Saturday, April 30, 2011
Video Game Review: Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
The gameplay is very similar to previous Lego games, although they've added some new features. In the previous Star Wars games, the Force performed predetermined actions, lightly pushed droids away, and could kill other characters (if one were playing a Dark Side character). In The Clone Wars the Force is a lot more flexible and allows you to throw droids and other objects at enemies. Jedi can also throw their lightsabers in the same way that the batarang was thrown in Lego Batman. The space combat levels in Lego Star Wars III are similar to those found in the first two Star Wars games, but also include portions where the player lands his or her ship to accomplish tasks or search for canisters. The Clone Wars also includes battlefield levels in which you can build up your own bases with cannons, shields, barracks, and vehicle landing zones while attempting to take over enemy bases. Other changes include the addition of golden objects (these can only be destroyed by characters with rapid fire weapons), sniper characters, and making it possible to construct playable characters from the rest of the Star Wars universe by collecting the ten canisters found in each level (Vader's Secret Apprentice is my favorite). These changes are welcome since the similarity between Lego games has threatened to make each subsequent release seem like more of the same.
The Lego designers also decided to change the level access hub. Although they avoided using the simple level access hub found in the prior Lego Star Wars games, the first Lego Indiana Jones, or Lego Batman, they also chose not to use the extensive (and occasionally confusing) hub style found in Lego Indiana Jones 2 or Lego Harry Potter. The hub in The Clone Wars consists of a Republic Star Destroyer and a Separatist warship. Like Lego Star Wars II and Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, red bricks provide the player with a variety of extras. However, the red bricks are now hidden in the hub rather than in the levels. Thankfully, The Clone Wars doesn't have the huge number of pointless extras found in the previous Star Wars games; they're mostly limited to useful items. A variety of buyable characters can also be found wandering throughout the ships; the number of characters increases as they are unlocked in the levels. The player can fly from one ship to the next while the flight in between allows the player to complete more missions. The actual levels are accessed by holographic consoles found on either ship.
As usual the Lego designers have filled the game with clever references to both Star Wars as well as to some of their other game titles. For example, one canister is hidden behind a bookcase where you can also find Indiana and Henry Jones. A couple vehicles used in the levels appear to have come from Lego Batman. However, the funniest homage I found wasn't Star Wars-based at all. Sharp-eyed gamers will notice that one of the miscellaneous ground vehicles that shows up closely resembles the power loader used by Ellen Ripley to fight the alien queen in Aliens. This is particularly appropriate given that the "walker suit" is found in the level where the player must defeat the Geonosian queen.
Having played nearly all the Lego games, I was originally afraid that I would be bored with The Clone Wars. However, the game was kept interesting with its wide variety of characters, special abilities, and levels, as well as the way in which the game designers faithfully recreated the highlights of the first two seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. However, like all other Lego games, The Clone Wars has an anticlimactic ending (no special cut scenes or fantastic final battles; you simply receive an unsatisfying "100%" completion rating). Additionally, the battlefield conquest levels, in which the player must conquer a series of planets, can get pretty tedious. The fact that you have to conquer all the planets for one side and then reconquer them for the other doesn't help matters. Finally, The Clone Wars suffers from glitches that occasionally cause the game to freeze up (I think I had four or five separate crashes over the course of the game). While the glitches aren't nearly as bad as those in the first Lego Indiana Jones, the game isn't quite as stable as Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga or Lego Batman.