PS3 Review – Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars

Another Lego game has arrived on the scene, this time taking on the theme of The Clone Wars television series. PlayStation LifeStyle has embarked on a daring mission through Lego filled space to find out if Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars makes for another great game in the franchise, or if it deserves to be crushed in the maw of a giant space worm.

There’s a plethora of Lego video games to be played out there, but that hasn’t slowed the franchise down a bit. Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars just released, and is soon to be followed up by Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game later this spring. With so many entries in the franchise, it can be easy to end up just milking the cash cow and keep pumping out more without any real innovation or new additions to the gameplay. Fortunately, Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars does bring a couple new features to the table, as well as making improvements upon the core formula of the series while doing so.

It’s definitely not a totally new experience though, since the same classic gameplay is here, which we’ve had so many opportunities to experience before. The basic premise begins with taking control of a variety of characters from the Star Wars universe and navigating them through simple platforming levels, while combating foes and solving basic puzzles. It’s all clearly aimed at kids, with combat being an ultra simple mash the square button affair, and most puzzles consisting of switching to the correct character with the simple tap of a shoulder button or triangle, and then using their special ability to overcome the present obstacle. Just as in previous games, there are plenty of special abilities, and new characters added to the roster present new powers, such as firing rockets, commanding other units to attack specific targets, or throwing a lightsaber at out of reach objects. The ‘plot’ still progresses through small cut scenes filled with gibberish speaking characters and mild slap stick comedy, which some will enjoy, but it is a style that hasn’t aged well. Anyone not familiar with the cartoon series will be left clueless about what’s going on, and a little actual voice acting would have been very welcome here, especially considering the actual voice actors from the cartoon contributed the gibberish.

Shortly into the game, players will find themselves in the main hub, a section that’s been seen in previous games where players can access the story line levels, as well as a multitude of other features unlocked as the game progresses. Characters unlocked can be seen roaming the area, which gets larger as progress is made in the game and more gold blocks are collected. In fact, the hub is huge by the end, with rooms designated to purchasing, viewing, and toying around with all the vehicles in the game, most of which also hide the secret red power blocks which unlock cheats for the game. The hub ends up being larger than in any previous Lego game, but unfortunately it also ends up being tedious to navigate. Many rooms include central consoles that allow access to all the levels and game modes, but the hub would have greatly benefited from a quick teleporter between these consoles, or other fast navigation. Regardless, it still is cool and provides a satisfying reward for collecting gold blocks throughout the game.

The main campaign portion of the game is split into three distinct sections, each of which focuses on a primary antagonist our heroes are trying to hunt down. Players can choose from the start to pursue any of the three foes, with 6 levels per foe, all culminating in a final showdown when they’re all completed. Levels vary greatly in length, with some being rather short and others taking a surprisingly long time, but it all culminates in about 12-14 hours of gameplay for a first run through of the main story line. Most of it consists of the familiar platforming mechanics, but a few other sprinkles of other level types can be found within, such as space shooting missions and ground wars. As each level is completed a free play mode is unlocked, which allows revisiting them while using other characters, allowing access to previously locked off portions. There’s an over abundance of collectibles throughout Lego Star Wars 3, and revisiting these levels will be necessary to grab them all. However, very little is new or exciting on these second visits, so only the most hardcore players will find themselves coming back to find everything.

The most prominent new feature in Lego Star Wars 3 is the pseudo real time strategy levels found spread throughout the game. These sections place you in the middle of a battle field where the Republic is fighting the Separatists in an attempt to gain control through the domination of bases scattered across the area. At any one base with a power source, players can spend studs (the game’s monetary unit) to create buildings that spew infantry armies, call in vehicular reinforcements, and place shields over the area that block incoming fire and any invading vehicles. Usually, one of the player controlled characters is able to make use of the new command ability, which allows them to get the attention of a group of troops and command them to attack a specific target. It’s a good idea, and sometimes necessary, but oddly enough is also a bit glitchy. Sometimes the troops simply don’t follow your character, and other times it takes them an extremely long time to find their target. Normally it’s not a big deal, but on timed levels where they’re necessary for completion, it can be quite frustrating.

The addition of this level type is cool to an extent, but the way the game is balanced and the enemy AI behaves makes the strategy available incredibly limited. This might be a good thing, since the game plops you into the field with an incredibly minimal tutorial, simply saying you can buy buildings and you need to destroy the opponent. It’s a simple enough proposition, which holds a lot more potential than it lives up to. Most of these levels can be dominated with one tank like craft while ignoring building very much or even utilizing the slightest amount of defense, which is a bit of a shame considering the depth that could be found in the mode. Base building is there if you please, but it’s mostly unnecessary as a result. Even if you do want to build up your base, it’ll take a bit to figure out how to make it the way you want. At no point are the rules explained, such as only 3 buildings to a power core, that each building can only built once unless it’s destroyed or sold, or that you can only access higher tech buildings by acquiring more bases from the enemies. Considering this is a children’s game, a lot more hand holding to explain this would have been extremely welcome, since it’s also one of the more interesting features of the game.

There’s a few other additions within the game that stand out too, one of which is the handling of co-operative play. In previous games characters could only move so far apart from each other before the camera would limit movement, which, while not a game breaker, could be a bit frustrating. A new fix for this is that as players move too far apart the game automatically implements a split screen mode. At first it can be a bit confusing, because the split is horizontally or vertically oriented according to which way players have gone, but after a while it’s easy to get used to, and definitely allows for more freedom. Also, sometimes players start in completely different sections of the level, completing their own area before meeting up sometime later. In single player mode these same sections are played through by finishing one part, and then holding triangle in to switch to the other section. Even though this is primarily a major improvement, small issues with the camera still arise, since at times it can be difficult to see all the action during split screen. Luckily the punishment for death is quite minimal (-1000 studs), so any penalty resulting from this is easily overlooked.

Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars is indeed bigger, and probably better than most of it’s brethren in the series. However, as with most games, it is not without some draw backs. Most of these imperfections are because of a lack of improvement where it would be expected. Combat is incredibly monotonous, and after about 15 minutes with the game anyone will wish for an extra set of thumbs and a turbo button for attacking. With numerous buttons open on the controller to be mapped, a block button would have been great, or barring that a weak attack and strong attack would really help mix things up. Yes, it’s a kids game, but that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy mashing more than just square to decimate the dark side. On that note, it is also disappointing that no online co-op is included, and that we’re still limited to two players locally, when four player local co-op would make a great addition too. It seems like such a natural jump to make after six other entries on the PS3 alone, that it’s borderline baffling as to why these elements are still missing.

Many puzzles are appropriately easy and straight forward, but any that offer a challenge are incredibly frustrating to figure out, only because the game mechanics used aren’t clearly explained. For example, in one section of the game three silver turret buildings need to be blown up to progress. By this point it’s been demonstrated that silver objects can only be destroyed with explosives, so the natural conclusion is to use the new rocket wielding clone trooper to take them out. However, this doesn’t work, since the rocket trooper will aim anywhere except at the buildings, while all other characters will use the auto aim. As confusion ensues, it may dawn on a player that the idle turrets nearby could be used. This is a good idea, until you realize they only fire on the horizontal, and won’t auto aim vertically. After a long time, it can be figured out that holding down square rather than tapping it allows for a manual aim of the turret, which solves all our problems. However, it is only on a later level in the game that this feature is explained, which is unintuitive and frustrating. Many similar situations arise, where a better explanation of the abilities at your disposal would have allowed for good puzzling while avoiding head aches.

Overall, Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars makes for a good addition to the Lego line up, and brings enough new features to keep the game relevant and worth checking out. The old don’t fix what’s not broken phrase still works here, and new additions help it out, but the core gameplay is in danger of becoming worn out. Players will find that there’s plenty to do, since even after finishing the story line there are still bounty hunter missions to complete, space fighter missions, and a bunch of assault missions that utilize the pseudo-RTS mode in a variety of ways. A ridiculous amount of collectibles is distributed all throughout this, and it’s enough to keep the most dedicated fans busy for a long time. Unfortunately, those are the only people that will last through it all, since most will be deterred soon after the end of the campaign by the monotonous gameplay, a lackluster ‘plot’, and somewhat redundant bonus missions. If you’re a fan of the previous games though, you’ll still find yourself enjoying this latest entry, despite the fact the franchise is getting a bit tired.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ New RTS Levels Add Variety

+ Huge Amount of Collectibles, Characters, & Vehicles

– Monotonous Combat

7 out of 10