There’s a line in the original Star Wars movie where Obi-Wan Kenobi tells a young Luke Skywalker, “You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.” I couldn’t help but think of this quote after my time with Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This new Lego game is so much more expansive and more mechanically sound than any Lego game that has come before it. While it’s probably close to being the 20th game in the Lego franchise, this new entry truly does feel like a first step into a brave, new direction for the franchise.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical going into this game. The previous Lego Star Wars titles were my personal favorites in the Lego franchise. The difference in the past Lego Star Wars games (excluding The Clone Wars), however, was that they each focused on three separate films from the Star Wars franchise. I was concerned that if they only focused on one single Star Wars film, then the game wouldn’t have as much content. Boy, was I wrong.
I ended up realizing that one of the game’s greatest triumphs is that it does only focus on the story of The Force Awakens. The pacing throughout the story missions feel much smoother and you get to see so many more iconic locations and scenes from the film realized in Lego form. Overall, it felt tighter and more cohesive than previous Lego Star Wars games.
Besides the story missions, what is perhaps most surprising about Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the additional missions that you unlock as you progress through the game. These bonus levels are legitimate Star Wars canon – which is insane – and can range from stories like learning how Han and Chewie captured rathtars, to seeing how Poe Dameron once rescued Admiral Ackbar from the clutches of the First Order. I’m still shocked that Disney would allow TT Games to create these new stories but I’m incredibly glad that they did. These extra missions are a lot of fun to play and knowing that they are indeed canon is just an added bonus.
While the story levels are fantastic, what truly makes them shine are the new gameplay mechanics. In typical Lego fashion, each character has their own unique set of abilities and skills that allows you to finish puzzles or advance to a hidden area within a level. What’s been overhauled entirely however is the combat mechanics. Each character now has their own special ability that can be used in combat when their special meter becomes fully charged. With these special moves, you can take out multiple enemies much quicker or deal larger amounts of damage to the more powerful foes. I greatly enjoyed mixing and matching with different characters and seeing what their special abilities were in combat. It kept me constantly rotating between characters.
Another new gameplay mechanic I love is the way in which certain areas of the game changes play styles. For instance, certain sections on some levels change the camera perspective and rotate it behind your character to turn that portion of the level into what feels like a cover-based shooter. These areas help break up the monotony and were sections of the game that I started looking forward to the more I played. What I liked about these sections wasn’t that you just sprayed bullets all across the screen. Instead, TT Games found new, intuitive ways to incorporate puzzles into this shooter style portion of a level. I would love to see new, smart mechanics like this incorporated into more Lego games in the future.
What may have caught me the most off guard with this game is how good the flying sections feel. Certain moments of the game have you flying on-rails while others will give free range to fly where you want to accomplish your objective. It’s very similar to the Star Fox games in this way. All in all, the controls incredibly smooth and responsive and I thought it was one of the better parts of the entire game. It left me hoping that TT Games would somehow create a Lego Rogue Squadron game.
The open world this time around is broken into segments. There are 4-5 different planets you can visit in the game—all of which are open to explore—ranging from the desert sands of Jakku to the snowy landscapes of Starkiller Base. Each of these locales feels incredibly unique. I often found myself getting twisted around in the massive open worlds of previous Lego games. Breaking the game into smaller chunks worked out perfectly and kept the open areas large enough to traverse and find hidden items while not feeling big enough to get lost in.
I think it’s also worth noting just how good the voice acting is this time around. I haven’t been the biggest fan of the voice acting in Lego games since they made the transition a few years back. I’ve longed for them to return to the pantomime style, because the games just don’t seem to have the same charm to them with dialogue. It has always felt much too robotic to me. This time though, the entire cast of The Force Awakens has reprised their roles to do the voice-over for their characters. Yes, that includes Harrison Ford. The entire cast knocked it out of the park and delivered exceptional performances.
What won me over with the dialogue this time around was how self-aware the writers decided to be. If you’re a big fan of Star Wars, like myself, you’ll pick up on the inside jokes that occur often throughout the game. One of my favorites was when I overheard two stormtroopers talking to each other and one tells the other, “Yeah, I just got the new high score at the shooting range. I hit 3 out of 25 targets.” It’s the little things like this that put the biggest of grins on my faces. The Lego games have always had a charming aesthetic to them but I don’t think any of the games have had charming writing until now.
While I do think that this game is fantastic in many different facets, it didn’t come without a few small issues. To start, I think that a couple of the levels in the game lasted just a bit too long. While it’s not a common occurrence, there are some levels that definitely overstay their welcome. I found myself wanting to just finish the level as fast as possible and move on. I also think that some of the computer hacking mini-games with BB-8 and Finn were pointless and uninteresting. None of the hacking puzzles in this game require thought and are instead just a nuisance that breaks up the flow of gameplay.
The thing that I found compromised the most in TFA was the character roster. While there are 250 different playable characters, most of them are uninteresting and unrecognizable. I appreciate the variety of characters to choose from but I also think it’s a bit pointless to add in Kanji-Klub Goon #4 as a playable character. This is to be expected though when you only have one movie to pull from as a reference instead of multiple films.
Since The Force Awakens came out last year, I have desperately wanted a new Star Wars game that takes place during the new era of films. I’m surprised, and happy, to say that Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens has met this desire perfectly. This isn’t just a great Star Wars game though; it’s the best Lego game that has come out in years. If you are a fan of either of these great franchises, then you owe it to yourself to play this game.