The Force is strong with this one.
For any Star Wars enthusiast, the Rise Against the Empire Play Set is the highlight of Disney Infinity 3.0. The Twilight of the Republic Play Set, included with the Starter Pack and based on Episodes I-III is good, but this is better. This is Star Wars.
Bundled with Luke and Leia figures, with Han, Chewie and Darth Vader sold separately in support, all Star Wars figures are compatible with both, and soon to be all three, Star Wars Play Sets for Disney Infinity 3.0. But outside of Yoda and maybe a younger Obi-Wan, it just doesn’t feel right to run around the Death Star as a character from The Clone Wars or Rebels.
Rise Against the Empire is like a dot-point speedrun of the key events of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi condensed into four hours. Like a young fan playing with figures on their bedroom floor, it’s liberal with the source material and reimagines the highlights under different circumstances.
Perfectionists mightn’t like it, but Play Set developer Studio Gobo manages to hit the highs of the original trilogy by reshuffling events to include characters that weren’t always there and reducing the locations to a single planet, plus space battles, for each movie. This is for continuity to allow switching between the four Rebels at any time. Other figures have to be unlocked. Inevitably it diminishes the relationships between characters. There’s no tension between Han and Leia, in fact, she never even needs rescuing, as they’re all best mates from the outset.
It could have been a long. The Play Set is expanded by side missions based around racing, fetch quests and timed challenges. These serve to extend the experience and unlock new items for the Toy Box. While I’m a fan of the rapid retelling, an extra hour or two would have improved the standalone narrative.
Condensing An Empire Strikes Back to just Hoth forces Luke and Vader’s first confrontation to lose its iconic impact, and they don’t meet again until father and son clash in a private show for the Emperor. I realize the Play Set is designed around one planet per movie, but the addition of Cloud City on Bespin and the Sarlacc with Jabba’s Palace would have improved the pacing and better rounded the narrative. Plus the lack of Yoda is disappointing considering his prevalence in Twilight of the Republic and importance to the legendary trilogy.
What is included is told through humours cutscenes powered by strong voice acting. None of the original cast reprised their roles. However, Luke, Leia and Han sound close to Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. Lando takes a leadership role on Endor and is the only outlier. It sounds like an over-exaggerated Billy Dee Williams impersonation by someone convinced he’s nailed it and failed horribly.
Wanting more is indicative of the quality of what is included in Rise Against the Empire. The vehicle sequences are fantastic, spanning almost everything a budding Star Wars enthusiast could want to pilot, from the Millennium Falcon, to a Snow Speeder and an AT-ST.
Space battles, including piloting an X-Wing during the Death Star trench run and the Falcon several times in larger battles against TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers, control like Star Fox on training wheels. The left stick is used for control and the right to evade attacks and do tricks, while the bumpers roll side-to-side. Rise Against the Empire has a few on-rails set pieces with obstacles to avoid or enemy fighters to shoot whilst emphasising exhilaration, and expands upon the glimpse of open space dogfights we saw in Twilight of the Republic.
Combat in both Star Wars Play Sets benefits from a fourth difficulty option and the expertise of Ninja Theory’s pedigree with action games (Ninja Theory made the Prequel Play Set and Studio Gobo made this one, but shared their strengths in combat and vehicles respectively across both). Button mashing is no longer an option. Infinity 3.0 demands players build basic but effective melee combos on the harder two difficulty settings. Heavy attacks break enemy defences, while launching air strikes give surprisingly accurate Stormtroopers no chance.
There’s less ‘saber combat in Rise Against the Empire, and Stormtroppers, Imperial Scout Troppers and Commanders, able to call-in reinforcements, plus Walkers put up more of a fight than bumbling battledroids. Luke has an advantage over his fellow Original Trilogy cast, with both a blaster and lightsaber to wield, and a skill tree that improves the proficiency of each. But that’s not necessarily the best way to play.
Han Solo was right. Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side. Using the Force and a lightsaber isn’t as effective in Rise Against the Empire. The blasters feel more powerful, especially once upgraded, and introduce an element of retreat and ranged attacks that TOTR lacked.
The greater prevalence of vehicles reduces the frequency of foot combat, and most encountered during optional missions can simply be ignored. This is, after all, a game designed for kids. But ramp up the difficulty and adults will be put to the test. The missions are still simple, there’s always a guiding hand, but that’s why it’s so easy to play. It’s the perfect game to relax. There are no strenuous puzzles, combat is challenging but not overbearing, and adult players will be familiar with the source material, but not entirely sure how it’ll be presented.
The three worlds, Tatooine, Hoth and Endor, are well designed with obvious corridors to keep you on track mixed with an open layout that still encourages exploration. You’re encouraged to help out the locals, and fans will want to scavenge for Jabba, get the Cantina band back together and ferry crew members around Hoth, but after an introduction, none of these side attractions are mandatory. They’re best served to earn coins to add buildings to each of the planets.
Here droids can be customized, vehicles can be stored and enemies can be spawned for training. It adds the personal element that’s so endearing in the Toy Box, allowing you to take charge of your own world of Star Wars. After all, this isn’t a straight Star Wars game. It’s a game about Star Wars toys, within a game about letting your imagination run wild, so every players’ experience should look a little different.
The Final Verdict
Studio Gobo has crafted one of the best Play Sets ever made for Disney Infinity — and for single-player aficionados, the best Star Wars game of the year. The mission design and variety is short and sweet, but ideal for all ages and the reworked story hits most of the key moments of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It could have been longer and included more content from the Original Trilogy to better repurpose the narrative, but what is included is exactly what I wanted from Star Wars in Disney Infinity.