Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

Star Wars has had a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to video games, some are truly inspiring and standout titles in their respective genres, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for example. Then some have been absolutely terrible like the forgettable fighting ‘game’ released in the 90s, Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi . Games have been made under the Star Wars license since the 1980s and even when the movies were in their hiatus, more and more video games were being created. Now we have the latest set in a galaxy far, far away, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Now something needs to be addressed at the start of this review: I am a huge, HUGE Star Wars fan. It has been my biggest passion since I was 8 years old and I was first taken to see Episode IV when it was re-released in the mid 90s. Perhaps because of my deep affection for the series, I have always been a bit over critical on games that come under the Star Wars name. At the moment, my list of awful Star Wars games is vastly greater than the titles I consider to be worthy of the universe they are set in. Another important note is that I loved The Force Awakens, it was the Star Wars movie the fan-base needed, and JJ Abrams truly delivered. So, any game under the Star Wars name, especially based on the latest film, needs to be something special. I was glad when Warner Brothers Interactive announced in February that the video game adaptation of The Force Awakens will be developed by TT Fusion and it would be a Lego title. Now, I’ve not played much of the Lego games, but what I have played I have thoroughly enjoyed. For games that are predominantly aimed at a younger audience, they have become one of the most popular series available today with people of all ages enjoying their charm and innocent take on the numerous franchises they have adapted.

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens follows the plot of the movie extremely well. We have a bit of a different start though as the first level takes place during Return of the Jedi on the forest moon of Endor and aboard the Death Star II. These two relatively short levels act as the game’s tutorial. For veterans of the Lego series, you can breeze through these two very quickly to get into the main game, but for people new to the series or (like me) someone returning to it after a few years away, it’s a great way to learn/refresh those skills you will need. It is also incredibly fun to team up as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader to try and defeat Emperor Palpatine. So, after we destroy the Empire (for the 2nd time), fast forward 30 years and our new adventure begins. All the most important and pivotal moments from the film are in, obviously with Lego‘s humour added to it. Most of the jokes are good and work well, and I was often chuckling to myself when I saw Stormtroopers sunbathing on Jakku or cooking sausages on a fire in the frozen Starkiller base. Some do fall a bit flat but that’s from the point of view of a 28-year-old Star Wars nerd; I imagine the younger audience would be laughing all the way through. Like all Lego games, there is huge replay value due to the sheer number of the unlockables. There are 205 characters to unlock, and like all Lego games once you have completed a level, you can then go back and play it with whatever character you choose. Again, all through the levels there are different places only certain characters can unlock (a vast majority seem to be unlockable only by Luke Skywalker).

Each of the 10 levels in Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (with a prologue and epilogue too) are taken from main scenes from within the film. Now, my first worry before I played was that there would be too much pointless and boring filler in these levels. The other Lego Star Wars titles had three films each to pick levels from, but I needn’t had worried. Each level in the 8 hour or so campaign is wonderfully paced, and I didn’t find myself sighing or just rushing through to get it done. TT Fusion have also added some much welcomed additional features to the gameplay, with one highlight being the cover and shoot segments. Now, these small firefights are nothing like the cover systems you will find in Gears of War for example, but they help break up the usual Lego style gameplay. While engaged in these cover battles, there are a few objectives to complete before you can go back to the normal style of play. These range from simply just eliminating a certain number of enemies to character specific objectives, like using Han’s grapple hook to bring down some metal containers on a gun turret, for example. One thing that I did find awkward to begin with is that you aim with the left thumbstick while in cover. After years of using the right stick to aim, it did take my brain a while to reverse that, but that is my only slight criticism of the new cover and shoot feature.

One massive highlight of Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the vehicle play. The vehicle parts come in both free fly and rail controlled shooting, but they are both a blast (excuse the pun). Flying around the wreck of an AT-AT Walker in the deserts of Jakku or coming to Han and co’s rescue on Takodana as Poe in his superpowered X-wing is exhilarating, and I have to say, a lot more fun than the vehicle levels in Star Wars: Battlefront. You can expect standard flight controls, so there is no learning curve at all, and the combat is very forgiving.

There are a plethora of enemy TIE fighters to shoot down and special objectives to complete while flying around the battle arena. All the vehicles look and feel great and truthfully, while I was dodging enemy fire and destroying First Order turret placements, I did forget I was playing a Lego game. If TT Fusion decided to just make Star Wars vehicle games in the future, I would buy that in a heartbeat.

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens deals with the dark parts of the film extremely well, and there are some truly dark moments in that film. TT Fusion have done a marvellous job inserting their humour into these parts, like how Kylo Ren had decorated his room with posters of Darth Vader all over the walls. Also during ‘that scene’ towards the end, the team did a good job in masking the sadness of it. Because we have to remember, like I have already stated, these games are aimed predominantly at children. The game also features real dialogue from the film, and for the added bits of dialogue the voice-cast used sounds a lot like Harrison Ford and co, to the point where it took me until around halfway through the game to realise that it wasn’t the original actors providing extra dialogue.

The puzzles work very well, with each character having their own particular skill, so you won’t get bored of using the same character over and over again. For me, I had the most fun playing as Rey. She zips around the levels and climbs and leaps like Lara Croft. The general combat is also fun but hasn’t changed a great deal. Characters shoot or melee attack depending on who they are. Chewie’s bow is extremely powerful, and while in the cover and shoot modes, he can destroy a Stormtrooper in one shot. Filling up the special meter as well allows you to unleash a special move, but I did find these quite unnecessary as it doesn’t take long to bring a Stormtrooper down.

Once you have completed a level, you are left in one of the game’s numerous central hubs. Here you can explore and find some extra bits to do, but they are not huge in terms of content or areas to explore. Generally they are just breaks in the story, and you will need to do simple tasks before starting the next mission, like fixing the Falcon’s hyperdrive for the 1,000th time or building a new R2 unit for an X-wing. These central hubs are also the locations you will find the half a dozen side-missions to do, which are as fun as the main story and range from Poe rescuing Admiral Ackbar to hunting rathtars with Han and Chewie.

Developer: TT Fusion

Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Release Date: 28th June 2016

Score: 85%