Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars Review
|REVIEWS - VIDEOGAME REVIEWS|
A fresh adaptation on the animated Star Wars series, Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is an impressive addition to the franchise; but a handful of problems dilute this otherwise impressive release...
With one of the most identifiable - and marketable - brand names of all time, LEGO has proven that, for continued success, a business must possess a wide and diverse portfolio that links back to its core theme, without becoming overly reliant on said theme. Despite its humble beginnings as a side-project of Danish inventor Ole Kirk Christiansen back in 1932, LEGO is now an icon of industry, a multi-billion institution that has conquered every market it has entered.
However, of all its achievements, it is the success of its videogame diversity that the company is most proud of...and it's easy to see why. With over 50 million sales across 15 different platforms, LEGO has established itself as a behemoth of gaming and, despite its youthful appeal, continues to draw gamers from all walks of life. Yet, regardless of this success, it was the release of the original Lego: Star Wars in 2005 that cemented LEGO's place within the next-gen genre.
So, as we welcome the fourth in the franchise - and the first based primarily on the animated television series - the question that needs to be answered is this: Is Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars a strong addition to the series, or is it merely LucasArts' latest attempt at milking the cash-cow that is the Star Wars brand name?
Many of you will already have experienced a 'next-gen' Lego title in some form - whether through a previous Lego: Star Wars, or thanks to one of their other great franchise adaptations such as Batman or Harry Potter - so should be familiar with the sort of gameplay featured within. However, for those of you who haven't, please allow me to educate. Sticking to their core beliefs of simple, destructible fun - one that has provided Lego, to date, with 62 years of unparalleled success - Lego: Star Wars III encourages its gamer to play far beyond the story-mode, with countless rewards available for those willing to put in the man hours. However, for the time being let's stick with said story-mode.
Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is based - very closely I may add - around season one and two of its animated namesake, with everything from characters to locations perfectly depicted in Lego form. While my experiences with Star Wars' animated brethren are limited, the game does a great job of 'filling you in', whilst integrating a degree of participation to help evolve the title. On top of this, the games roster is a testament to the games license, allowing you to play as almost any Star Wars character you can imagine; whether this be the likes of Anakin, Yoda or Count Dooku, or fringe additions such as IG-86 Sentinel Droid and Whorm Loathsom. While primary characters are most effective, there is a certain level of amusement that can only be gained from said fringe additions; come on, who hasn't dreamt of fighting the Sith Lord as R2-D2?
While the combination of character depth and simplistic fun are certainly some of the games finest features, it is the sheer amount of time that can be invested within the title that is its biggest achievement. With a variety of modes - including timeless classics such as arcade and real-time strategy - Lego SW III offers gamers a longitudinal amount of gameplay that few other titles can. Furthermore, to gain 100% completion, players are required to complete all missions and unlock all characters; and let me tell you, from previous experience, this is no easy feat. To succeed, gamers must be willing to sacrifice hours at a time replaying the game, smashing anything that moves and collecting the appropriate level of coins needed to unlock each character. While tedious at times, it generally ensures for longer gaming, and isn't that what we're here for?
As I mentioned, the most significant addition to the franchise is the real time element and, despite my concerns, this slots surprisingly well within the series. Using the simplistic template that Lego has become famed for, gamers are kept informed through a mini-map that sits at the top of the screen. Blue circles indicate a Republic base and red circles are those of the Separatist's, the ones that need to be taken over. To win, you must destroy each building contained within the enemy base, working your way through in an effort to capture all within the time limit.
While unlikely to revolutionise the franchise, it does add another light to this game's saber, and is an entertaining break from the structured story-mode campaign. It really is up to you - you can pancake separatist droids with tanks; build a static cannon to defend your base; or create endless barracks spewing a barrage of allies - but it is this choice that makes it so successful.
Unfortunately, The Clone Wars has a number of issues that have remained unresolved from its predecessors, and has even developed a few of its own. Although small, the game suffers from frequent bugs and/or glitches which, although not review-killers, certainly don't help its cause. On top of this, I found the game to be unresponsive on a number of occasions, becoming stuck on the same screen for what felt like an eternity.
Yet my main grievance with this title comes through its faltering multi-player. A game such as this relies on its co-op mode, and many missions become a lot easier with help. However, such was the awkwardness of the games primary camera angle, I found myself sticking primarily to single-player. Splitting the screen with a ever-tilting line, the idea seems to be that when both players are close, the screen will revert to its whole state. On paper this may work, but in reality, the end result - or so I found - was strong feelings of nausea and dizziness. The camera angle regularly wonders off, making it hard to place yourself on the map - and almost impossible to locate your co-partner. Although the option to revert to a solid horizontal/vertical split does exist, this experimental camera angle cannot be forgiven.
Lego: Star Wars III makes no claims towards its visual brilliance, so is unlikely to challenge the likes of Killzone 3 or Crysis 2 in that regard. However, as is the case with the entire Lego: Star Wars experience, the game does the basics well and the visuals within are both pleasing and enjoyable. Lighting is well used - with shadowing a particular success - and provides the gamer with appropriate levels considering the situation and location they are in. From night-based combat - right through to multi-character battles - the game is a pleasure to watch; and, despite the occasional bug or glitch, is a worthy member of the Lego: Star Wars franchise.
While a far cry from ground-breaking, Lego has an impressive depth to its environment. From mountain ranges to desert Sahara's, the game makes a great job of presenting both, engaging the gamer whilst offering a level of visual enjoyment that has become a staple of the modern Lego franchise. Maps are of good size, with a pleasing degree of variety within, and the polish within each is impressive.
However, Lego: Star Wars III's biggest achievement comes at the hands of its interactive environment. While the Lego videogame empire has made a reputation for its somewhat limitless, destructive-gameplay, it is this latest addition that has taken the game to new extremes. You see a block? Break it. You see a block-made animal? Break it. You see a bridge? Break it - you get the picture? Regardless of the games campaign length, countless hours could be spent simply walking around light-sabering anything you see, all for the sweet reward of juicy coins; coins which are used to unlock the game's rather impressive character roster. It is this architectural freedom - the ability to chop and destroy as you see fit - that makes Lego: Star Wars III such a unique experience.
To put it bluntly, I enjoyed this title. While not the strongest of Lego's adaptations, The Clone Wars is certainly a strong addition to a previously successful conversion, and is enjoyable as it is entertaining. However, issues such as the frustrating multi-player, tendency to glitch and, at times, repetitive gameplay hamper what is otherwise a beautiful piece of gaming.
If fast, humorous and light-hearted gameplay constitute to your perfect game, then this really is a must buy. However, for those of you after a deep storyline, gripping twists and complicated action, I suggest you avoid it for the time being; but pick it up on sale in a couple of months for a total bargain.
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