Luke Skywalker’s gaze was noticeably drawn to the lightsaber that rested just a few inches away. He turned towards the window once more, trying to suppress the internal rage. Out the window, rebel ships shattered into pieces like glass or were scattered and useless against the Empire’s large Star Destroyers. Luke turned back towards his lightsaber, his breathing hard as the pent up aggression and conflict burned in his eyes.
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the most recent effort cobbled together with piles of virtual shiny colored blocks, sticks pretty close to the narrative of the film itself, however, there are a few things separating it from past titles in the Lego series. The game begins with the aforementioned Battle of Endor, from Episode VI, including the part on the planet itself, and Luke’s fateful confrontation with Vader, before transitioning into Episode VII proper. This is a nice touch and it adds a bit of context, especially if it’s been ages since you’ve seen Episode VI.
The game takes place over eight or so story levels and even though each level features multiple areas, plus a few side-quests to complete, if you’re so inclined, the game feels a lot more linear and short than some of its recent counterparts; like Lego Jurassic World for instance, which spanned 4 films and featured a rather expansive open world to explore when not doing story missions.
That the game focuses on just one film and one narrative isn’t the problem, rather it’s the limited scope of that narrative. For example, you’ll return to many of the planets from the film and be able to explore them in story mode or free play, as you like; however, only a few select planets will let you land and continue your exploration without any sort of narrative, which is a shame as that’s where much of the game’s secrets are to be uncovered.
That said, there are a few new mechanics in place to keep Lego fans busy. The first is the addition of interactive bricks, which you can use to build one of two or three preset designs, destroy your creation and then build it into something entirely different. This concept features prominently in many of the game’s puzzles and while it is a rather inspired first step, it feels like more could have been done with the mechanic. The game features a plethora of characters from the Star Wars universe, perhaps character specific interactions for these blocks would have gone a long way towards adding a sorely needed immersion element.
The other new mechanic introduced in the game is the addition of groups. You’ll find characters in groups of threes scattered about in various levels, from wookies to rebels, and if you have a leader type character, such as Lando or Leia, you’ll be able to command these groups to follow you and assist in completing puzzles, such as pushing extremely heavy objects, or utilizing group based grappling hook puzzles that require four members of a party to complete. It’s an interesting mechanic, to be sure, but the group based puzzles you run across are so infrequent, as to make one wonder if they are really a necessity or simply filler material.
Unlockable characters are doled out for completing story missions and for finding rare carbonate bricks which can then be unfrozen at the resistance base. The unfreezing process takes a few seconds and is reminiscent of Han Solo being unfrozen in Episode VI, which is a rather nice nod to the Star Wars canon itself. It’s just a shame that little touches like that are so few and far between.
Aside from the story missions, the game also features a number of side missions in different flavors. These include General, Resistance, First Order, Scavenger, and Bounty Hunter; which you need an appropriately affiliated character to complete, naturally. They are supplemented by various optional races, either character or vehicle based.
In the end, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens stays true to its narrative while paying homage to its legacy. Despite some interesting new mechanics, the game as a whole feels rather limited, thanks in part to its linear exploratory modes, short story campaign and painfully sparse galactic map. It may be a galaxy far far away, but all too often, it feels more like a solar system.