negated in The Force Awakens and the open world areas are a joy to explore, easily accessed from a galactic map with overview screens showing what items there are still to unlock in each area.
Which brings us onto those gold bricks and what is possibly my favourite part of the game – the extra missions. Collect enough gold bricks and you can unlock side stories featuring the characters from the main game – for example, find out how Poe Dameron saved Admiral Ackbar from the First Order, how Lor San Tekka returned to Jakku or how Han and Chewie came into possession of the Rathtars. These are great distractions from the main mission and, what’s best, once you ignore the usual LEGO silliness, they’re canon in the Star Wars universe! The best, best bit? All the voices for the characters in the game are provided by the actors from the film! Yup, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, even grumpy old Harrison Ford all recorded extra lines for the game meaning you don’t just get to hear the usual canned dialogue from the films. What this does is add a degree of connectivity to the game that you don’t usually get when TT Games only have the film dialogue to use. There are very few “filler” characters, people created just for the game to guide the player through levels where there are gaps in the words. Now you get to hear extra, witty banter between Poe and Finn as they are trying to escape the Star Destroyer; you even get to hear Han talk about Wookie Cookies. Seriously, Harrison Ford just seems to be really enjoying himself so much right now!
With all the unlockables and extra missions, there is so much to enjoy in this game – there is a season pass available which will add more side missions to enjoy. It’s not too expensive and, going by the previous season pass for The Avengers, should bring with it a decent amount of content for the price.
Yes, it’s a bit of a “business as usual” LEGO game as far as gameplay is concerned, with a few extra play types to spice things up. If you didn’t like LEGO games before, this one won’t win you over. But with extra dialogue for the characters provided by the actual actors and storylines that are canon to the Star Wars universe, this is a must for fans of the Galaxy Far Far Away, and one of the most polished and fun non-Dimensions LEGO titles for some time.