PREVIEWSPillars of Eternity Preview
For Obsidian's crowdfunded love letter to Infinity Engine games like Icewind Dale and Baldur's Gate, I was impressed by its willingness to pull back the curtain and let me see the machinery behind it.
Yesterday, while cleaning up my media center, I found my copy of Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus, which I bought sometime before Christmas last year. I had been pretty excited about this game pre-release, what with it being the first "traditional", albeit shorter than usual,...
OK, just to make it clear. while LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga will never win any awards, the game itself isn't in itself that bad (nor that good, though). When it works.
Perhaps it's best to start by explaining the game for those that didn't play LEGO Star Wars 1 and 2, the two games which this game simply compiles into one single game (bet those who bought the previous two games feel a bit silly for paying twice as much money for less game, as this game even contains some extras not found in either of those two...). It's platform action LEGO style, and that means a few curious ideas that suits LEGO characters much better than it would most other games.
The basics are that you'll go through all the six movies, which again are split into six levels. You can choose to play through any movie you want, but will have to play through the levels in order. The first time, you'll also have to go through the levels in story mode, meaning you'll play through them with pre-chosen characters. After than, you can play through it again with any character you've unlocked, and there are seemingly a hell of a lot of those. However, most of them fall into one of a few categories (jedi, sith, bounty hunter, etc.) , and with a few exceptions all characters within one category plays the same.
The most fun are easily to be had with the jedi/sith characters. Because they can return the laser-fire (instead of merely dodging it), their lightsabers cut through energy shields, and of course, they have the Force, which is even simpler to use than injecting yourself with midchlorians. If there's anything in the level that glows peculiarly, you just press the "special ability" button, and you will do some Force-related action. Raising platforms, confusing stormtroopers, moving around enemy robots, etc. etc. The other categories are mostly there to get through specific puzzles with, which is fun enough, but you always return to the Force guys afterwards.
Now, this sounds like fun, doesn't it? Well, it's not nearly as fun as you'd first think.
See, simply playing through the main story is not challenging the way one understands video game challenges, The reason for this is that except for a few places (like the pod race level), you simply don't die in any meaningful way. When an enemy strikes you down, your LEGO character falls apart, you wait two seconds, and he re-appears with full health at the exact same spot. And lives are infinite. In other words, the only thing to stop you is a really stupid glitch.
See, sometimes while going through a level, you will find that this item where you are supposed to be able to use the Force simply doesn't glow. And if it doesn't glow, you can't use the Force on it! And leaving the room and returning won't work, you will have to leave the entire level and start over again! Who the hell was in charge of playtesting and why didn't he do his job?!?!?!
Anyway, the main game is almost entirely devoid of challenges. But there is another aspect of the game, though, and that's collecting. You will need to play through the levels once again at Free Play (which allows you to use any unlocked character) to be able to collect all ten parts of a bonus veichle (that cannot be driven, it's just there for a gallery). And -then- you'll have to replay the same level -again- in order to collect ten other canisters - except now within a time limit - that doesn't give you anything but a checked mark on the list. And since the levels are very linear most of the time, and all the limited exploration's already been done in the Free Play mode, that last thing just gets mind-numbingly tedious after a while. You need some very serious obsessive-compulsive disorder to want to collect everything in this game, and the gap between the main game challenge and the collecting game challenge is hideously big and unfun.
Now, the last group of potential customers for this game would be the SW geeks, but something tells me that either a) they think the mere game concept is blasphemous, or b) they already bought LSW 1 and 2. OK, so the second group are probably suckers who will buy this game once more (assuming they enjoyed the games, that is), but still, there's no real reason for them to have this.
So, you'll be either a kid, a complete obsessive (half-way doesn't cut it) with serious skills, or a -huge- SW-fan. There are gamers in each of these categories, but I would think that it's still a minority as most gamers are somewhat grown, only bothers to collect what's fun to collect, and who's not dressing up as Darth Vader on a con.
As for me, I'm no SW fan, but at least I found that that many of the reworked cut-scenes actually works fairly well, especially for the prequels. I mean, the prequels were pretty much about showing -very advanced- digital LEGO building (if you know what I mean), and because of this, some of those scenes' LEGO equivalent actually feels more fitting than the originals. Plus, there's no dialogue, and anyone but the complete SW fanboy knows that's actually a good thing.
Alas, the game's not about the cut-scenes, and in addition to the other problems, this game shows what is Wii's biggest trouble: Multiplatform releases. The controls are simple, not too accurate (especially not the speedster levels), and they definitely don't take any real advantage of the motion aspects of the Wiimote. Who knows, maybe one of the other versions don't have that stupid glitch either.
Finally, there's some sort of character creator thing, which again is potentially cool, but horribly executed. The theory is that you can use different LEGO parts to create a character that can both use the Force as well as jumping high. This would be neat, if it wasn't for the fact that the character creator interface is one of the most useless things I've ever encountered, especially since there's no guide to help you tell what this head or that torso does. Apart from the obvious choices (darth maul head means you have Dark Force Power), it's downright impossible to figure out if this or that part does anything at all, and if so, what. That makes it worse than the gummi ship creator in Kingdom Hearts. Much worse.
But even without that glitch, this game wouldn't have scored higher than a C (maybe C+ on some other console with more suited controls). It's simply far too easy to play through, far too repetitive and tough to fully complete, and apart from some neat tricks that works well because it's the LEGO universe, it doesn't offer anything that's not done better elsewhere. So if you want some proper platform game for the Wii, go with Super Mario Galaxy. The LEGO Star Wars galaxy can move far, far away for all I care.