Shannon and myself were recently given the opportunity to play the upcoming installment of the successful toys-to-life game, Disney Infinity 3.0, due to release September 3rd, 2015. This time, the game obviously centres around the Star Wars franchise (with the prequel playset Twilight of the Republic, the orignal trilogy playset Rise Against the Empire and an Episode 7 playset having been announced) as well as including playsets and playable characters from other Disney properties such as Inside Out, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Mickey Mouse, Tron: Legacy, Mulan and Frozen. Whilst I’ve played around with a bit of Disney Infinity 2.0 (I proudly presented the entire cast of the Avengers to my mum for Christmas last year) I didn’t develop any strong connection with the game, despite my love of the beautifully stylized characters. However, I loved almost every moment of what I played during this recent hands-on preview and of course Star Wars is a major draw-card, but I’m struggling to see where this game fits in with what can only be described as a full-on holiday season this year.
Firstly, I’ve got to make clear how much content is in this game. My notes consisted largely of a list of just everything we were seeing but undoubtedly I will have missed bits and pieces here and there. We played part of the Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic playset, 3D and 2D Inside Out levels (including one with gravity-based puzzle platforming), The Hub (which in itself has a wealth of content), the new Toy Box 3.0, Farming (including ‘Sidekick’ customization), a combat-battle area (which I’m already forgetting the name of) and Racing. Get all that?Let’s begin what interests a lot of Star Wars fans such as myself, and y’all Amiibo collector’s out there: the figures. We got to touch and feel the only Iron Man Hulkbuster and Ultron figures in Australia, which we both up to the standard of the other figures. I really do like the look all the figures in these sets, including the ‘cutified’ Star Wars villains such as Darth Maul and Darth Vader. The poses, paint jobs and style are all near perfect in my opinion, but there may be some of you hard-core fans disappointed that Maul only has six horns on his head rather than the movie-accurate nine (apparently nine looked too much like a crown). Special mention to the Hulkbuster, the largest Disney Infinity figure ever made that apparently barely fits in the same box. I was gonna try and limit myself to just Star Wars, but now I feel like Inside Out and specifically that Hulkbuster figure are also gonna be in the mix. I’m gonna have to start putting new shelves up. God, I’m gonna be so broke.
It’s not just about the figures of course though! There’s a whole game there too, and surprisingly pretty good game at that. It’s a very difficult balance to strike in creating this game as it is one that both seeks to appeal to the younger generations that have developed an affinity with the likes of Skylanders, as well as older audiences with an attachment to the wealth of properties owned by Disney. However, I felt – in many ways – this latest version of the game was doing a noticeably better job at this balancing act then I have experienced previously in my time playing 2.0.The combat can be approached quite simply; it is not too hard to smash a few buttons and defeat an enemy. However, there are also additional layers of complexity with combos, force attacks, blocks and special abilities that broaden the ranger of possible ways to dissemble and dismember droids. I’d have loved a bit more time to really experiment with this, as I felt I was no where near getting the hang of this in what was I think the lowest level of difficulty. I’d love to imagine the harder difficulty settings are getting towards the realm of Dark Souls where combos and timing is everything, but I imagine it’ll be somewhat far below that level!
All in all, I felt the Twilight of the Republic section we played was alright. The platforming, level design, dialogue and story points did not stand out, in a good way nor a bad way, but I’d imagine enjoying smashing through it as an array of my collected Star Wars characters. All things considered, it was a very brief slice of the playset we saw, so I hope there’ll be more going for it other than the raw Stars Wars fan-girling.The Inside Out playset looks to have plenty going for it though, perhaps standing out to me as the most interesting component of the game so far. Initially, Shannon and I worked cooperatively in a 3D platforming environment, with an almost entirely different feel to Twilight of the Republic. This may speak to the multitude of development teams that worked on the game, but there’s no complaints from me as to the variety seemingly on offer. Down to the camera angle and movement, this looked, felt and played like an entirely separate game. In many ways, it reminded me of a Mario 3D World, with obvious reference to Inside Out with environments, objectives and character-specific abilities all inspired by the hit Pixar film.
Soon after, we trialed another level from the same playset, but this time in a 2D environment, much like the LittleBigPlanet games adopted. In one of these levels gravity contributed to the puzzles, with various portals inverting the gravity in particular sections. This required cooperative play, with some puzzle solving ability (which Shannon and I both sadly lacked) to progress. It was – in all honesty – a lot of fun, and exactly the kind of game I would sit down with friends and family to play. I hope this is a component of the game sufficiently explored and extended upon.It’s worth noting too that in the Inside Out playset, a timer counts the duration of which it takes you to complete levels, which the developers hope will promote speed-running, a phenomenon I would assume would is a likely prospective given that the community behind these games seems to be continually growing.
We then moved to the Hub, a Disney World-like location with various sections you unlock as you progress through the game that open up alternative game modes and content. One such feature is the El Capitan, the famously owned cinema, in which weekly video content will be able to be viewed through the game. It’s from here you can access the Toy Box 3.0 in which you can utilize a variety of tools, with many new and improved options (including a variety of camera options the Producer was very keen to point out), to create your own world or make your own games. Speedway makes a return with the backing of Sumo Digital that evidently takes a lot of inspiration from Mario Kart, down to three difficulties/speeds from 50cc to 250cc. A decent helping of courses are offered, again sourced from the Disney-verse; I was pretty excited to see the pod-racing course from Tatooine in the list. I was not immediately convinced it rivals Mario Kart in terms of an arcade racer, but again, I see a lot of potential here and I’m keen to give it more of a go.
Finally, I want to mention the in-game farming system that allows you to grow various produce and then have ‘Sidekicks’ consume this produce to upgrade certain stats. Once stats reach a certain level, unlocked gear can be equipped to a Sidekick and spawned to complete certain tasks you give them. For instance, you may give a Sidekick specific combat traits so as to aid you in battle, or farming traits to grow more produce. Essentially it is a rather simple RPG-like addition jamming in even more content to this rather expansive game.
Whilst I found only Inside Out excited me immediately, I see a lot of potential in this game. You have to take into account the complete package of this game, of which – yes, I know – certain parts are blocked behind certain paywalls (i.e. the sold-separately figures and play-sets). There is simply a mound of content seemingly in this game, that appeals to a wide audience, as Disney always has and should continue to do so. My worry comes down to whether or not there is a place for a game such as this in my heart this year; much was my concern with Until Dawn which I previewed last month. Sure-fire successful games are coming out over the next few months (and I’m still struggling to find time for others already released). Then again, maybe I’ll just get all the Star Wars figures for my desk.