Disney Infinity could have rested on its laurels this year. Star Wars would certainly have shifted enough units with only minor changes. But happily we also have a range of enhancements injected from a trio of top tier developers.
As is the way with toys-game crossovers the game will be released in waves. The first round hits in the UK on 28 August (30 August in the US) and it will bring not only the main Starter Pack but also a Star Wars Saga pack exclusive to PlayStation 3 and 4.
The latter offers the Twilight of the Republic play set and figures but adds to it the Rise Against the Empire play set and Boba Fett figurine. Cleverly, this is the only way you can access content for Episodes IV-VI until a month after launch when they will be available separately.
Uniquely in the UK there is a Disc only set at retail that grants access to the game for those who already own a Disney Infinity base. Other territories have been promised a Digital Download version of the game available at launch although few details have been released about that as yet.
As mentioned, the Star Wars episodes are delivered in three play-sets. Twilight of the Republic is developed by Ninja Theory and covers Episodes I-III with additional Clone Wars characters. Rise Against the Empire is developed by Studio Gobo and covers Episodes IV-VI.
There will be a final play-set for The Force Awakens although few details are available currently. Sumo Digital adds the icing on the cake in the form of a racing mini-game that in practice isn’t mini at all - it’s more like a Disney-fied version of their popular Sonic All Stars “menagerie" kart racer.
Spending time with the Star Wars play-sets at E3 it’s evident that a lot of time and effort has been lavished here. Perhaps most importantly they all feel like Star Wars. Jump in an X-Wing, scale an AT-AT Walker or costume swap Princess Leia into her bounty hunter disguise and the Star Wars juices soon start flowing.
As with previous years the main way to play the game is by purchasing one of those Starter Packs. This comes with the game disc, the USB Infinity Base, two characters and the Twilight of the Republic play-set. To access additional characters you need to buy the related figurines. Let’s face it this was never going to be cheap. But it is a huge amount of fun.
Value is obviously on the mind of the House of Mouse too this year, with a number of improvements that offer consumers better choice. Power discs are no longer sold in foil “blind packs”, so you can choose just the discs you want. The Starter Pack sees a price cut, as well as a the aforementioned Disc Only/Digital Download option.
This latter change may sound minor but means you can reuse your old Infinity Base to play the game. Also, if you’ve upgraded from Wii to Wii U or PS3 to PS4 since the last game you can still use the Base form the old console on your new system. Xbox 360 owners who have moved to Xbox One will need a new Base still though.
Game-play itself has been enhanced with the input of the new developers on the project. Ninja Theory, having been behind the Devil May Cry games for a while, has improved the combat mechanics, giving them more impact and weight. Sumo Digital has worked on the vehicle handling and Studio Gobo continues to extend the game’s novel interactions.
Stand out moments so far are being able to pull out an AT-AT Walker’s toy remote control and then steer it into another AT-AT. This is all the more amusing as the real time walking mechanics can visibly be seen to struggle to keep each monster upright — before they inevitably come tumbling down.
The toy figures themselves look the part as well. There is a danger that applying Disney Infinity’s cartoon aesthetic to the Star Wars cast could make them comical rather than heroic. In effect the majority of them look spot on.
This is important not only for the experience itself but because this game, like Marvel last year, will be the moment many young players first encounter these iconic characters, locations and vehicles. Get this wrong and there is no second chance.
While the likelihood remains that Disney Infinity will empty your wallet, this is as much a testament to the quality on offer here as it is to any hard sell. Add to the equation the excellent Toy Box game creator mode and play-sets for Marvel and Inside Out and you have a winning formula. Bring on The Force Awakens!