Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I never thought I would say this, but Star Wars fans should play a Lego game for new Star Wars canon. After finishing up my playthrough of Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I walked away with a better understanding of who Lor San Tekka is, and how he obtained the map leading to Luke Skywalker. I also learned more about two of Maz Kanata’s patrons, and the vital role they played in thwarting the First Order’s bid for galactic domination. The game also gives us a good look at Han Solo and Chewbacca’s smuggling operations, and lets us play through their hunting expedition for the ravenous rathtars. C-3PO’s red arm, Poe Dameron’s rescue of Admiral Ackbar, and more dangling plot points are explained in fun adventures that are surprisingly faithful to the feature film's core content.
How faithful? Harrison Ford provides a wealth of new voice work, as does Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, and Adam Driver. The content in this game is better than any deleted scene on the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray, and is almost encyclopedic in how much of the film is explored. On top of the new story material, the game introduces a wealth of interesting characters and planets, and allows players to thoroughly explore locations that were only briefly shown in the movie.
The content is exciting to dive into, but temper your expectations; as true as developer TT Fusion is to the new Star Wars continuity, The Force Awakens is still a Lego game at heart, and it is every bit as silly and lighthearted as any Lego title before it. That means that Ford was brought in to voice lines about “wookiee cookies,” Chewbacca’s favorite treat, which is referenced numerous times throughout the story. The First Order’s prized stormtrooper army is composed of a bunch of slacking buffoons, more likely to be seen relaxing in hot tubs than doing their jobs correctly. The takeaway from one level is “I love seeing the rathtar’s native habitat,” followed by “I don’t think Han Solo would have used a mini Millennium Falcon to capture them.” The game strikes a nice balance between interesting and absurd Star Wars content, appeasing both fans of Star Wars and the Lego games at the same time.
The narrative structure is one of TT Fusion’s best, taking the time to tell a story that people can follow, opposed to being just a collection of the highlights of the film, as we've seen in most of the studios' other titles. Some scenes are expanded, again with additional voice work from the cast, and others are altered for the sheer fun of interacting with Lego bricks.
TT Fusion also successfully introduces a couple of new gameplay concepts into its tried-and-true gameplay mix. Cover-based shooting may sound like a bad idea in this context, but it works surprisingly well most of the time, and is strictly used within specific sections of levels. These firefights offer simplistic pop-and-shoot functionality, but are more successful in the puzzle elements they bring, like figuring out how to take out a shielded turret or stop a stormtrooper onslaught.
The puzzle play is also heightened through piles of bricks that can be used to assemble two or three contraptions. Players must figure out what they need to build to succeed, and what order each of the objects needs to be constructed in to help a character reach a specific part of the environment. Both of these new gameplay additions reduces the number of door- and character-based interactions we see in any given stage, cutting down the repetition that plagues most Lego games. That’s not to say that the game isn’t without its annoying (and overly tedious) puzzles; First Order characters and protocol droids are tasked to complete some of the easiest door puzzles Lego has introduced to date. At least they don't take too much time to complete.
Although The Force Awakens is largely based on just one movie, TT Fusion somehow managed to include over 200 playable characters into the mix. Yes, that number includes a handful of stormtrooper variants, and over 30 familiar faces pulled from the classic and prequel trilogies, but most of these characters are new to the Lego games, and hardly any of them were in the film for more than a few seconds. While it is great to see Captain Phasma unleash her fury and use Kylo Ren’s Force-freeze ability, most of the characters’ move sets are repeated, and hardly any do anything unique. BB-8 is the one character that feels distinct, and yes, he's an absolute joy to control.
Vehicles play just as large of a role as the characters, and are either deployed for fun, freeform aerial dogfighting, or terrible ground assaults. The vehicles control well in the dogfighting levels, but lack intensity given there is no fail state. The ground assaults are buggy messes featuring the Microfighter versions of vehicles like X-Wings and TIE Fighters. The rival ships often get stuck on environmental objects, leading to effortless kills and laughs for all of the wrong reasons.
As polished and beautiful as some sequences are, the game is a little rough around the edges. I ran into a variety of bugs, including an infinite death loop I couldn’t get out of and cutscenes not triggering, both resulting in having to restart the levels.
Regardless of the numerous frustrations, I had a blast combing the game’s open worlds for hidden gold bricks, and seeing Harrison Ford in action again as Han Solo. I can't stress just how cool this is, and he did a fantastic job reprising his role. A Lego title is a strange choice to deliver new Star Wars story material, but it works surprisingly well, and gives fans plenty of interesting and new content to digest.