The Star Wars Paradox – Disney Infinity 3.0
DISCLOSURE: This article was almost completely written. But then Disney tweeted, “Hey who wants to come to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)?” And I responded, not expecting to get selected. But then I got selected. Then my mind went to, “I don’t think I can take time off.” But then somehow I was able to get the day off. So now I’m back after having already written what my fears were and getting to experience Disney Infinity 3.0 first-hand. So rather than rewrite the article I’m going to respond to some of my own fears. Thoroughly confused? Great! Let’s get started.
Star Wars: One of the biggest movie franchises of all time. Entertaining. Iconic. Transcendent. There really aren’t enough superlatives. The original trilogy is considered sacred to many.
Rabid. Unforgiving. Relentless. Die hard. Brutal. Those are the fans. Next to Star Trek fans they are among the most vocal fanbase there is.
Up until this point Disney Infinity has been relatively under the radar for anyone but Disney fans and families. I know what you’re thinking. A 500 million dollar franchise under the radar? Absolutely. They are targeting families and Disney fans. The average gamer or even average person probably doesn’t know much about it or probably doesn’t think it’s for them. Disney definitely broadened their market some on 2.0 with the Marvel license. Friends of mine that hadn’t considered DI previously bought the starter pack because they wanted to play as the Avengers and Spider-Man.
A couple months back JV announced the Sam and Quorra figures would be digital only. What followed was a slew of tweets/posts railing the decision and personally attacking him. This was the guy that has been about as open and communicative to fans as any other executive producer I’ve seen. I love TRON and was terribly disappointed they were going to be digital only. I respectfully tweeted my disappointment and told myself I would not buy the digital versions as a form of protest and left it at that. Some people took it too far unfortunately. And, again, this was over two figures from a C level franchise.
POST E3: I got to play with Sam Flynn … awesome!! Disc battling was great, dodging looked like it was taken right from Legacy and it was just plain fun. Also, the figures looked great in person. Sam might be the first figure since Sorcerer Mickey that I get multiples of.
Star Wars is a whole other level of fandom. These are people that will buy a ticket for a movie they don’t care about just to see a trailer and then walk out after. These are people that made Episodes I, II, and III hundreds of millions of dollars a piece despite being vastly inferior to the original trilogy. These are also the people that sent so much hate mail to Lucasfilm after they found out Nsync had a cameo that it was pulled from the final cut. Seriously. The fans actually changed a movie (and they weren’t wrong about that).
I worry that Star Wars may be too much for the platform at the moment. JV and his team seem like genuinely nice people who really enjoy putting out Disney Infinity. I’ve certainly enjoyed playing them. 1.0 was ambitious, fun, and new. 2.0 was fun albeit repetitive. Despite the fantastic advancements of the Toy Box platform, the playsets are the heart and soul of the Disney Infinity experience. Star Wars fans will demand more than we’ve been given. And the amount of negative press they will get if they, the Star Wars fans, aren’t happy will pale in comparison to anything they’ve seen. So with all that said there are a few things they have to get right.
So far, many of their choices have been brilliant. Luke, Leia, Han, Yoda and Vader were must-haves. Chewbacca, Anakin, Obi Wan and Darth Maul were great additions as well. They even included Boba Fett (as a timed exclusive but still)! R2D2 and C3PO would be nice figures to have, just to complete the collection; however, gameplay-wise I’m not sure they would work. All in all these were perfect selections.
After this things get a bit lost for me. Having watched maybe a couple episodes of the Clone Wars cartoons I only had a passing idea of who Ahsoka was (the dual lightsabers are great though!). And they recently announced Rebels as additional characters. This news was announced last week and I had literally no idea what Rebels was or who those characters were (I spent the weekend watching the first couple episodes and it’s definitely not bad). But that is four figures most people won’t know who also will probably not be explored in the movies. If the Force Awakens is a continuation of Episode VI, it seems odd not to launch 3.0 with at least some of the characters being introduced. I realize it’s probably a timing issue because the movie doesn’t come out until December but it definitely seems like a wasted opportunity.
POST E3: All the characters looked fantastic in person (especially Boba Fett). They are certainly in line with any other figure they’ve put out before. I think the choice to release Clone Wars and Rebels characters has more to do with what their plans are in the future for those properties, rather than repaying fans of those series. That’s just my opinion though. In any case I didn’t have the opportunity to play with anyone from Clone Wars or Rebels except for Ahsoka, who was pretty great. I can see why the DI crew loves using her.
Lightsabers might be the single coolest weapon ever. They’re sleek, deadly and retractable. There are basically two routes they can take. They can go the Lego Star Wars route and have the lightsaber fighting be a button-mashing fest (which would be absolutely horrible), or they could go the route of the Force Unleashed and add a little variety and strategy to the fighting. Besides blocking, I would love to see countering added (perhaps add it as an advanced setting that could be turned on or off). Either way it must be more than the swordfighting we’ve seen in DI 1.0. JV has said in interviews that the sword fighting mechanics have been upgraded so I’m really hoping more depth was added. Acrobatics and movement should also be a part of it. They should include enemies that can only be attacked from behind or require dodging to defeat. And as opposed to the mow-them-down, mow-them-down that was 2.0, 3.0 should include fights that require actual strategy.
POST E3: So I’m not actually sure if it is a button-mashing fest or not. I was asked not to check the skill tree because it would crash the demo so I don’t know what was leveled up. I did get to try one lightsaber combo which was a neat effect. Also there were enemies that required dodging and that could not be directly defeated by only using a lightsaber! There was definitely more variety and I’m looking forward to seeing all the different enemy types. There is also a light-saber blocking move called Parry, from what I have been told. Sounded pretty effective.
While I do feel that they’re definitely overpowered, I think the Force Unleashed set the standard for force powers in a game. First and foremost they were incredibly fun to use and were often used to solve puzzles. It also had the best variety. You could force push, pull, grasp, and lightning (if you’re so inclined), as well as a few others.
I remember hearing on a Toy Box TV that each character would only have one force power. Hopefully I misunderstood and more will be available by leveling the character. If it is just one power I will be disappointed to say the least. Jedis are known for their lightsabers and force powers, and hopefully the latter isn’t sacrificed because of the simplified control scheme.
POST E3: It wasn’t quite as bad as I feared. Each Jedi/Sith has one force power like push or pull; however, they may also have things like Force Jump and/or a saber throw. They also have a special move that uses the Force in some way; Darth Vader for example had a Force Unleashed-type Force Explosion. I was told Obi-Wan had hypnotize but I didn’t get to see it. Overall the feel was pretty good and I didn’t feel too much was lacking with the powers.
I think it’s fair to say the variety in 2.0 was a bit lacking. Avengers basically had 3 to 5 distinct types of missions (battling basically the same 4 enemies over and over). Spider-Man had 3 to 4 mission types while fighting clones of Venom (of various sizes) the entire time in basically the same city as the Avengers. Guardians had what seemed like the smallest locale but you got to solve some puzzles, fly a jet, and man some cannons while fighting what seemed like 2 enemy types. At times it felt like a bit of a step back from 1.0, which had locales for Pirates, Lone Ranger, Cars, The Incredibles and Monsters U which all felt dissimilar to one another. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, 2.0 felt like an expansion of the Incredibles from 1.0. It’s certainly not a bad thing, however it didn’t make for a deep experience.
3.0 has to take advantage of not only the variety of enemies within Star Wars, but also that of the locales. Throughout the 6 movies we were taken to several planets and ships and stations that absolutely need to be utilized. From the previews I’ve seen, it seems like a good variety of both so I am cautiously optimistic.
POST E3: E3 being what it is you don’t get to play any game for more than about 5 – 10 minutes, especially if there is a line. I got to play parts of a few missions and watch other people play others, and overall I was impressed with the variety of things to do. I watched someone do part of the Death Star run and it looked like so much fun I wanted to take the controller away (he also kept running into things and missing the targets so it was a bit maddening). I also watched someone riding around in a speeder bike in a forest (Endor?), and flying around in a battle scene straight out of Hoth from Empire Strikes Back. There were a few other locales I didn’t recognize but they were nothing like the others. All in all what I saw and experienced was very impressive.
New Post E3 Conclusion
Disney always maintains that Disney Infinity is for kids and families. And I think the first two releases absolutely illustrate that. The games weren’t for “me” but they were still fun so I played them. However I think Star Wars might be the first license they have worked with whose core audience happens to be adults. This is one of the few franchises where the parents drag their kids to see the movie. It’s truly iconic and everyone around my age or older grew up loving the original trilogy. And I have to say, based off what I saw, this might be the first time they are acknowledging that adults play their game. It includes what we want to see and has the characters that were part of our childhood. All in all it seems like this might be the best Infinity yet.