It's difficult to imagine the LEGO games innovating on their formula any further. After dozens of LEGO games hitting the market, it's starting to feel like it's all been done before. But really, if the series is going to take any steps forward, the place to do it would be with the franchise that arguably got the ball rolling on the LEGO games in the first place. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens sees Warner Bros. returning to a galaxy far, far away and while the gameplay will ultimately look just as familiar as ever, it will offer up a few new features for those that have followed these games over the past decade.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens will take players across some familiar locales, taking players across 18 levels. This will include 11 scenes taken from the film, but it will also pack in seven all-new story levels that fill in some of the gaps not seen in the theatrical film. Examples of these unseen story beats include what happened to Poe Dameron following the opening minutes of the movie and a stage that helps explain how C-3PO wound up with a red replacement arm. Scattered among those stages are five hub areas: Jakku, Takodona, Starkiller Base, D'Qar, and the Millennium Falcon.
This adventure will play out similarly to other LEGO adventures, as players explore story levels and find over 200 collectibles and unlock a slew of new characters. These levels can then be revisited later with different characters to unlock whole new corners that only they can unlock with their distinct abilities. These abilities can range from Rey's wall run, Finn's lightsaber work, and BB-8's electrical charges. Characters will also display new finishing moves and area-of-effect attacks, so they can complete combos with an extra flourish.
That leads into some of TT Games' new features for the series. Players will be able to get into blaster battles, which will introduce shooting gallery sequences to the LEGO series. Stormtroopers and other enemies will be firing on sight and now players will be able to take cover until the time to strike is right. Over the course of each level, characters can also build with bricks to advance. This is nothing new, but now instead of simply holding down a button to build, certain scenarios will now present players with one of three building options. These Multi-Build areas will allow players to build different objects out of the same brick pile, offering multiple ways to complete an objective, giving younger players some incentive to go back and complete stages in a different fashion. This also opens the door to new puzzles, as some areas will require that objects be built in a certain order in order to unlock the path forward.
Flight stages are also included and take place across both on-rail sequences and open arenas. While the on-rail sections feel well-crafted and tightly-paced, the same can't quite be said for the more open dogfighting sequences. Shacknews went hands-on with both the on-rails and arena sequences and the latter featured unintuitive controls and several frustrating moments of constantly hitting the arena's borders. Like the on-foot sections, these levels can also be replayed in Free Play mode, with over 40 playable vehicles available over the course of the game.
But while LEGO games may be stagnating in the gameplay department, the same certainly can't be said about the game's style of humor. The light-hearted tone of the LEGO games is on full display here, whether it's in hidden easter eggs sprinkled across each level or in the hilarious cutscenes that show off the banter between the fully voiced characters, with the movie's voice cast all coming back for another go with the Star Wars characters. And because this is indeed a family game, look for some liberties to be taken in the name of humor, such as the scene with Kylo Ren and Darth Vader's helmet that plays out... quite differently from the original film.
Those that have waited for another LEGO Star Wars game will find that LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is shaping up to fit in well alongside the previous two trilogies. It'll be interesting to see how well the Multi-Build feature stacks up and it should be fun to see how TT Games decides to tackle some of the film's especially darker moments, especially given how some of those scenes might clash with the TT Games "No one ever dies" philosophy. Look for the Force to rise again within the LEGO series when LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, and PlayStation Vita on June 28.