The knock on profitable gaming franchises – such as Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, even the lovable Pokémon series – is that their developers seem to regularly recycle much of their content, innovating as little as possible so as not to alienate their massive audiences.
Traveller’s Tales LEGO series is under more scrutiny than most; its central mechanics of bashing and building have been essentially unchanged since the first LEGO Star Wars game – and that was released back in 2005.
So what does the developer’s new LEGO game based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens offer beyond the established core? Can it justify its existence, or is this just more of the same?
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review – The same old grind
While this game does introduce some new additions (which we’ll talk about later), it’s core still remains untouched. Player progression is still the same old grind of punching bad guys and solving puzzles using LEGO bricks.
That’s not to say the game isn’t enjoyable; while the lack of any real difficulty may put off the hardest of the hardcore, it lends itself to a huge audience. Given how easy the LEGO games are to pick up and play, they’re a Godsend to anyone with children.
That being said, if you are playing on PC, do not try to use the keyboard controls. They seem to be made for an alien with multiple, tiny hands who has never heard of a mouse. We’d even suggest avoiding this game altogether if you don’t have access to a gamepad.
Those players who aren’t put off by the game’s simplistic controls will find that there’s a ton of content to get stuck into. We finished the main story of the game after 7.5 hours with a measly 20.2% overall completion score. In doing so we pretty much wrapped up the main story line, leaving heaps of collectibles, characters, puzzles and side quests unfinished.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review – The new bricks on the block
So far, so Traveller’s Tales LEGO, but the developer has made an effort to augment its tried-and-tested base game with some novelties.
The first big change is something of a very strange tonal shift in LEGO games. In certain sections of most levels there will be a canned cover shooter segment. While its inclusion breaks up the predictable “punch, build, collect, solve puzzle” formula, it’s not very well implemented.
Players can barely aim in these sections as the reticle auto-locks to the nearest enemy. When they’re required to take control and manually aim, players end up fighting against the dictates of the auto-lock system. It’s not a complete failure, but it won’t tax seasoned shooter fans.
The other big addition is aerial combat, which incidentally, was one of our big requests when the game was announced in February. Like the cover-based shooting, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
Some of the battles are on rails, which allow players very limited movement and that – technically speaking – aren’t even new to the series.
The real fun is to be had in the the bigger, open areas where players have full control of their movement. One of the game’s highlights is one level section where players assume the role of Black Leader in the dogfight against TIE Fighter over the lake on Takodana.
The last little addition, which is actually more prevalent that the other two, is the mini build system. In all LEGO games most puzzles are solved by breaking environmental objects and using the pieces from them to construct an item that moves the action forward.
In this game, there are sometimes multiple builds you can make out of any given group of pieces on the ground. The developers really shake up the way this works: sometimes the mini builds need to be completed in sequence, or in a limited amount of time, or they build something that gives you a new collectible.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review – Conclusion
There’s a handful of bugbears and flaws in this game apart from the ones we’ve mentioned. The checkpoints are too far apart,there’s that tonal disparity that exists with the source material and the fact that the lines from the movie are simply inserted into scenes with plastic versions of real characters.
But there’s more than enough here to satisfy the faithful. Once players finish the main game, they have oodles of extra content to unlock and play with. If they aren’t enamoured by collectibles, they can instead play missions that explore the back story to The Force Awakens.
If you’re a fan of LEGO, Star Wars or need a game for the kids, you can’t go wrong here.
Review platform: PC | Game code provided for by the publisher