Matt McIrvin (mmcirvin) wrote,
Matt McIrvin

I have altered the plot. Pray I don't alter it any further.

Playing further through the Rise Against the Empire (classic Star Wars trilogy) playset in Disney Infinity 3.0, we got to a point that I think was just too frustrating, especially for a kid's game.

First, the dramatic climax of the middle, Empire Strikes Back section of the game is a really cool battle with a bunch of AT-AT walkers advancing on Echo Base on the frozen planet Hoth. You can take them out either by a complicated sequence of actions on foot (involving climbing up the legs and shooting out power cells), or by snarling them with a snowspeeder tow cable, just like in the movie (some reviewers of the game seemed unaware that this is possible). This mission is great, just challenging enough that we had to do it a couple of times to beat it.

But after that, there's a mission called "Timed to Leave", of a type that is all too familiar from the Avengers playset in v2.0, in which you just have to go pick up a bunch of NPCs and carry them to a safe area before a time limit runs out. This represents the final evacuation of Echo Base, I guess, and it's necessary to progress in the game.

This mission type is not overused in this game as it was there, but this particular one is weirdly vicious. The time limit is really tight, and these people are scattered all over the Hoth map, vast distances away from the Rebel troopship that you're tossing them into. The base commander suggests that you use an awful "personnel carrier" vehicle that is tortoise-slow, prone to get stuck in tight spaces, and incredibly tricky to get the little people into and out of. To make matters worse, the mission compass is shared between both players and will only direct them to one target at a time, which makes it useless for two players trying to rescue the people in parallel.

Fortunately, they're always in the same locations. As far as I can tell, the only way to do this is to use two players, do it all on foot, and memorize all the locations while failing the mission several times, so you can divide the labor. It's a repetitive task with artificial difficulty that is not much fun, and it was initially frustrating enough that my daughter didn't want to do it. It's probably the biggest design failure in the game so far.

But you have to do it to get to the forest moon of Endor, which is very cute: a big treehouse village full of Ewoks, with lots of little side missions, climbing puzzles in the trees and speeder bikes you can ride. It nicely emphasizes the exploration and discovery aspect of this sort of sandbox game. There are even some jumping-off points that give you one of those primitive hang-glider things.

As I mentioned earlier, this particular playset (but not, as far as I can tell, "The Force Awakens") brings back, to a limited degree, the ability to customize the world in small ways that was part of all the Disney Infinity 1.0 playsets. I think version 2.0 got rid of this because it seemed twee and had no real bearing on the story; but it nicely supports the idea that this is a game intentionally designed to resemble a collection of toys you're playing with.

There are buildings with different functions that you can buy from the "K-3PO's Emporium" shop on each planet with (pretend) in-game currency, and spots where you can set them up on each planet. You can also get theme packs there that let you change their colors, and there are also ways to change the styling and clothing of the droids and Ewoks. However, there are some strange choices: they give you fewer spots than there are buildings, maybe to nudge you to play some more with the controls that build them and take them down again. Also, K-3PO's shop is initially absent on Endor until you do something we haven't done yet to unlock it. I'm not sure what the point of that is other than to persuade you to try to finish the game.

For people like my daughter it's definitely important to have a lot of little non-directed things to do, which this game supplies in abundance. She's already demanded to go back to Tatooine more than once just to poke around there, look for rare items to trade with Jabba and throw things into the Sarlacc pit, instead of just plowing ahead through the storyline. Today we also discovered that when one player uses the T-16 skyhopper and the other rides a bantha or landspeeder, the skyhopper can tow it around through the sky and drop the other player in weird places. That provided a fair bit of amusement.

The plot is altered in ways that make Star Wars fanboys cry big baby tears. Since there's no Cloud City level in this game, Luke learns about his parentage in a strangely perfunctory cutscene with Darth Vader in the ship hangar on Hoth, from which everyone escapes unfrozen with all limbs intact. After a nice space battle involving giant asteroid worms (which is very forgiving: I don't think you can actually fail any of the space battles in this game, you can only do better or worse), we go to Endor and find Lando Calrissian at the Ewok village, giving out missions, as do several of the Ewoks. I was kind of disappointed there was no Lando figure making him a playable character, but after hearing the guy who did his voice, I figure it's for the best. He sounds not so much like Billy Dee Williams as like John Travolta saying he shot Marvin in the face. I was going to say that if they couldn't get Billy Dee Williams they should have gotten the guy who did Lando on Robot Chicken, but IMDB tells me that was in fact Billy Dee Williams.

In "The Force Awakens", my daughter is similarly frustrated with an involved climbing puzzle inside Starkiller Base, but there, I think she was mostly upset that I raced too far ahead of her and wasn't willing to undo my own progress to come back and help her. We'll get it soon enough.
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