Beware of the Dark Side… of LEGOs?
LEGO video games date back to 1997, but didn’t truly start their golden age until developer Traveller’s Tales took control of the brand and paired up with publishing giant LucasArts to bring us LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game. Since that day dawned, a mere six years ago, TT Games has partnered with other big name publishers to bring us Batman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and soon to be released Pirates of the Caribbean, all based in the world’s most iconic block universe. Yet the hallmark series has, and probably always will be, with the folks from, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars takes its place as the third game in the series (The Complete Saga not included) and focuses on the events of Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones and the first two seasons of the animated series, The Clone Wars. You’ll begin with an epic escape from the Geonosian execution arena, then you are brought to Anakin Skywalker’s flagship, the Resolute, where you are free to explore or continue the story missions, most of which have you hunting down either Asajj Ventress, Count Dooku, or General Grievous.
The gameplay mechanics have not strayed too far from their roots, nor has the humor. Despite the epic struggle between the forces of good and evil, the game always carries a sense of lightness and whimsy; it’s an engrossing and hilarious parody, especially for those familiar with the storyline of the animated series. The downside is that gamers who are not familiar with the series may find themselves scratching their heads… but still chuckling through the confusion.
You spend most of time running through the different areas, smashing or blasting everything in sight to gain precious studs, the currency you amass in astronomical amounts. These studs can then be used to purchase all manner of unlockables, from new characters (there are 114 in total to collect) to hidden red blocks which grant you a plethora of bonuses. When you’ve completed a mission, you can return to that area in a free play mode with any character you’ve unlocked to try and best your score and collect minikits, also used to unlock characters. Because the game is so fun and addictive, you’ll have no reservations about playing a level over and over again.
It’s a good thing the fun factor is so high because it overshadows the game’s biggest flaw, which is the lack of direction. From the very beginning, while trying to escape the arena and being swarmed by droids and other baddies, a tip from Yoda will pop up, giving you an idea on how to proceed, but will fade nearly as quickly as it came. If you were busy keeping an eye on your character and the action on screen, too bad, you missed it, and it’s never coming back. So now you’re stuck in Limbo, desperately trying to figure out how to proceed. This problem is persistent throughout the entire game, and for many puzzles, you aren’t even given hints, so it’s trial and error until you stumble upon the solution. Another issue along the same lines is getting lost aboard the ships. Between the Resolute and later Grievous’ ship, the Malevolence, there’s a lot of nooks and crannies to discover, but you’ll always have to book it back to the bridge if you want to continue the missions. There’s no onboard map system, so if you’re lost or don’t want to make the hike, the best solution is to save and quit, then reload, taking you right to the bridge.
Although the biggest issue, it still tends to be something you brush off, since there’s always something close by to smash or blast into stud goodness. How you demolish everything in sight is just as enjoyable as the bounty collected. Each character approaches combat differently, and many have multiple attacks at their disposal. Jedis and other users of the Force wield lightsabers, and have many different Force-based abilities to fool around with. Troopers use blasters, miniguns, rocket launchers, grappling hooks, and different grenade-like weapons. Even droids like R2-D2 can stun enemies for a brief period. Along with the multiple ways to dispatch enemies, the tools are also required to obtain level bonuses and solve the various puzzles. So although you can breeze through the main story in just a few hours, you’ll be tempted (especially completionist gamers) to keep going back for more, with a lot of extras to be found.
The missions are broken into three different subcategories: adventure / platform, space combat, and real-time strategy. The adventure missions are the ones most closely related to those of past games of the series, but look and play better, with solid enemy AI and a ton more things to smash. The boss battles do a great job finishing levels with an epic struggle, but we expect no less from a Star Wars game. The space missions and RTS missions are where you see this game break from the standard. With literally hundreds of allies and enemies on the screen and no lag or drop in frame rate, the large scale battles are truly a spectacle to behold. The strategy missions feel like a light version of StarCraft with LEGOs, as you take out enemy buildings using a hefty variety of vehicles, then use blocks to create your own support buildings. But no matter which mission you’re tackling, even when surrounded by a seemingly inescapable amount of enemies, the forgiving difficulty keeps you from breaking a sweat. You essentially have unlimited lives, and only lose a couple thousand studs (pocket change) when brought down to zero health. Despite having a varied group to control, you’ll most likely keep to those wielding lightsabers, since continuous mashing of the attack button will thwart any attempts to do you harm. However, LEGO games have never been designed with challenging gameplay in mind, making the game approachable to a wider audience.
As touched on before, the graphics shine in this latest version. The venues are all perfectly molded and believable in the Star Wars universe, and the animations are fluid and varied. Each of the 114 characters is uniquely tailored with its own personality and combat style, so how Anakin swings his lightsaber is completely different than how Mace Windu or Obi-Wan does. Even small elements, like Yoda hobbling along on his cane when pressing the analog stick lightly, then quickly jumping into a double flip to decapitate a droid, all showcase the care given to each character’s authenticity.
Little needs to be said about the music and sound. It’s Star Wars; the music is world renowned, the sound effects iconic, and both are perfectly integrated into the game, period. The voice acting is an issue all on its own though. While I fully understand that voiced scripts have no more place in a LEGO game then they do in a Sims game, the lack of talking only accentuates the confusing direction and hint system.
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is a pleasant break from the constant onslaught of first-person shooters, only made more satisfying by adding humor to the formula, a nearly extinct theme in modern video games. While the controls and difficulty are watered down, and you’ll inevitably find yourself lost many times throughout, the game is just pure, addictive fun. And with so many things to collect and unlock, it’s just that many more reasons to keep picking up the controller and redoing a level for the twelfth time.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
The best in the series by far, with smooth animations and colorful backdrops, all which befit the Star Wars universe. 2.8 Control
Although there are many different skills and attacks to use, button mashing seems to be the easiest way to get through a level. The lack of direction is also the game’s biggest detriment. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
From the great orchestrations penned decades ago, to the genuine blaster and lightsaber sound effect, this game showcases them beautifully. However, the lack of voice acting, and even subtitles, makes virgins of the animated series even more lost. 5.0 Play Value
The game’s replayability is arguably the greatest in recent gaming history, with so many reasons to keep going back, from the plethora of things to unlock, to the endless things to smash. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best