*Bonus Review – Not on Game Pass
I have played a few LEGO games in previous generations, and specifically loved LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, the collection of the first six films. With The Skywalker Saga coming soon to the new-gen systems but being continually delayed I was so eager to play that I reached back to this Force Awakens game from 2016. I caught it on sale on May 4th and could not resist this deal to scratch my LEGO itch.
This game looked great from the start, with crisp LEGO character and environment models. Having officially licensed Star Wars music definitely adds a lot to the experience. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens also takes voice acting clips directly from the film, which shows a great effort to add to the authenticity but makes for weird disconnect when these lines are weaved in with new lines from different voice actors or combined with lifeless LEGO facial animations. The strange implementation isn’t awful, but it makes me miss and respect the old LEGO games’ ability to tell a story without dialogue in a uniquely quirky LEGO way. This game tries to keep some of that LEGO quirkiness, but again when combined with movie voice clips that tend to be very serious there is an inconsistency in tone.
With FPS Boost and Quick Resume enables this game runs as quickly and as smoothly as I could hope for.
This feels like a LEGO game for those who are familiar, and for those who are not this is a third-person action game with puzzle and platforming elements. As soon as I was dropped into the game, though, I realized how outdated the awkward the gameplay controls and camera were. I was also disappointed with how trivial the puzzle and platforming sections were. I could see that TT Games was experimenting with new varieties of gameplay within the game, with blaster battles, on-rails flight sections, and open world flight sections, but none of it felt great. I did enjoy that it was easy to jump in and play couch co-op, though, and there certainly was a lot of secrets to find in this collect-a-thon for those who are interested.
Again, there are a few different gameplay sequences in The Force Awakens including blaster battles and flight sections, but most of the game will be played in a third-person beat-‘em-up mode. However, the camera and controls in these sections do not feel good. This is true for both blaster-wielding and melee characters. The camera is fixed and not close enough behind the character like a modern third-person shooter or slasher, and also not vertical enough to act as a twin-stick shooter. This makes aiming almost impossible and I just end up running around spamming the attack button. This works, too, because the combat is never challenging, and the AI is non-existent. This leads to most combat sections feeling trivial and disappointing. Even if I managed to die there was almost no penalty.
The variety of characters don’t even help with the stake combat either, as most blaster characters feel exactly the same, most lightsaber characters feel the same, and droid characters are used almost exclusively as keys to the next area.
Just as disappointing as the combat are the puzzles. Puzzles in The Force Awakens mostly consist of smashing bricks until the correct building blocks become available to build with, then building something to unlock the next section. Sometimes there is the added depth of having to build these objects in the correct order, which just led meant one or two tries of trial and error.
Moving through the level was sometimes even more trivial, with the next section being locked behind some specific block that just needed to be activated by the correct character. That is about it. Just moving around and smashing things until prompted to hit X with the correct character. These sections of puzzles/platforming had no depth and were not engaging at all. A good puzzle platformer has mechanics with wide applications that can be combined with each other to solve puzzles, beat up enemies, and traverse platforms. Look at Ori where the abilities used to defeat enemies are the same that are used to solve puzzles and reach new platforms. Or even Mario Odyssey, which is probably the best and most modern version of a collect-a-thon there is. So many stars in that game are reached simply by using the mechanics of the main level in new and unique ways, rather than being hidden behind a door that just requires the right hat to be unlocked.
The abilities of these LEGO characters are simply inflexible. Chewbacca’s “strength” to open doors can only be used as a key to those doors. Characters with grappling hooks can only use those again as keys when prompted, and not as unique weapons or as tools to climb tall platforms otherwise unreachable. No, so much of the time the “uniqueness” of different characters are simply ascetic and the only differences are their ability to open different doors in each level.
There are only 10 story levels in the game, with a few different hub worlds to explore. The lack of a central hub world makes things a bit more confusing as this game should really never require a mini map, but the hub worlds are at least free to roam around in and even move the camera around in, and with secrets hidden throughout they are sometimes more intriguing than the levels.
This collect-a-thon has many different secrets to uncover, too, with some being hidden in levels and some in hub worlds and some by collecting a certain number of coins within a level. However, what there is to unlock does not make me excited to go through the effort of unlocking it. Especially when collecting all the collectables requires just going back to levels with different characters to act as keys to the previously unreachable treasures. There is little skill or intellect required in that. And the rewards for getting though that grind are just more characters and vehicles that feel the same as the ones I already had.
Some new levels are also locked behind collectables, and these typically have unique stories not told in the film, but when I did not really enjoy the core gameplay I was not convinced these unlockable levels would change my views.
The story of The Force Awakens is just the same as that of the film, with much of the same voice acting and music. This adventure feels more like a bootlegged version of the movie, though, and less of a unique, funny, wacky LEGO version that I’ve seen in past games. There are some new sections though in the hidden levels that will give die-hard Star Wars fans a reason to dig deeper.
As a single-player experience there is not much to keep me playing through it personally, however, those interested in collecting everything will be able to sink a lot of time into the game. What may add the most to the replayability is the fact that the game can (and should) be played co-op with a friend, and when that happens it is a lot more fun to run though old levels with new characters just to mess around. LEGO games sort of occupy a space in that sense that is strangely empty in the video game market. This is a family-friendly action-packed game that is fully playable in couch co-op mode. These games are rare and therefore I could see people coming back again and again to experience the game with new friends, especially those that might be younger or might not be hardcore gamers.
Overall LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an unchallenging game with outdated and basic combat and puzzles all wrapped up in two pinnacles of nostalgia: LEGO and Star Wars. This game plays out many kids fantasies of playing with LEGOs as a child, but underneath there are many flaws to this collect-a-thon that I have no interest in completing. Even if I were itching for a Star Wars story I would rather just watch the film.
Even so, LEGO Star Wars occupies a underrepresented space in the Game Pass catalog as an action game to pick up and play couch co-op with gamers and non-gamers alike. For this reason it has some merit, but I would really like to see them improve up on the gameplay in the upcoming Skywalker Saga, as this game holds little intrigue or challenge for me.
Fun LEGO ascetic
Loads of Star Wars unlockables
Playable for non-gamers
Stale level and puzzle design
Characters that all feel similar