PS3 Review: LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars



It’s amazing that the LEGO games never seem to get old. LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is the fourth game in the block-bashing series of games to take inspiration from the limited well of George Lucas’ cash cow franchise; by all laws of gaming nature, at this point the LEGO Star Wars games should have run out of ideas and moments to spoof, reduced instead to increasingly tiresome, repetitive outings. Yet each new game has proven to be just as intensely fun as the last as Traveler’s Tales craft overwhelmingly enjoyable, addictive experiences for gamers of all ages.

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars has the tough task of following LEGO Harry Potter, which refined Traveler’s Tales’ gaming recipe to perfection and proved the series’ high point by an epic margin. Even so, the latest Star Wars game provides another predictably fun LEGO outing with a tonne of new tricks and a massive amount of incredibly enjoyable content that’ll keep kids and their parents tied to their consoles for hours on end, even if it’s an experience marred by a few minor issues.
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After the previous LEGO Star Wars games plumbed the depths of content that the two film trilogies had to offer, Lego Star Wars III takes inspiration from the animated spin-off TV series that follows Anakin and Obi-Wan’s adventures between the second and third prequel movies. Condensing two seasons of the show into three six-level episodes, the game offers up the familiar, trademark LEGO gameplay: You’ll do some platforming, use your force powers to levitate objects and solve puzzles before using your trusty lightsaber to smash anything and everything in a galaxy-wide radius to tiny block-like bits.

Part of the joy of the LEGO games is seeing familiar moments from beloved series re-enacted in loving spoofs by cutesy cartoon minifigs, so a little of that might be lost in adapting a spin-off that a lot of people have overlooked. Even so, the LEGO gameplay and style lends itself perfectly to those unfamiliar with the inspiration, too, and LEGO Star Wars III is no different, proving funny and immensely engaging even for players who’ve never seen the series. Though by and large, The Clone Wars offers a more-of-the-same gaming sequel to the series, the core gameplay of the LEGO games is so immediately enjoyable and addictive that another familiar outing is always a welcome treat, especially as until now each entry has continued to subtly refine the presentation and gameplay to perfection and tailor each gaming experience to suit the style and spirit of each respective franchise it pays homage to.
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After the puzzle and exploration-based gameplay slant of LEGO Harry Potter, LEGO Star Wars III adopts a more action-centric approach. Though puzzles are still plentiful as always, Traveller’s Tales embrace the epic space battles, blaster shoot-outs and lightsaber duels of the films as emphasis is placed on action and epic spectacle. Though the core gameplay is largely untouched, LEGO Star Wars III introduces a stack of great new elements, delivering the most diverse and varied game design in a LEGO game to date. You’ll start out playing through the familiar wheelhouse of tricks and treats, smashing stuff, shifting blocks around to solve puzzles, blasting enemies and snagging secret items along the way, all of which is as fun as always. But the next section might see you leaping into a space ship, engaging in dogfights and navigating your way though a chaotic galactic battle between thousands of warring spacecraft.

After that, though, sees the most diverse change for the series. Some levels will see you on the ground in the midst of a massive war as clone armies wage battle with their separatist enemies. During these sections, the game transforms into a Command and Conquer-style real-time strategy game as you attempt to reclaim the battlefield and steal territory from Dooku’s army. Several power hubs are dotted around the landscape, each one a vital plot of land on which you can build barracks, lay down a variety of massive cannons or call in hulking, destructive war vehicles for you to tool around in. As you claim more power hubs, you gain the ability to build even more stuff, provided you have the studs to pay for whatever you desire.
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Destroying all enemy buildings around a power hub allows you to claim it for your own nefarious means, but some hubs have laser shields which block cannon fire, while some cannons are impervious to certain types of weaponry. Gold buildings and objects can only be destroyed by overheating them with sustained, rapid fire, so you’ll either need gatling guns or a whole platoon of blaster clones, while silver cannons can only be demolished with heavy explosive shells. Thankfully one of the many new character abilities proves helpful on the battlefield, as radio troopers can call squads of rocket or blaster troopers, who’ll follow you around until you tell them what to lay waste to. Or you can just hop on a speeder and high-tail it around the battlefield looking for secrets on the outskirts. The wealth of new characters and abilities is great, and the strategy element is a simple, but fantastic inclusion that helps usher in a welcome variety of gameplay as things constantly segue from familiar platforming-and-puzzling to space battles to RTS strategy, always feeling fresh and diverse.

The RTS mode is one that you can jump into again for the local co-op, should you choose, and naturally, the game itself is even more fun to play with a friend in co-op. Even in single player mode, though, the breadth of control as you explore levels feels even larger. Some boss fights and enemies might need you to jump through three characters at once, using clone troopers to leash down a colossal foe with grappling hooks, allowing a Jedi to perform a devestating finishing move. Some levels will even have you controlling two separate teams of characters in different locations, cut off from each other on an enemy starship as they puzzle their way back to each other. A little circular window will show the other team’s status, holding the triangle button will tag between each group, while solving puzzles with one crew of Jedi might unlock doors for the others. Again, it’s a simple inclusion, but it’s yet another addition that helps the game feel fresh; LEGO Star Wars III is overflowing with those little new ideas, and boasts the most plentiful variety of gameplay in the series yet, all of which feels true to the spirit of the Star Wars movies.
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The LEGO series has largely maintained a trend of quietly evolving with time, keeping the same addictive and engaging core gameplay intact but steadily tweaking, refining and adding to the variety of abilities and ideas on display. While LEGO Star Wars III certainly ushers in more than enough new elements and gameplay diversity to make it feel like a worthwhile new entry in the series, in some small ways it feels like a regressive step back from the perfection of LEGO Harry Potter. Minor niggles in design prove irksome at times, like small control issues and a problematic hub layout. LEGO Harry Potter benefited massively from the aiming of Harry’s wand; the sheer amount of bits, bobs, nooks, crannies, flora and fauna that you could use magic to interact with was overwhelming to the point where the ability to precisely aim at individual objects was a welcome, necessary inclusion. Unfortunately it’s a gameplay refinement that isn’t carried over here, which poses problems when you need to use force powers.

The game’s puzzles largely require you to lift objects using the force, slotting plugs into sockets or reassembling staircases, and so on. Unfortunately most levels see a droid like R2-D2 trailing around with you, who can also be levitated using force powers. The plucky little robot can and almost always will wander into your path, causing you to grab him when you’re trying to lift puzzle objects. The lack of any method of aiming your force powers is irritating, but it’s all the more annoying where droids are concerned, since there’s never any gameplay need for you to lift or throw R2-D2 – the only moment that the game asks you to do so can just as easily be handled by flying across the gap using R2′s boosters.
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The hub layout, usually a simple, fun means of navigating the game’s levels, has received a needlessly obtuse overhaul. The hub takes the form of a galactic spaceship, with a navigational computer on the command deck bringing up the choice of levels, unlocked characters and extra game modes, while you can also explore the numerous hallways and decks to discover new characters, vehicles and the usual hidden secrets. The level selection screen is displayed as a star chart, with each of the three stories weaving snakelike in and out of each other on colour-coded paths. The trio of multi-level episodes can be tackled at any time, but thanks to the presentation it’s tough to tell which comes first in the story’s chronology or how to access new levels, and it’s easy to miss out entire chunks of story on the chart, like the game’s epilogue.

The design of the hub itself poses similar problems as the streamlined, organic way in which Hogwarts blended into new missions is replaced with a less intuitive layout. The replay element is perhaps as perfect in the LEGO series as in any other game, offering players the joy of exploration and uncovering secret stuff, but in an organic way – beating levels or discovering new characters opens up their new specific abilities or gold bricks which can be used to open previously locked doors and areas through the main game or the hub world. There’s certainly still a staggering amount to discover and unlock, which is amazing, but getting to it can be tiresome thanks to the map design, with elevators leading to decks with more elevators leading to more decks and no shortcuts inbetween. And here, too, it’s easy to overlook entire levels hidden away under needlessly complex hoop-jumping, without any in-game indication of their existence or how to access them, which is strange for a series primarily aimed at younger gamers.
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The problems are minor, but it’s a shame that the game neglects to adopt all the essential gameplay refinements that the series has steadily tweaked to perfection before now. Even so, in other respects the game is the best in the series. The sheer variety of gameplay trumps all of the previous games, while graphically, LEGO Star Wars III is a hefty stride ahead of its predecessors, keeping the familiar cute, cartoony LEGO aesthetic, but filtering it through a new layer of visual splendour. The space battles and ground warfare are epic in scale and filled with grandiose visual spectacle, cramming hundreds of enemies and vehicles on-screen at once without any frame rate foibles. Underground cave levels look especially phenomenal, with impressive use of realistic lighting and visual prowess far beyond anything seen in the series so far as your crew of clone troopers and Jedi navigate the darkness with nothing but the beam of torches and glow of lightsabers.

It’s a shame that Traveller’s Tales’ trend of steady refinement and perfection slips here, with a few awkward issues and obtuse presentation troubling an otherwise excellent game. Still, the wealth and variety of gameplay additions keep things fresh throughout, and the core LEGO game experience remains just as abundantly enjoyable and addictive as always. In short: If you’ve enjoyed any of the LEGO games, you’ll love LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. It might be more of the same, but more of the same is never a bad thing when it’s this much damn fun.

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LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is available now on PC and consoles.
Click here to order the game from Amazon.co.uk