GamesCom 2009: LucasArts Round Up
Written Monday, August 24, 2009 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
Normally we would preview every game we see separately at the big trade shows like GamesCom, but in LucasArts' case, it was more a medley of new information mixed in with some older stuff, so it makes more sense to cover it all in one fell swoop. Besides, it gives me a chance to get all of my nerdy Star Wars banter out there in one go.
Kicking things off, we had Star Wars: Clone Wars – Republic Heroes. Henceforth known as just "Republic Heroes" to save me from typing out such a ludicrous mouthful each and every time, it also saves you from reading it too which is even more important.
The game is based on the CGI TV series of the same name, and shares many of the same graphical features as its televised counterpart. It also uses many of the same characters, along with a number of new ones, and is designed to bridge the gap story wise between the first and second series of the show. For those that may have been living under a rock, the Clone Wars took place between Episodes Two and Three of the film series, and involved the Jedi and Clone Troopers fighting against the Separatist Droid army. Such a setting is obviously ripe for unique stories and plenty of fast paced action.
Republic Heroes is a third person action adventure title, and sees you playing through over 40 missions using a combination of Clone Troopers and Jedi Knights. There are eight Jedi Knights available including Anakin, Obi Wan, Mace Windu et al, and ten Clone Troopers, four of which are unique to the game; the others such as Rex and Cody will be instantly familiar to fans of the show. The villains include the usual roll call of evil doers, with Count Dooku top of your list, but also welcome newcomer Kul Teska into their ranks.
The Jedi Knights and Clone Troopers each handle in a unique way, with the Jedi more adept at close combat and long range defence thanks to their lightsabers. They can also use the force to destroy enemies and obstacles, as well as the ability to "droid-jack" foes in order to swipe their abilities. This is basically a way to take over enemy droids and then use their powers for yourself; either to dish out serious damage or solve specific puzzles. The Clones on the other hand are all about firepower, with the right analogue stick used to shoot in all directions, à la games like Geometry Wars. They can also pick up and use powerful secondary weapons such as rockets in order to pummel foes, and each trooper has their own unique weapon speciality in order to add some variety.
After a brief hands on it is readily apparent that this game will be instantly accessible to anyone who has played any of the LEGO games or decent kids titles like Kung Fu Panda. The controls are intuitive and will become second nature within seconds, and with two player local co-op you will not have a problem getting a friend into the action. Sadly Lucasarts were unable to confirm whether the game would be playable online. With the game due to ship on the 6th October (US) and 10th (PAL) it was looking nicely polished and plenty of fun, though maybe a touch on the simplistic side for people looking for a bit more depth. Fans of the show and younger gamers will lap it up though.
Next up I was able to dabble with LEGO Indiana Jones 2. Obviously, it sticks to the traditional hallmarks of previous LEGO games – namely some minor puzzle solving and brick smashing action. Plus, it brings back all of the familiar Indy characters and cut scene style humour that you would expect, such as the awesome dance sequence following the opening of the Ark (what do you mean you do not remember that bit?).
This time around though a lot more love and attention has been lavished on the central hub location, which players use to travel to specific game levels. Instead of just one main location (like the college setting of the last Indy game) this time you will have a whopping six. Lucasarts explained that a lot of players had spent ages just exploring the starting location in each game and they wanted to deepen that experience by throwing in more variety, more secrets, hub specific objectives and generally more fun.
Half of the game is focused on the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the fourth movie in the series, but they have also built five entirely new levels for each of the original trilogy too. So unlike the complete LEGO Star Wars edition you will not just be playing the same game over again. So three of the six hubs belong to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and then one each for the Original films; each hub then leads to a set of five levels. Another novel twist is that the levels will undergo subtle alterations when you revisit them in Freeplay mode, as you may find that day settings have changed to night-time and that new objectives have become available. All in a bid to keep things fresh.
The game now allows you access to a level designer too so you can use pretty much ANY object that has cropped up in the game and make your own little world. You can add water, build mountains and generally throw whatever you like into the world in any way you see fit. The overall tool is fairly similar to the build the actual designers used on the main game, or so I was told, so it should provide plenty of depth. The only question mark will be over the size of the levels you can create and whether there is a specific limit on the number of objects you can place.
Other than the increased hub system and level designer, very little seems to have changed; there is still drop in/out co-op (no word yet on any online co-op yet), character specific abilities and a host of unlockables to seek out and acquire. Most of the other changes are more subtle but helpful nonetheless. First and foremost the series finally has an intelligent split screen system which means that you no longer have to stay within inches of your partner, or get into the inevitable scrap over where to go next. Now if you venture too far from your partner the game will seamlessly move into split screen mode, before reverting back when you are closer together.
Like all LEGO games, this one promises to offer plenty of fun and replayability, but how long can the same old formula really hold up for? Guess we will find out in November when the game lands.
The other snippets of news revolve around the upcoming Force Unleashed: Sith Edition and the Monkey Island games (do not get too excited).
Firstly it is a case of good news/bad news with Star Wars. On the plus side the upcoming Tatooine level looks extremely lush and the ability to force push a Sandcrawler off a cliff is one that will never get old. It was confirmed though that the Sith Edition exclusive Hoth level will ONLY ever be released on that version of the game, and at no point will it ever be available as DLC. However, for us achievement junkies there is a silver lining. While the Tatooine level will ship with additional achievements, there will be NO achievements tied to the Hoth level, so no need to buy a full price game in order to keep your completion percentage nice and juicy. Yaaaay.
With regards to Monkey Island, Lucasarts said they had not even thought about beginning work on any other games in that series (or older point and click games in general) yet. It should not come as much of a surprise to learn that the recently released special edition version of the game is testing the waters somewhat in terms of sales. So if you want to see more Monkey Island, buy the first game, it really is that simple.