When compared to my younger years smashing bricks and collecting studs, I find it a tough task to care about LEGO games in adulthood. There always seems to be another game around the corner, presenting the same worn-out features under a slightly different guise. After spending time in TT Games’ rendition of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I’m hopeful that the series is in store for some note worthy changes, aside from a plain re-skin.
At its core, The Force Awakens doesn’t divert too much from the basic gameplay structure. Smashing scenery and collecting studs remains an integral part of the LEGO experience, and reliving iconic movie moments in brick-form is as silly as you’d expect. While I only managed to play three chapters, in the final game there will be 18 levels present. Over half of those levels will take place during the movie itself, whereas 7 of them will inform the events leading up to the movie. According to the associate producer at TT Games, Tim Wileman, both Han Solo and Chewbacca will feature prominently in these stages. I can only assume that the heroic duo’s adventures in between episode 6 and 7 will be unearthed, but that’s pure speculation from my side.
One of the first levels I played featured Rey and BB-8 as they explored the inside of a Star Destroyer. Certain areas would only allow BB-8 to pass through them, after which I could use his unique shape and size to solve simple puzzles, opening up previously inaccessible areas and allowing Rey to progress further. In addition, Rey can also wall run to reach switches or areas too high for BB-8.
Even thought its main gameplay remains largely unchanged, TT Games have implemented a couple of new features in an attempt to change up the formula. Instead of being able to only build one object from smashed up bricks, multi-builds are introduced and use one set of bricks to build up to three different objects. Whilst holding down the build button orange silhouettes will appear to signify the ability to choose a different construction. Sometimes multi-builds may need prioritising in order to solve a puzzle, or they may simply offer a cosmetic change in your environment. Replaying levels will allow for you to experiment with the different builds on offer. I can see how these might lend themselves well to puzzle solving, but sometimes I was frustrated when I built an item in the wrong sequence, and needed to destroy it before selecting the correct build.
Another alteration came in the form of less linear flying segments. Instead of only presenting on-rails set-pieces that consisted of dodging oncoming scenery and blasting enemy ships, now select areas have been opened up to provide 360 degrees of movement. While this may sound exciting, and it was, the amount of space I was given during my demo was still rather limited. As I recreated the fight between X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon on Jakku, I attempted to fly to the outskirts of the battle area but got turned back within a short space of time. I think a more open approach shows promise, though how much freedom is permitted in the final product remains to be seen. It actually felt a lot like the battle arenas seen in Star Fox 64, as if I ventured too far away from the battle I’d get turned around automatically. Similarly I could adjust the speed of the Millennium Falcon in order to lock onto enemies quicker.
One new feature I sadly didn’t get to experience were Blaster Battles. I’m told that during intense gun battles you’ll have to take cover, build turrets, and take out the enemy before they do the same. I got the impression that these scenes will feature a fixed camera angle, showcasing an open area in front of you, whilst you take cover in the midst of shooting down opposing forces. It sounds like an interesting idea, and I look forward to getting stuck into one.
Before the demo ended, I was treated to a small cutscene involving Kylo Ren talking to the helmet of Darth Vader. Shortly after his exchange it’s revealed that Kylo is actually in his childhood bedroom, which is filled with posters and lampshades all sporting Darth Vader’s image. It made me chuckle quite a bit, and proved that LEGO still has the fun and charm to remain enjoyable.
I’m hesitant to say that the new 360 degree flight battles and multi-builds will actually change gameplay in a major way, but the humour that LEGO continues to bring definitely remains a highlight. I no doubt expect fans to feel right at home with LEGO The Force Awakens, but I remain cautious that the series is offering any big enough changes to stay relevant.