LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens PS4 Review

LEGO Stars Wars: The Force Awakens

I have played some or all of every single LEGO game released for the PS3 and PS4. I can still remember the joy produced by the first game, a title that somehow turned our national dissatisfaction at the Star Wars prequels into a nostalgic, joyful thrill ride. That first game, and the one that quickly followed that adapted the original “Holy Trilogy” from George Lucas, still hold up. They’re incredibly playful and fun. Years later, LEGO has become an industry, releasing multiple games a year, typically at a pattern of one in Summer, one in Fall, and one in Winter. For years now, LEGO has been turning hit entertainment franchises into toy-based fun, including LEGO Jurassic World, LEGO Harry Potter, LEGO The Lord of the Rings, and many more. Last month, they returned to the franchise that started it all with LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but the journey back to the beginning uses a lot of the tools and gameplay mechanics that have been developed over the past few games, even introducing a few new ones.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an undeniably fun way to expand on the experience of the J.J. Abrams mega-blockbuster, but it feels a little thin. The previous LEGO Star Wars games had entire trilogies from which to work, but the masterminds of LEGO weren’t about to wait for the new trilogy to complete to capitalize on it. Maybe they should have.

Follow Your Favorite Movie

One thing that can be said about LEGO The Force Awakens is that it follows the Abrams film with a remarkable degree of loyalty. Past games based on franchises often skipped around their source material, even developing their own levels and worlds from the film universes on which they were based. The Force Awakens hits every scene and character from the film, even opening with the Battle of Endor from Return of the Jedi as a prologue (and, more accurately, as filler to expand on this already-short game). So, you get tons of dogfights as Poe, some nimble athletics as Rey, and some shooter combat as Finn. Just being able to recreate key scenes from TFA with the wonderfully written heroes from that film is enough for most fans.

But Is It Enough For A Lego Game?

The fact is that the LEGO games have become enormous hits in part because of their incredible depth and replayability. They encourage kids to play levels over and over again to unlock new characters, find new secrets and get all those darn mini kits that are so hard to locate. They also often include dozens of familiar characters (like in LEGO Marvel’s The Avengers) and are based on multiple films. The Force Awakens feels hampered by being based on only one film, limiting the resources from which the developers could play and keeping them tied to one specific narrative with one cast of characters. The short story is only about 6 hours long. Again, finishing the story is usually just the first phase of playtime for serious LEGO gamers, but casual ones may be frustrated by the length of this one.

Is There Anything New?

The new mechanics in LEGO Star Wars The Force Awakens are a mixed bag. I love the idea that the foundation of LEGO games—building things from piles of LEGOs—has a new twist in that you can choose what to build, and often have to build two or even three things from the same pile. That’s the kind of clever thing that makes you say, “Why didn’t they think of that earlier?” On the other hand, there are parts of this game that are pure shooter. As in you have to take cover and shoot enemies. Call me overly conservative, but LEGO games have never been about violence, and they often cleverly take violence from the films they’re adapting and make it playful. Shooting Stormtroopers in the head from a third-person shooter perspective from behind cover is not something I ever thought I’d do in a LEGO game, and it doesn’t feel organic to the rest of the series.

A Blockbuster Afterthought

The fact is that I suspect the new mechanics—the choices in building—will make their way into the LEGO Dimensions expansions in the Fall, and that will be the 2016 LEGO game we all play and love. Which means that in part by rushing it out before the trilogy could be complete, LEGO Star Wars The Force Awakens feels like a “minor” LEGO game, even if it springs to life from a “major” film.

Disclaimer: The Publisher provided a review copy of this game.