Most people have to go all the way to Los Angeles to try slices of upcoming games at E3. Some companies, though, have made demos of their games available to the general public so you don’t have to be one of the permitted few that are allowed to see games up close before they reach your living room. One of those companies is Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment who gave us a short, early look at their upcoming Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
FYI: If you haven’t watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet, this demo and review will spoil part of the movie.
The demo covers the Niima Outpost level (or maybe just part of it) which is based on the First Order assault on Niima outpost with stormtroopers and TIE fighters from the movie. It takes you from when Finn and Rey first meet to their escape from Jakku on the Millennium Falcon.
If you’ve played a Lego game before, you’ll know what you’re going to see. It’s a faithful Lego reproduction of the characters of The Force Awakens. Some of the action has been Lego’ized so it’s light-hearted enough for a younger audience, such as stormtroopers wearing funny hats to them embellishing their deaths in ways that soccer players would envy.
That being said, there are a few tweaks to the typical Lego game formula. The first is the inclusion of voice overs both pulled from the movie and additional original voice over lines from the original actors. I know they mentioned that they got Harrison Ford in to do some lines for the game. TT Games has introduced a featured called “multi-build” into the game. It’s a puzzle-solving mechanic that allows you to choose between a couple options for constructing Lego sets. Previously, it was hold a button and something was built. Now, you have to hold a button and push your left stick in the direction of the outline of what could be built. Often, this is followed by disassembling to build the other object in order to progress in the level. The order of construction does matter for progression.
TT also managed to ninja in cover-based shooting. While you can shoot blasters with some auto-aiming, there was one section of the demo where you took cover and had to pop out to shoot stormtroopers. Health pickups in that section were a little random so I don’t know how I kept from dying. There was also a super meter that built up and would increase your blaster damage when activated. Again, how it built up, I don’t know.
My favourite part of the demo was the short flying section. When Rey, Finn and BB-8 take off in the Falcon, there are a couple of on-rails sections in which you dodge debris and laser fire while trying to destroy TIE Fighters. There was also an open section where you could freely fly around an area to shoot down TIEs. If you played Rebel Assault, the on-rails section is very similar the third-person flying sections while the free flying section was a bit like the Starfighter games.
What’s here was fun and there was a surprising amount of depth for what is generally considered to be games aimed at kids. The differing strengths and abilities of the characters makes you assess the situation when approaching it. There are a host of different gameplay scenarios. Combat actually has a little bit of a challenge even if puzzle solving is autopilot easy.
While the demo was pretty good, I couldn’t help but feel that the action was way too busy to keep track of. There were indicators telling you who was attacking you over lasers (including tracking ones that you can’t avoid) while the game is throwing contextual prompts at you and displaying tutorials at the bottom of the screen. Maybe this is a function of trying to compress the demo to about 15 or 20 minutes and not having a chance to introduce and explain concepts at a better pace. I found myself getting killed because my attention was being pulled in every different direction which means that I’ve either gotten soft in my old age or the screen is way too damn busy.
Overall, though, this is a fun experience once I figured out what was happening. I hope that won’t be an issue with the full game. The full game also has that bonus of having more than just the story of the movie in it so it will be interesting to see what other stories prior to or during The Force Awakens will be in the game. Who thought that a Lego game would be a source of new canon?
The Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens demo was played on PlayStation 4 but the game will also be available on Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita and Windows PC. The game will be available on June 28, 2016. Impressions of this demo do not necessarily represent the state of the game at release. Your impressions of the game may differ based on platform played on and whether you always wanted to play as a white and orange ball.