Disney Infinity 3.0: A Love Letter to Star Wars.
When Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Superheroes released, each of the individual play sets opened with a brief single-player vignette that the rest of the play sets didn't quite live up to once they opened up into their larger respective sandboxes. The game inevitably slowed as the larger areas of gameplay became available and mission content was parceled out with less of a story-driven focus. Disney Infinity 3.0 appears to fix this in just about every respect.
In particular, the Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic play set isn't just one of the best Disney Infinity play sets that I've ever played, it's one of the best Star Wars games that I've ever played. It feels like an extended episode of The Clone Wars TV show, as if the series' Executive Producer Dave Filoni took a bunch of ideas he might have had for a missing season 7 and dropped them straight into the game. The story is a loving tribute to the series, taking players from a confrontation with General Grievous on Geonosis, to chasing the cowboy-like bounty hunter Cad Bane through the Coruscant speedways, to a battle with Darth Maul and his Mandalorian Death Watch in the Naboo palace power station.
The scope of the franchise has been largely expanded as well. While 2.0's Marvel sets gave the player a version of Manhattan for The Avengers and Spiderman sets and Guardians of the Galaxy's Knowhere, Twilight of the Republic gives the player 4 planets to explore—Geonosis, Tatooine, Coruscant, and Naboo—each which feels as large as the whole sandbox of each set from the prior game. One of my biggest surprises was hopping in a landspeeder in the Mos Espa environment I'd been playing in on Tatooine and going out into a desert environment that dwarfed the small city to battle Tusken Raiders, and throw junk into the sarlacc's mouth at the Great Pit of Carkoon to get it to vomit up an item.
Combat is further tuned from Marvel Superheroes, with a simple combo system with a timing mechanic that's subtly different for each character. It's not precisely necessary, since you can get through by mashing buttons, but it is satisfying to pull off a combo and then crush a group of opponents with a Force finishing move. Twilight is an all-Jedi adventure and ranged combat is replaced in its Jedi figures with a dash attack. I played on the default difficulty setting, and only during the final combat section did the difficulty reach a point where I really had to focus, but it was fun throughout.
Vehicular gameplay remains hit or miss and is still Infinity's weakest point, with the mandatory races in the game being passable at worst and the on-rails chase sections actually being fun but relatively simple. Space battles are a little more bland, following the game's intro which features a glorious gameplay section of the Rise Against the Empire playset (not provided for review) in which you—as Han Solo with a pitch-perfect sound-alike actor—maneuver the Millennium Falcon through an on-rails asteroid field. In Twilight of the Republic, as you exit hyperspace upon approaching a planet, there are space side-missions which often mean saving a freighter from vulture droids or docking at a Mario Galaxy-like planetoid to explore.
The controls in these space sections are curiously locked to left-and-right with no real vertical control at all, but targeting the vulture droids (or even just blowing up asteroids and space debris) is handled in an enjoyable way. Optional races or time trials in Twilight are the same kind of exercise in frustration as in prior Disney Infinity games, but at least the mandatory vehicular sections aren't bad, and the core vehicle sections are actually fun in the cases of the Tatooine pod race and Cad Bane chase sequences.
If there's a major criticism I can levy at Twilight of the Republic, it would be the game's length. Skipping a fair portion of the game's side missions, I completed the main story at a leisurely pace in about 5-6 hours. The game can be padded by doing the side missions (most of which are fetch-quests or quick combat sequences) or earning more stars in story missions (up to three) by fulfilling optional mission objectives like using specific characters, difficulty modes, or vehicles. But none of these affect story outcomes. Being a completionist in Disney Infinity 3.0 is an expensive endeavor, since the starter Twilight playset only comes with Ahsoka and Anakin at $64.99. To earn all the stars you'd have to purchase the Obi Wan, Yoda, and Darth Maul figures separately at $14.99 apiece.
Part of what you're buying with Disney Infinity 3.0 is the promise of a platform for other games at a mid-range price ($34.99 per additional play set, which come with two additional figures)—the Inside Out play set is a passable platformer; the second Star Wars set, Rise Against the Empire, gives you the opportunity to play an adventure with original trilogy characters rendered in a Clone Wars or Rebels style; and there are two announced upcoming sets. Specifically, that's Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and a new Marvel Superheroes set (loading screens in Infinity 3.0's toybox tease the Iron Man Hulkbuster armor and Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron). One bonus of the Star Wars sets that sets it apart from the Pixar/Disney ones is that by collecting the appropriate coins, any Star Wars character is playable across the different sets (something that was experimented with on a limited basis in Marvel Superheroes).
The other draw is Infinity's Toy Box creation mode, which 3.0 does a better job of handling with tutorials than prior entries in the series do, though explaining how exactly one can create their own game remains a little thin in terms of in-game explanations. Though this remains a core feature, it's clear Disney is pushing more creator-generated content with 3.0 with Toy Box Expansion games (with two available at launch, a Mario Kart clone and a Marvel Ultimate Alliance-style brawler that's currently a pre-order bonus), both which feature new story content with voice acting, animation, and the ability to play with any figures together in the same world.
Disney Infinity 3.0 is the best of the series yet, with the excellent Twilight of the Republic starter set, and the general polish of the game overall is extremely refined with gameplay feeling much more responsive. The Toy Box feels much more like something you could actually build game content in now as well, with greater detail in the design-by-numbers features. It still stumbles in vehicular play, and the release is as buggy as prior versions (at two points I had to quit and restart because the game didn't register that I had completed tasks to move to the next checkpoint, and I was stuck in a limbo of waiting endlessly while the game told me to fulfill an objective I already had) but by and large it's a very large step forward for the franchise.
Disney Infinity 3.0 releases on August 28th in Europe and August 30th in the States. The Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic Starter Set costs $64.99 (less than 1.0 or 2.0's starter sets) with additional play sets at $34.99 and individual figures at $14.99. It's available on current- and last-gen platforms and PC, with a toy box mode available for mobile. If you love The Clone Wars TV show, this is probably the most faithful and loving game rendition, and a great start for releases of new Star Wars titles.