LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars Review

By Marissa Meli - Posted Apr 04, 2011

Fans of the modern-era licensed Lego games who still own a copy of the prequel-based Lego Star Wars on the original Xbox might have mixed feelings about The Clone Wars. While it is definitely a blast to play, the third Lego Star Wars title is a bit of a departure from the tried-and-true formula.

The Pros
  • More cool changes to this game than any of the other modern-era Lego games.
  • Excellent use of Star Wars license, including droid fights.
  • Don't need to have knowledge of Clone Wars cartoon to have fun (but it helps).
The Cons
  • Only about half of the game is the Lego-style platforming you have come to know and love.
  • Playable Jar Jar Binks.
  • Not as adorable or filled with quirky sight gags as past Lego titles.

LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars Review:

You don’t need to be a fan of The Clone Wars animated series to enjoy this game.  Even if a Plo Koon sounds to you like something that goes on in Charlie Sheen’s bedroom rehab center, you’ll have a great time.

LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars follows Anakin Skywalker (a.k.a. young Darth Vader), Obi-Wan Kenobi, and friends around the galaxy as they fight evil in the time between the second and third Star Wars prequels. The game has three main story lines, featuring Asajj Ventress, Count Dooku, and General Grievous as the respective main baddies.

You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned

This is as radical departure from formula as the modern Lego video game series has had. You will spend about a third of the game engaged in light real-time strategy battlefield play, in which you’ll call in air and ground support, deploy troops, and take over enemy bases. These are a blast, but they suffer a bit as you can’t see the entire battlefield at once. You’ll end up blindly following the blip on the mini-map that represents you, revisiting enemy bases to try and remember what they have built there so you can plan your overall strategy.

Ultimately you’ll forgive Traveller’s Tales, though, as there are plenty of cool battle vehicles and gear to play with. One half of the game is made up of the traditional platforming you have come to know and love, and the rest is made up of flying missions. The overall gameplay is great as usual (especially during a kindergarten-level creepy episode I won’t spoil for you), though at it times it suffers from a lack of clear objectives that will leave you mad and not sure what to do next. Being unable, even momentarily, to complete a video game marketed to children does not do much to boost my already shaky self-esteem.

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Better Looking Than Hayden Christensen

Visually, Lego is bringing the big guns for this one. Lighting, shadow, and flame effects are, to be blunt, much better than they need to be for a game rated E10+. This is a decidedly “epic” game, with bigger bosses and bigger splosions. There are more Lego combatants on screen than ever before in a few massive battles peppered throughout the game and this looks awesome, but it can be hard to tell where you are in the midst of a battle droid scuffle.

There are mini-QTEs (quick-time events) for the first time in the series: as a Jedi, you’ll walk up to a symbol on the ground and press a button to do awesome stuff. At first the badass/God of War-ishness will take you out of “Lego gaming” mode, but it ultimately ends up being a cool addition. Using your lightsaber to carve a makeshift door into a metal wall never gets old.

The cute and quirky sight gags in this game aren’t as cute or enjoyable as in past titles, though the finale might have the cutest cut scene I have ever seen in a video game. Ultimately, this is due to the material being less universal and accessible as, say, Harry Potter or the Original Trilogy. There can’t be many in-jokes and Lego Mos Eisley moments when most of your audience won’t understand what you’re doing. Still, I would’ve appreciated more laughs and less of the “tough” and “raw” mood of the animated series. The game strikes a delicate balance between what the Lego franchise is known for and what the Cartoon Network series is known for, but ultimately I would’ve probably just remade the Original Trilogy game with new scenes, a la Indiana Jones 2 (minus that shameful Crystal Skull). This isn’t legendary material you’re working with, and ultimately the game suffers a bit for it.

The Clone Wars
boasts a ton of cool combat features new to the series, like Clone Trooper bazookas, enormous tanks, and rapid-fire weaponry. As a Clone Trooper commander, you can also direct your fellow troopers (even when outside of the RTS battlefield context) to fire where you’d like. Of course, being the sprightly young version of Yoda is always awesome, though I wish he showed up more in the story mode.

A few of the platforming missions have a new feature called SceneSwap, a sort of picture-in-picture mode where you can switch between characters in different locations to help each other complete objectives, such as giving air support to characters on the ground.

Heeeeeeere’s Jar Jar!

Like the other Lego games, there is plenty of content to unlock and explore. Finding out how to do it may be a bit less intuitive than the other Lego titles, but once you dig in, it’s just as much fun. You will play through this game multiple times.

There are plenty of exciting new modes here besides the ones already mentioned. You can explore the galaxy, converting planets to Republic or Separatist rule. You’ll find some ships that are surprisingly very cool for being new canon. There’s also Arcade Mode, where you can compete against a friend in those RTS-lite battles we talked about before. As usual, co-op is very well done. There still isn’t any online multiplayer, though! With all these multiplayer features, what gives?

Especially considering they come out at ten dollars under the usual $60 retail price, the Lego titles continue to be some of the best gaming bangs for your buck on the market.  The Clone Wars has its problems (including Jar Jar Binks), but it deserves a home on your Star Wars shelves.  You can always move the laserdisc Ewok specials to the basement if you have to.