Return to the galaxy far, far away as we get hands-on with what may be Traveller’s Tales’ best Lego game yet.
Back in 2005, as part of the massive media campaign for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the first Lego adaptation of the venerable film franchise was released. With the saga back on top again, it seems like the perfect time to return to one of its most innovative video game franchises. With every new Lego game adding on to the all-ages gameplay, and with each license getting to use more and more characters and locations that create new ways to play, Traveller’s Tales may get the chance to make the latest Lego Star Wars one of the best games based on the license yet.
My playthrough begins in the desert of Jakku, with a cutscene depicting one of the scenes from the film using dialogue lifted from the movie, but animated in that humorous Lego style. After the cutscene, I begin playing as Rey, the heroine portrayed by Daisy Ridley. Beginning with one of the original sections conceived for the movie, I essentially snowboard my way down the sand through old wreckage to rescue BB-8 from other scavengers. One of the bigger threats for me is the lead scavenger riding atop a massive beast. After smashing apart Lego structures, I get my first chance at the new Multi-Builds. As explained by Lead Story Designer Graham Goring during his demonstration prior to the playthrough, Multi-Builds are unique to this Lego game. A golden outline appears, and as I move my character slightly, I see it change shape and location. Once you settle on one, you can build it. In some situations, like the one against the lead scavenger, the Multi-Builds have the same result, which is forcing the rider off so that I can mount the creature and use it to open up a cracked wall for BB-8 to hack an interface to access the next part of the level. In later situations, you can use the Multi-Builds to open up new locations to explore. And the best part is, as I learned later, once you finish using the Multi-Build for your first choice, you can smash it and reassemble it to use in a new shape and location.
After opening up a new section, Rey demonstrates another new gameplay element. In previous Lego games, certain characters were considered to be agile, which usually meant both a higher jump and the ability to double-jump. While navigating to solve the new puzzle, Rey shows off the first new ability for agile characters: wall running. After solving another puzzle, Rey and BB-8 explore more of the crashed Star Destroyer, where she demonstrates more new skills like precision jumping on small areas and high speed slides under objects blocking the path. At one point when landing a jump, the characters nearly fall, prompting a mini-quicktime event. These parts are not meant to be highly challenging, given the all-ages nature of this series, but as explained by Goring, they give certain sections the ability to keep you on your toes. Rey continues to comment on the situation, which is a pleasant addition as Daisy Ridley and others have returned to voice their characters in dialogue scenes in-game. While the cutscenes’ audio are taken straight from the film, these vocal hints are brand new.
As BB-8 and Rey explore the level further, the level of detail is amazing. BB-8’s most iconic physical feature is that his body is mainly a ball. As the droid rolls along, I can draw little patterns in the sand. That is seriously some amazing attention to the smallest thing that you can affect in the environment. As the characters move on through the ship, we come across a section that can only be opened by a character with a lightsaber in a later playthrough. As Associate Producer Tim Wileman explained, there are over 200 playable characters to unlock, as well as 40 vehicles. These include mini-vehicles you can use both in normal levels and the flight levels.
The next level in the playthrough is based on the scene where the Millennium Falcon is stolen by Rey, Finn and BB-8. The initial part of the level is the familiar shooter-on-rails as the Falcon is chased by TIE Fighters. This then spills into another new feature as the chase leads into a canyon. Now we’re playing in an open arena, allowing players to engage in their Star Wars dogfight fantasies. After downing a certain number of TIE Fighters, the chase resumes until the level ends.
The last level I got to play in the hands-on was set in Nima Outpost as Rey, Finn and BB-8 flee from stormtroopers. During this, I think I found the new gameplay element called Blaster Battles. As described by Wileman, these are sections where the gunfire is so heavy you need to think fast to build objects and Multi-Builds to help you. I end up using a Multi-build, first to create a barrier, then to make a machine that launches a mini-drone to fire on stormtroopers. This is now the third level of 18 levels, and only 11 of those are based on the film itself. Not shown, but explained, are that the remaining 7 are set between Return of the Jedi and the Force Awakens. Some of these mentioned include one set on Endor after the destruction of the second Death Star, and one showing how Han and Chewie got their hands on the aliens they were hauling during the recent films. And on top of those levels, there are 5 hubs to explore made up of Jakku, Takodana, Starkiller base, D’Qar and the Millennium Falcon itself.
After my playthrough, I could only say that I’m very excited, not just for what I’ve seen, but what I haven’t. We’ve barely scratched the tip of the iceberg with Lego Star Wars: the Force Awakens, and I’m eagerly awaiting its release on June 28, 2016 for all platforms. Keep your eyes on Marooner’s Rock for more developments.