And yet. LucasArts and Traveller's Tales next entry in the successful Lego Star Wars series, the undisputed O.G. of Lego-based, family friendly action games, looks to be a fresh addition to the pack. Not due to sweeping gameplay innovations or a sea change in the way the developer has adapted the source material -- but rather, due to the thick layer of polish Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars has received since the series' last installment.
If you tuned into the last two Lego Star Wars titles because of your unswerving love of the films upon which they're based, you may not find this one quite so compelling. It's based on the Clone Wars cartoon series -- a strong extension of the franchise in its own right, but not nearly as universally revered as Episodes I through VI. Well, okay, Episodes II through VI. Well, okay, Episodes IV - VI.
Still, the environments in which the cartoon series is set have been realized gorgeously, thanks to a new and improved graphics engine Traveller's Tales developed since their last Lego outing. Character models look more detailed and animated, now modeled after the most recent set of Lego Star Wars toys. Planetside, the boosted visuals are somewhat noticeable -- when you're participating in a space dogfight, they're incredibly evident.
Basic gameplay remains the same -- players can jump, attack, and use Force powers (if their midichlorian count is high enough, natch). You and a friend can switch between four characters at will -- the first mission I saw was based on the first episode of Clone Wars, in which Yoda and three Republic Troopers have to wreck shop against waves of battle droids. Each Trooper has its own special heavy weapon, from a rocket launcher to a chaingun.
After a brief space combat demo, I was shown one of the game's boss battles, which require a bit more strategy than just "hit him with a lightsaber a whole lot." In order to take down a massive, armored Roggwart, two Troopers had to use their grappling guns to pull it to the ground, giving the Jedi an opportunity to cut it down to size. It's not exactly like solving a tricky brainteaser -- button prompts show the Troopers where to shoot, and the Jedi just have to press a context-sensitive button to execute their flourishing attack.
It's going to be tricky for Lego Star Wars 3 to pick up the momentum of its predecessors -- not as many people who play it will be able to identify each scene that the game's bricky characters silently act out. Since this might be the most unrecognizable franchise Traveller's Tales has adapted, it might not get the traction of past Lego titles. Still, the upgraded visuals and somewhat deepened gameplay might just make it the most polished Lego title to date.