Monday, 4 April 2011

Lets get this show on the road! - Review: Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars

I'm new to this video games journalism business, and even newer to blogging but a guys gotta start somewhere and this blog is to be my first stepping stone on the path to greatness........I hope. So here is my first review, please let me know what you think, don't be shy. I'm a big boy i can take it.

When musing over which game to review in this, my first ever games review i thought long and hard. I decided that it should be something.......familiar, something warm and friendly. You know, a game that holds a special place in my heart to ease me into this new and scary world. Then i borrowed Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars off my mate Keith and thought sod it, lets just do this instead.

Developed by Traveller's Tales and published by LucasArts, this third installment in the Lego Star Wars series was released on the 25th March in Europe and is available on just about every current generation console and handheld. Ostensibly aimed at a younger audience, the Lego Star Wars series has been well liked in the past by adult gamers particularly amongst fans of the franchise. So how will this latest title fair, particularly as this one follows the story of the Clone Wars cartoon series rather than the films, and there is many a star wars fan who would like to stick their fingers in their ears, hum loudly and pretend that this series didn't exist.

As i said above this game follows the plot of the animated clone wars series (well 3 series now) set in between episodes 2 and 3. I personally like this storyline so far, as it goes a long way towards explaining why anakin transformed from slightly irritating emo kid in the second film, into full blown, Natalie Portman-icidal pyschopath in the third film. Oh yeah and it also shows you the whole war aspect which was missing from the films too, as they only really show you how the wars starts and how it ends, missing out the delicious cream-filled center.
That said whilst i like the story of the series, i feel that for those who have not seen it this game could be hard to follow, hell even i struggled to figure out what was happening at times when all i'd get to go on was Lego Obi Wan shrugging and mumbling something in simlish before thowing me into a sea of droids. The way the story is told in the Lego games is credited as being one of its charms, but at times the lack of dialogue hampers its ability to tell the story.

The visual style of the Lego series may be its biggest asset, but can it carry a game series for this long?

Normally i'd put gameplay before graphics in a review, as any true gamer should know that the core gameplay is far more important than the fancy packaging its covered in. However for this game it just seems more appropriate to talk about the graphics first, as i feel that the aesthetics of this game are where it receives much of its praise. Quite simply, the visual aspect of this game is flawless. It is truly something to behold, arguably the greatest sci fi franchise of all time, reduced to Lego and looking none the worse for it. Everything from the character models and environments to the weapon animations just looks stunning. The artistic style of the game (i.e Star wars meets Minecraft.........hmmmmmm........Starcraft...........crap that's been done) works wonderfully, and it is nice to see such a colorful game in the age of realism.

I dont think anyone will be suprised to hear that the soundtrack to this game is top notch. LucasArts and indeed the whole star wars franchise have always had an amazing sound, hell I'm almost willing to let Jar Jar binks slide because the music during Darth Maul's duel is simply mind blowing. Almost. Aswell as all the most famous theme tunes from star wars, great attention has been given to ensure that every blaster, every engine and every lightsaber sounds exactly as it should. As with all the Lego games, there is no actual dialogue in this title, though it was interesting to learn that all the voice actors from the Clone Wars series have reprised their roles performing the necessary grunts, squeaks and snarls to make their characters come to life. Whilst this style does give the game a charm of its own, at times the lack of vocals does hamper the games ability to tell the story though

'Why change what ain't broken?' seems to have been LucasArts policy with this game (I know a lot of people who wish they'd taken that approach to the prequel trilogy). If you've played any of the previous Lego Star Wars games then you'll feel right t home. For the ill informed masses, its your standard hack and slasher (and shooter if you want, but i mean who plays a star wars game and doesn't play as one of the Jedi?). After an introductory mission, players find themselves on board a star destroyer which serves as the mission hub, replacing the cantina from previous titles. From here you can choose from a selection of missions, keep track of the characters you have unlocked throughout the story etc. The combat is incredibly satisfying, with the tap of a button you can send limbs and heads flying all over the place and it is strangely satisfying in the same way it's satisfying to destroy any Lego creation i suppose.
I have to say i found this game infuriating at times, its been a while since a game has driven me into such deep fits of rage and despair as this one. There are no instructions, no mission objectives no nothing! You are given a brief (Read: VERY FUCKING BRIEF!) intro in the style of the classic paragraph floating through space before being plonked in the middle of nowhere with no idea what to do. Now most of the time i was able to figure out what was going on but far too often the fun had ended long before i figured out where i was meant to be going. One particular mission asked me (through the medium of interpretive dance) to destroy some rather snazzy looking gold cannons and bases. Ok i though, no problem i'll just get in the MASSIVE mech walker next to me and we can knock off before lunch. But oooooooohhhh no, apparently these gold structures can only be killed by 'Powerful Energy Weapons'. I'm sorry, is my sci fi mech walker laser cannon not 'powerful' enough for you? Ok, fine i'll play your little game. I calmly strolled back to my base and looked at what i could buy. Bingo! A massive gold cannon of my own, now we're talking. So i blow all my cash on this fabulous, if a little garish artillery piece, get comfortable, adjust the seat and BOOM!!!!!................i said BOOM!!!!!!! WTF???? Nothing but the a smarmy message saying that my 24 carat space howitzer just isnt 'powerful' enough. This is the biggest most powerful thing you will let me buy game, wtf do you want me to do? Anyway after much crying, i head back out and find another secluded little base up the top of the map that i can take, which i do and all of a sudden bang, new tanks complete with death ray are now available. I'm not opposed to pointless little diversions like these, they stretch out the game and that's all well and good, but you have to at least tell the player about the mandatory detour. Ok so i'm going off on a bit of a rant here but my point is made.
This brings me to my other gripe with this game, the damned coin collection. Oh call them what you want but at the end of the day I'm collecting coins, a game mechanic almost as old as Star Wars itself. Nothing annoys me more than when I'm finally getting into the swing of things, I've butchered an entire rooms of bad dudes and i'm all ready to go batter the next lot when all of a sudden i have to stop and do the house work, clean up the room before i go back to having fun again.

Well that wasn't so hard, here we are! The end of my very first review. As you can probably tell i found it very difficult to write about positives of this game, probably because the negatives were such massive gaming foul ups that i wanted to ram my lightsaber down the developers eye sockets (I have one by the way). That said in this case i don't think my experience of the game is necessarily the one others will have. I guess it comes down to whether the charm (or Star Wars License if you're a fanboy) of the game is enough to sell it to you, if you can overlook the gameplay problems in order to enjoy the atmosphere then I'm sure you'll love this title. Some would say that the reason i didn't like this game is that I'm simply not its target audience, I'm not a child but i don't see that as a good enough defense. The main reasons this game drove me crazy would be an even bigger issue to children, i simply had no instructions and no idea what i was supposed to be doing. Anyway off i go again, consider this my recommendation: You enjoy Call of Duty - probably look elsewhere, You enjoy Jak and Daxter - give it a go (incidentally there's a good platforming game).


Travis said...

Very good for a first review bro! I'm still debating whether or not I want the game. Thanks for the info, and good luck with the site!

IanVanCheese said...

Thanks a lot. Yeah i''ve been told by many a series fanatic that my opinions on this game are...........well wrong lol. You may well end up loving the game.

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