LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars Review
Written : Monday, March 28, 2011
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
Like your favourite pair of slippers, the LEGO series offers that same sense of familiarity and warmth each time you return to it. With familiar characters and well-known locales to admire, plus a bucket load of charm, it can turn even the most well known franchises into something fresh. No surprise then that they have plumped for a further addition to what was, apparently, the complete Star Wars saga. In LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, we get the chance to delve into the events of the Clone Wars that took place between episodes Two and Three which should be ripe for some epic storytelling.
"Use the force – or maybe that badass lightsaber."
Only it isn’t. The beauty of past LEGO games gone-by is that they were a twist on well-known scenes and events from iconic pieces of popular culture, whereas this is more of a unique affair based around the lesser known TV show. As a result then, some of the characters and villains are pretty obscure, and you don’t feel that instant sense of connection to what is happening on-screen. It doesn’t help matters either when the biggest laughs are also coming from blatant references to other films (the Aliens one was a nice touch) or revolve around a Jedi’s quest to get a hold of a nice cup of coffee. It seems like the strength of the series – to put a twist on events we already know and love – isn’t really present here and with so many bit part characters cropping up, it’s hard to be as engrossed as we usually would be. For new players at least, the charm and humour do still crop up now and again with downright silly and absurd moments coming to the fore.
The story picks up at the end of Episode Two and then spirals off into three different quests to round up some of the villains heading up the Separatist rebellion. However, as you can constantly chop and change between stories there’s no real sense of progression and the classic scrolling blurbs before each level don’t really tie together in a coherent way either. It just leaves events feeling a bit disjointed when you compare it to the more established and proven original incarnations of the series. On the plus side, the series has never looked better with much improved character animations and even some impressive lighting effects on show, not to mention the usual array of epic battles and charming cutscenes.
Most of the levels are the obvious mix of gentle platforming and puzzle solving, alongside the usual vehicle sections and the new ground battles. The platforming and vehicle levels are exactly what you would expect, and most of them are superbly well designed with sprawling sections and the ability to flick between characters at different points of the level in order to give each other a helping hand. The changes are subtle but welcome, and they give things a bit more depth while still allowing you to keep tabs on what’s going on. Clearly an effort has been made to make battle scenes more impressive at times, resulting in a plethora of enemies piling on screen – which is all well and good but all too often it leads to an endless procession of deaths from the relentless barrage of laser fire, which is hardly fun.
"Roger Gold leader. Wait, is anyone else even there?"
The ground battles are something new, and while it’s nice to see the series take a step in a new direction, they just never seem to come off. The obvious idea was to get a sense of the grand battles that the Clone Wars encompasses, but the idea is so watered down that it never seems more than a bit of a distraction. The basic premise is to use your base to build cannons, barracks and air support – all of which can then be used to take over your foe’s bases and win the day. Silver structures can only be killed with explosives, gold with rapid laser fire and shields need taking down on foot, so at least a bit of strategy is required. The whole system falls down though due to the fact you can win pretty much every stage by building only one or two things. For the rest of the time you can just zip around on speeders and destroy things by hand, which is much more time efficient. Sure you can take time to build and direct troops, or scour the battlefield for cash to afford that next tank drop, but why bother when the fight could have been won by then? In fact, most of the things you can build, like shields and so on, are completely redundant. It’s a nice idea but far too simplistic to ever be called a successful addition, and the fact that the enemy puts up almost zero resistance makes the whole thing pretty redundant.
As ever, you can play through levels in traditional story mode and then go back with characters of your choosing in ‘free play’ to hunt down all of those pesky secrets. One thing the LEGO games do have in abundance is a wealth of hidden goodies and a nice sense of progression, as each new unlock lets you access something even cooler. With mini-kits hidden throughout the levels and two big hub ships to explore, there is plenty to see and do. Plus, you can fly between various systems in order to seek out new mini-games and expand your empire via more ground battles. Our only complaint would be the fact that the game really does not explain a few key areas and you are sometimes left wandering around wondering what to do next. People are probably au fait enough with LEGO to not need a lot of hand holding, but a few pointers or even a simple help button wouldn’t have gone amiss.
"Should epic battles look this cute?"
Up until now the game is balanced delicately on the fence. Sure the graphics are nice and there’s plenty to see and do, but the new battle system has come up woefully short and the story is decidedly unappealing. The real clincher here is the frankly broken split-screen mode, as one of the key pillars of each LEGO game has been some local co-op action, but in this game, it just doesn’t seem to work properly. It’s especially noticeable in the ground battles, where things are almost unplayable due to the small area of the field you can see in with two players playing. Trying to fire a cannon over any kind of range is rendered impossible unless both players are right next to each other which kind of defeats the point. The split also seems to randomly change at certain intervals, so that player one is suddenly moved from the left side of the screen to the right or vice versa. Not to mention that in the specific areas where the lead characters are in different locations, then both players cannot join forces – even when there are available characters to do so. All of the fun that is normally had from co-op is completely destroyed in one fell swoop thanks to terrible cameras and the fact that some sections will practically force one player to drop out in order to continue. Not cool at all.
The achievements are exactly what you would expect from a LEGO game, and by that we mean are extremely top heavy to boot, with most of your points coming right at the end of the game. In order to max things out you will have to scrounge up every last item, character and brick – plus you will be playing through each level at least twice in order to get things done. Nothing you haven’t seen before and hardly inspiring, although at least some of the achievements are a bit of fun to chase after.
While LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars does feel like a step in the right direction, it’s also perhaps one step too far. The ground battles have been poorly thought out and can be breezed through with no real thought – they’re perhaps a case of too tough for kids and too easy for adults as well. Plus, the split-screen system has hit an all time low. The rest of the game is well crafted but nothing you haven’t seen before and it seems like the series is trying to get by on plenty of charm and buckets of exploration. For series veterans it seems like this is a disjointed mess that doesn’t hit the highs that we have previously come to expect, and that is a major disappointment. Give it a whirl by all means, but don’t expect the force to be strong with this one.
The Star Wars theme and sound effects are present and correct, but that’s about it really. Although the silent movie treatment is part of the allure.
Pretty strong, with great animations and lighting plus plenty happening onscreen too. A few glitches persist with objects falling off the map for no apparent reason, but there’s nothing game-breaking in there.
Fun for the most part but the ground battles are poorly implemented and the split-screen is entirely useless. If you enjoy playing with friends locally then this may be a deal breaker.
More Star Wars is always a good thing, but the exploration and story are never really that well explained and the new features seem to detract more than they add.
The same list as practically every LEGO game to date, with a few fun tasks helping to distract you from the usual spate of collecting tasks.
The LEGO franchise still offers plenty of depth and fun, but some sections throughout The Clone Wars are amazingly clunky and the RTS mechanic is almost pointless. Playing on local split-screen is almost impossible thanks to the shocking camera, and seeing as co-op is at the heart of the franchise, this is almost unforgivable. For every step forwards the latest LEGO game takes, it takes another step back. Disappointing, to say the least.