To say that the LEGO series is rather generic, a repeated grab at wallets whenever a new licence is acquired, is a very bah-humbug-esque way to look at the series.
The utterings of your everyday Ebenezer, while ruining the Christmas spirit for the working class, does find a mark with the LEGO series of games. Squirreled away in you lonely mansion unsure of which day it is, this assumption could seem correct but what is missed is that this repetition is the heart of the series, the gooey familiar centre that kids will respond to when they get their sticky hands on the latest iteration
The newest from the LEGO workshop, Star Wars III, remains faithful to this explore and destroy model while at the same time moving ever so slightly into RTS.
Levels are still completed by working with the multiple characters available at one time, using their special skills to solve puzzle after puzzle while demolishing everything in your way for those precious studs. Level-wide collectables can still be found and do what they’ve done in past games, from Red LEGO Bricks to hidden mini-kit pieces. Vehicular sections are also still there, putting you in the cockpit of a variety of spaceships as you blast your way through space.
But within this familiarity, players will find some changes can be seen. This time around the game can better tell its story, no longer just placing characters in famous settings and marching them towards the conclusion.
In LEGO Star Wars III, events unfold in more fluid fashion. Your characters can move from being planet-side to flying through space to landing and moving on through an enemy ship. This continuity is much better than the segregated levels of old.
Your group may be split up, leaving you to jump between groups as you have different objectives to complete. While it’s not a ground-breaking move for a game series it adds more than one might expect and makes traditional, samey levels a fresh experience for even LEGO Star Wars old hands.
Weaponry, too, has had a touch up. Rocket launchers and sniper rifles join the armoury, the latter implementing a zoomed crosshair, and is generally used by bounty hunters. These weapons are used in combat scenes of a much grander scale than before. Screens flooded with enemy droids can be scattered with the ample application of a Jedi’s force push, or taken apart with a lightsaber display. Rocket blasts fling enemies around the screen and there is genuine pleasure to be had in some well worked executions of LEGO destruction.
But the largest change to the LEGO Star Wars series is the aforementioned RTS gameplay. Frequently you’re asked to involve yourself in large scale ground battles. The overall goal of these battles varies depending on the current story but, generally speaking, victory is gained by taking the available energy outlets, around which you can build a base. Often they’re held by the Separatist forces that you must defeat, or by taking control of each outlet by removing the Separatists and building your own.
The stud currency you have spent the game collecting comes into play here as whatever you build has a price, and more expensive options become available the longer the battle lasts. Giant cannons, barracks spawning platoons of clone troopers, walkers, tanks, shields and energy weapons are all available at some stage.
Problems arise when, at times, the battles can appear directionless with little in the way of explanation as to what exactly needs to be done. You can roam the battlefield, for instance, unaware that you need to take control of a vehicle or take charge of a piece of artillery to take down a specific target.
The story itself unfolds from aboard the Resolute, Anakin Skywalker’s command ship. From this hub you can move to each different storyline – usually involving chasing down one or more Separatist villains. Completion of stories, earning mini-kits and building your fortune of LEGO studs can earn you gold bricks, and with enough of these you open up more of the ship for more missions, characters and Jedi Arena mini-games.
Unfortunately, as in the RTS battles, you can occasionally become lost or have little idea what it is you need to do to complete the area.
Nonetheless, LEGO Star Wars III keeps itself well within the safe zone of the earlier LEGO Star Wars, while at the same time allowing changes to gameplay and story that bring a certain freshness to the series. It’s another enjoyable often humorous romp through the Star Wars Universe that is sure to be a joy fans both young and the young at heart.