Game Review: LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Force is strong with this one but it's not without its technical problems. However
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is still a good re-creation of the film and offers some delightful moments to entertain fans of all ages.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
is set in the Star Wars
universe with a particular focus on the events that take place in the movie Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
. It's an action-adventure platform-puzzle game that is suitable for all ages and offers both single-player and co-operative two-player gaming.
The game, in some version or another, is available on almost every platform (including iOS
). This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
follows the storyline of the movie closely, with typical LEGO humour inserted into scenes to lighten the mood. The movie's more dramatic or traumatising moments have been softened or removed to make the game suitable for children but you barely feel their loss. (The one exception is Kylo Ren's attempt at penetrating and controlling Rey's mind, which was a key scene in the movie, but it definitely can't be rendered well for children.) This game features full spoken dialogue, with some lines taken from the movie and others recorded by the original actors specifically for the game, and once you've experienced this you won't enjoy the grunts and mumbles of the characters in older LEGO games, which now feel very archaic.
The game also features a new kind of building option called Multi Builds, which allows you to build more than one device or tool using the same set of bricks. Sometimes you need to use both options to continue in a level and other times only one build is necessary to solve a puzzle (usually humorously) so you have to try out the other option when you play through the chapter a second time.
Above: Co-operative play is a fun way to experience the game.
I've found some LEGO games to be a bit tedious and/or frustrating in certain moments because, for example, a visual cue hasn't been obvious and it's left me stuck on a puzzle so for this one I enlisted the help of a friend for a few reasons: to get through the game faster, to hear another opinion about the gameplay and content, and to experience co-operative play on a grander scale, which is how many families choose to play the game, rather than as a solo experience. In fact, at EGE this year the game was a hit with kids on the PlayStation stand either playing with older relatives or with siblings and friends.
We powered through the game's prologue (which takes place during and after the Battle Of Endor at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi
), 10 chapters, and epilogue quite quickly, picking up just over half those chapters' red bricks (which unlock special powerups and features) and about a third of the game's minikits (hidden objects that unlock bonus microfighters and gold bricks) in the process, but only reached about 30% completion of the game while doing so. This felt horrible, that we'd gotten to the end of the game and played through the film's entire storyline, yet had barely progressed. This is because, of course, there was still lots to do, which I'll get to in a minute, but it was disappointing that the core of the game felt so insignificant.
Next we tackled the bonus missions, which are really where this game shines. There are six additional chapters that fill in story gaps related to events that take place before, or are referenced in, the movie's storyline. They include playing as Han Solo and Chewbacca as they hunt the rathtars we later see on the Eravana
and playing as Captain Phasma as she infiltrates a resistance ship to find a droid. These additional chapters proved to be more entertaining than the story chapters, perhaps because there was an element of surprise.
We then went through all the missions a second time (or, in a handful of cases, a third time) to finish them to 100% completion (collecting all the minikits and getting any red bricks we'd missed, which would then also unlock all the missing microfighters and minifigures), which is necessary as many of the secrets require minifigures with special skills (such as being able to use The Force or shoot gold objects) that aren't available to you when you play through the first time.
As with other LEGO games the chapters are designed to be played more than once so that you focus on the story the first time and the secrets and environment in subsequent play throughs. (It's also, of course, a way to make a game seem longer.)
Completely finishing the additional chapters kicked the completion percentage up a bit more but we still had about 20% of the game to go after this. What was left comprised mini missions for various collectives (The First Order, bounty hunters, scavengers, and The Resistance) and racing challenges in microfighters that we hadn't yet attempted, as well as more secrets, gold bricks, and carbonite bricks (which contain special minifigures) to unlock. These mini missions and unlock challenges are found in the open-world places in the game, which include Starkiller Base, the Millennium Falcon
, Takodana, and Jakku. They are marked on the location's map, which makes them easy to find, even if some (notably gold-brick and carbonite-brick challenges) aren't always easy to figure out.
Once you've unlocked the free-play locations by playing their associated chapters you are free to visit them whenever you want, so we did finish some of the free-play content in between playing the story missions, just to mix it up a bit, but we left the bulk of it for the end of the game.
This part was particularly tedious, although if you're not interested in 100% completion or getting all the gaming-platform's trophies or achievements you don't have to play any of it. While there was nothing wrong with individual missions and challenges the sheer number of them really wore us down and their humour and delightful elements often couldn't compensate for that. The saving grace was the map system, which made it really easy to track down what we were missing at each location.
I found the co-operative play to be quite satisfying as it allowed for quicker problem solving and utilisation of various characters and their abilities, without having to do as much character swapping as you would have to do as a solo player.
Above: Co-operative flying missions can be problematic because your horizontal field of view is so narrow.
However there were also some issues that manifested. In some cases it was very hard to see things you needed to see due to the split screen cutting off essential information; this was especially true in flying missions. Another issue pertained to trophies: the game was registered to my PlayStation account and although we both played with our own PSN profiles there were times when only I was awarded a trophy that we both should have received.
However the experience was mainly positive and I'd prefer to play the LEGO games co-operatively in future. It's possible to have one of the players drop out during key moments (again, for us, it was many of the flying missions) so that just one person plays for a bit so that solves the problem of not being able to see what you're doing. The player who has dropped out can jump back in again at any point.
As with other LEGO games you can create a custom minifigure using LEGO minifigure elements from the LEGO Star Wars
universe. I was able to create a pretty accurate minifigure of myself, although I found the clothing options and colours a bit limited, that additionally was kitted out with a blaster, thermal detonators, a cape, and a jetpack (you may as well go all out!). Of course, in the real world a jetpack combined with a cape would result in the wearer's swift demise....
DLCs And Bonus Content
I am not a fan of forcing people to pay for more content when they have already paid a good price for the game, especially when the new content isn't very substantial. Consequently, I didn't get to experience the season pass extras, which included "exclusive characters" and three extra levels: Poe's Quest For Survival, First Order Siege Of Takodana, and Escape From Starkiller Base.
Above: The Phantom Limb, which is based on the comic of the same name, is the best part of the game but, unfortunately, it's exclusively available for PlayStation gamers.
However PlayStation gamers received a free content-pack update in the form of the Droid Pack (a good, though unnecessary, selection of extra droid minifigures to play with, including the astromech droid R5-D4, bounty hunter IG-88, the protocol droid ME-8D9 from Maz's castle, and General Grievous) and a free DLC in the form of The Phantom Limb. Of course, while welcome free additions to the game, their platform exclusivity is a slap in the face to people who supported this game on other devices or operating systems, especially since The Phantom Limb is arguably the best mission in the game.
The Phantom Limb follows the storyline of the comic
, which was written by James Robinson, illustrated by Tony Harris, and published in April this year, that tells the tale of how C-3PO got his red arm.
The mission takes about 45 minutes to complete in two run throughs (which is required to get all the minikits, as well as one of the extra trophies enabled by the pack), which is indicative of what's likely to be problematic with the paid-for DLC content - once you've mastered the game you can power through extra missions very easily and they aren't worth the added cost.
However I'm very glad that The Phantom Limb is free because it turned out to be my favourite part of LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
. If I was rating it alone I would give it nine out of ten. Although the story centres solely on droids, the emotional resonance that it generates is far more powerful than anything in the movie or rest of the game (including that
scene near the end). You really feel for the droids and the predicament they find themselves in, stranded on an alien planet with hostile organic lifeforms everywhere.
I loved it.
In the first two months the game was patched three times to fix bugs but even after the third update it was still buggy. (Subsequently there has been at least one more patch but we were finished playing by then.) We were hit with the game breaking bug that causes Finn to disappear from the screen in Chapter 4 right when you need him, which means you can't finish the level and, therefore, progress any further in the game. The bug was fixed within a few days of the game's release with the first patch, but subsequently we still experienced other problems.
Most have been minor graphical errors and strange manifestations but one, which occurred months later, caused the camera to freeze (ironically, on a snow filled level), which made it impossible to finish the chapter because we couldn't see where we were going or what was going on. Luckily we were doing a repeat play through to grab the remaining minikits, all of which we had found by the time the camera froze, so we could save and quit without having to finish the level.
Above: This was a particularly satisfying moment.
Nevertheless I am concerned about how buggy the game was for the first few months and may still be - and this has negatively affected my opinion of it, which is reflected in my rating.
Overall, though, it's a good re-creation of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
with some great upgrades in LEGO-games quality and gameplay, including the switch to spoken dialogue and the Multi Builds. It's perfect for families - the co-operative play is lots of fun - and adult gamers alike.
The media copy of LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens was provided by Ster-Kinekor Entertainment.
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