A little over a decade ago, a little-known developer called Traveller’s Tales was given the chance of a lifetime: develop a Star Wars games based on Episodes I-III and have it out in time to capitalize on the release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The final product was LEGO Star Wars. Today, the LEGO franchise is an unmitigated phenomenon. Traveller’s Tales has since worked with some of the biggest IPs in the world including Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lord of the Rings, Marvel and DC, but in 2016, they get to go back to the franchise that started it all. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is here, but is there enough here to justify adapting only one film?
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens follows the plot of the movie to a T. You’re going to experience all the same plot beats, twists and wacky situations from the film. Players can expect to travel between Jakku, Takodana, the Resistance Base and Starkiller Base throughout the game’s runtime, taking control of the film’s heroes. Some sections depicting intense violence and destruction have been shortened or cut to keep the game rated E. Nor are there any new insights into some of the film’s many mysteries. This is a cut-and-dry adaptation of the film and your enjoyment of it will depend on how much you like the film.
A big selling point for LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens are the extra levels that help fill in the gaps between Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The team at Traveller’s Tales worked with LucasFilm to create these scenarios, giving them authenticity in the universe. In these missions, players will experience Poe Dameron’s rescue of Admiral Ackbar, how Han and Chewie captured the Rathtars and how C-3P0 got his red arm. These new missions are intriguing and exciting for Star Wars fans, it’s just disappointing that it’s all locked behind a wall. The only way to play these missions is to collect Gold Bricks and you’ll need a lot of them. These missions should have been made available to everyone after beating the game, and not left only for completionists.
There is a lot of content in the game. The main campaign takes up ten levels with an additional two levels serving as the prologue and epilogue. It’s quite meaty on paper, though some levels, like a short Resistance Base chapter, feel like filler. There are over 200 characters to play with, though some are duplicates with a slightly different costume. Though the majority of the characters are from The Force Awakens, there is a good mixture of Original and Prequel trilogy characters to unlock.
If you’ve ever played a LEGO game before then you should know what to expect from LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There’s a bit of one-button combat, some simple platforming and puzzle solving that typically involves switching between the different characters. Every character has a unique ability, and like any LEGO game, will need to make use of them all to uncover all the secrets. For example, characters with explosives, like Chewbacca, are able to destroy silver blocks and only Sith characters can move red-glowing structures.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t challenging. It is, after all, designed predominately for children, but it’s still enjoyable for adults. Still, as evidenced in LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, the formula is starting to get old. Traveller’s Tales realizes this and have added a few new mechanics to freshen things up with varying success. First up is the multi-build. Essentially, during certain segments of the game, players will be able to build two-to-three different structures out the same pile of bricks. The idea was meant to give players the illusion of choice, but it doesn’t work. Despite players being able to “choose” what they want to build, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens requires certain things to be built before the other. For example, water had to be transported from one place to the other. The ability to build three different pieces was there, but there was no choice. To complete the puzzle, all three pieces had to be built in the correct order. This new addition ended up feeling hollow and purposeless.
Traveller’s Tales has also tried to spice up the combat with Gears of War/Uncharted cover sections. Blaster Battles are scripted sections where characters take cover and blast at the enemies. Every now and again certain character’s unique abilities will come into play. Blaster Battles are a neat idea on paper but aren’t executed very well. The game automatically targets the nearest enemy and the hit-boxes are very large. There’s no challenge in these sections, which is disappointing because they could have been a really neat addition.
Finally, there are the flying sections, which have been completely redone. Featuring both on-rails and free-flying segments, these are some of the most exhilarating sections of the game. Flying over Takodana and destroying Tie-Fighters, or making a daring trench-run on Starkiller Base, never ceases to amaze. Though the flight controls are straightforward and death is never a penalty, these are some of the best moments the game offers.
In terms of presentation, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a LEGO game. It may be the best-looking LEGO game released yet, but it isn’t setting any graphical benchmarks. What the presentation does nail is the charm associated with the LEGO brand. Alcohol is replaced with coffee, Kylo Ren’s obsession with Darth Vader includes a lot of merchandise and BB-8 is even more adorable than his film counterpart. The game may not make an older audience laugh, but it will at least make them grin.
Unlike LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, which suffered from Traveller’s Tales’ inability to bring back the original cast, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens does have the original cast. Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), and many other cast members returned to record new dialogue for the game, resulting in a more authentic experience. Then, of course, there’s John Williams’ soundtrack, which is as fantastic as always.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t break any new ground like LEGO Star Wars did. It’s very much the same formula with a sprinkling of new mechanics, though not all of them are all that great. Still, playing LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens rarely felt like a chore thanks to a large amount of charm and some wonderfully designed levels. Did we really need this game? No, we probably could have waited for Episodes VIII and IX, but Traveller’s Tales does justify it with the game’s length. There’s a lot to do with twelve campaign levels and the six bonus levels, which are annoyingly locked behind a Gold Brick wall. With over 200 Original, Prequel and Force Awakens characters to choose from, there’s bound to be something for everyone. Though the formula may be getting old, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is at least exhilarating with enough charm to make up for the lack of innovation.