03 September, 2015

Review - Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition

I picked up Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition in a moment of weakness, on a whim and didn’t necessarily expect all that much from it, as a title suitable for ‘all the family’, but I have no regrets and here’s my review to tell you why!

Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition

When I think about Disney infinity 3.0, the term ‘videogame’ doesn't immediately spring to mind, rather I view it as vehicle for play, that happens to contain videogame trappings. It a subtle distinction, but I think viewing it as a means to engage with toys that just happened to be digital, is the best way of understanding what sets Disney Infinity apart from other games, even those of the Lego series. With the exception of the Disney account creation/registration process, the game wastes no time emerging you in the worlds of Disney, whisking you through four scenarios each with their own flavor of gameplay. Before easing you into the Toy Box hub, which is as much a space to explore and play in as it is a menu, providing access to many different experiences Disney infinity offers.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition rise against the empire

I don't mean the play sets, physical objects you put on the Disney Infinity base, the Toy Box contains races, combat challenges, garden plots needing tending, the INterior needing decorating, and more. But that’s really just the side content, the true soul of the Toy Box is in its creation tools. The Toy Box isn’t as primitive as Minecraft, it is I feel more analogous to the Halo series’ Forge mode, but with a far wider scope; you can start with a blank space or some preset environments to aid in the creative process, the tools are not restricted either way. Build a map filled with enemies, an aerial maze, a race track, a tough jumping course, or better still build them all inside of one another. Within the bounds of the core Disney Infinity gameplay, there are few limitations on what you can create.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition toy boxDragging and dropping objects into the world is simple and using the magic wand tool, you can delete or adjust objects while playing in the world, which I find can really help you make your creations more playable and fun. The easiest example would be when designing a jump of some kind; the fast and unobstructed manner you can jump in and test something, jump back out and adjust it, is like Halo’s Forge. There’s also a handy performance meter on screen to indicate the effect on the gameplay the objects you’re placing are having; spawning scores of Battle Droids – the thing all my Toy Box sessions devolve into – will eventually effect the framerate. The particulars of object placement is really where the Forge analogy falls apart; Disney Infinity values speed and accessibility over complete freedom of placement. Forge birthed a legacy of statues made out of rocket launchers, but Infinity doesn’t allow for that granularity of control, each item requires a set amount of space to be brought into the world. Of course, Toy Boxes can be shared with other players and friends online.

When I first attempted to build something in the Toy Box I was pleasantly surprised by the objects on offer, it wasn’t until later I discovered the Toy Box vendor – I couldn’t have been paying attention when they introduced him, I was probably ogling the toys! There is so much more that can be purchased (with in-game currency, there are no microtransactions), on top of what can be unlocked by completing tasks in the play sets. Just about everything intractable I saw in the play sets could be unlocked for use in the Toy Box; AT-STs, TIE Fighters (Inceptors and Advanced too), Ewok catapults – the Star Wars theme will soon make way more sense. It is a cunning form of progression to tie in, so much more meaningful that just gaining levels, because you’re effectively given toys for playing, albeit virtual ones.

I mentioned some of the many activities available in the Toy Box earlier, aside from the creation tools, sidekicks form a big part. Sidekicks are small Lego-ish people that you recruit to follow and assist you in your Toy Box adventures, your sidekick can be customized visually, like every just about everything in the Toy Box. You can also give them weapons, tools, and hats, to allow them to fight with you or indeed farm for you. Farming is an important duty for sidekicks because they level up their various stats by eating different foods, allowing them to equip better gear. It’s another time consuming progression system tailor-made, from what I can tell, for short daily play sessions, though admittedly I didn’t spend a lot of time with it – farms, digital or otherwise just aren’t my thing.

We haven’t yet discussed the role the physical toys play, or indeed the physical nature of the play sets. Whichever toy you place on the Infinity base is the character you play as in-game, you can switch out any time and it will change in-game on the fly, up to two players can play at once, both require a toy. A quick side note, the toys (play sets and base too) are very high quality; well painted with a pleasant chunky feel, not at all like some of the Amiibo’s I own. All of the toys I picked up look great and were well built, far better than I had expected given the gulf between Amiibo promotional images and the actually toys. Each character has their own set of four skill trees to level up, their own moves and abilities to unlock, though some are passive buffs; do more damage, for example. If the character runs out of life in a play set, the toy must be swapped out and ‘rested’ for a few minutes, or if you have no other toys you can return to an earlier checkpoint, in the Toy Box you’ll just blink back to life.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition twilight of the republic

Reviewing Disney Infinity is made a little tricky by the nature of its content, each play set is a different experience, I picked up the two Star Wars play sets – make no mistake the subject is the only reason I gave the game a chance at all. The first of the play sets, and the only one bundled with the game software and the Disney Infinity Base, Twilight of the Republic, is a relatively linear adventure. Anakin and Ashoka are the two toys packed in with it, only certain characters can be brought into each play set, though Character Coins, an in-game collectible allow you to widen your selection. Twilight of the Republic has a simple story, rather a thin premise to justify the planets you visit; Geonosis, Coruscant, Tatooine, and Naboo, but there’s enough humour and familiar faces that it’s pretty enjoyable despite of its lack of depth. Aside from the story missions on each planet, there are a healthy amount of simple side missions and collectibles. You travel between the planets using starfighters and the galaxy map, just like when on the ground, in space the game eagerly tosses small objectives and fights your way. Space combat is deliberately paced and kind of squishy; by which I mean you don’t have perfect control over you ship, but you can send it into spinning manoeuvres with a simple flick of the stick. There’s not much depth to the space activities, but it’s fun to engage with nonetheless and its easily the most graphically impressive aspect of the game.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition twilight of the republic

Both of the Star Wars play sets share similarities, but they are very different experiences; Twilight of the Republic embraces its Clone Wars roots, the gameplay is a mix of light platforming and fast, acrobatic lightsaber combat. I’m not going to try and tell you that it’s the most advanced combat in the world, but it has more depth than you might expect; combos are timing based, so you could just hammer the attack button, but if you’re patience and time your strikes well, you’ll do far more damage. These timed combos will also break enemies’ defences, you too can block and deflect blaster bolts with a lightsaber, there’s also a healthy amount of aerial combat, with its own associated combos. Of course, what good would these moves do without enemies to subject them to, Twilight of the Republic features a range of Battle Droids (and other more fleshy enemies) to wail on; the tough Super Battle Droids, the close quarters MagnaGuards, the rank and file fodder droids of course, and far more. These different variations of enemies encourage you to learn the combos and aerial techniques, but the difficulty is such that it’s not essential; you’ll likely just find yourself switching out toys every few minutes if you don’t!

Rise Against the Empire the second Star Wars play set shares the same core gameplay, the galaxy map, and space systems as the Twilight of the Republic. But whereas the later delivers more interesting and varied combat scenarios during its straightforward progression, Rise Against the Empire offers sandbox style gameplay across all three of its planets; Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor – don’t worry it isn’t the same Tatooine as the Twilight of the Republic play set. The planets have a much greater wealth of side activities, and not just the swift secondary missions, there is an entirely different building and currency system in Rise Against the Empire. You can buy and plop down various (somewhat) customisable buildings, allowing you to spawn mounts, speeders, ships, or even groups of enemies to fight. Building these utilities requires credits, earned by completing missions or blowing things up. The different sandboxes capture a little of the Toy Box brand of creative fun, but in a more guided manner.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition rise against the empire

It is easy to compare the two Star Wars play sets on paper and label Rise Against the Empire the victor, it is certainly more replayable, however it doesn’t benefit from the tight platforming and combat sequences like Twilight of the Republic does. There’s isn’t a great diversity of enemy types either; only the various branches of Stormtroopers, and Tusken Raiders, neither have interesting strengths or exploitable weaknesses. There are some traditional missions in the Rise Against the Empire play set; it tells an abridged version of the original trilogy’s story. While infiltrating the Death Star (one) there are light stealth mechanics; mouse droids with vision cones that follow a looping path, if they spot you they’ll call in Stormtroopers. As well as officers, who call in reinforcements until they are defeated. Again, they are not used in a challenging manner but it is interesting to see a game aimed at such a young audience, introduce the same mechanics we see in today’s mature titles. Many of the missions take place in space; some are open battles where you fly around blowing up Star Destroyers and taking out TIEs, some are not. The trench run sequence is of course one of the times you don’t have full movement control, you can only dodge and shoot, various objectives will appear during these missions; protecting wing-mates, taking out turrets, or evading enemy lock-on, for example. None of the objectives, in open or scripted flight are over used, though you are able to replay any mission any time you like. The change of spotlight away from the melee focused combat is reflected in the characters accompanying the play set; Luke and Leia aren’t quite as acrobatic as the Clone Wars Jedi, but they do pack blasters, transforming the action into a hybrid of third person shooting. Both characters still have combos and aerial melee attacks but they aren’t all that necessary for combating Stormtroopers, though if you launch an enemy skyward you can totally juggle them with blaster shots.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition rise against the empire

Disney Infinity isn’t leading the charge on graphical prowess, but it does look real nice thanks to the art direction, and with the exception of my Toy Box droid hijinks, it ran smoothly. The cartoon art is vaguely reminiscent of the Clone Wars animated series, but the models resemble the toys more than anything. I did encounter some weirdness, I used that as an affection term for bugs. The presence of issues is not particularly surprising; there’s so many interactions, so many different types of games coming together here, that I imagine testing was a fresh hell – or joy, because playing it really is. The most common issue that occurred for me was Stormtroopers sliding and shooting rather than running and shooting, which is honestly as amusing as it is broken. Ground vehicles can occasionally jumping and flip in uncontrollable ways when skirting uneven terrain features, and I did force an Imperial Officer into the geometry of a door once and was unable finish him off until he moved away, but even that is pretty minor issue.

Review - Disney Infinity 3.0 EditionThe Star Wars Disney Infinity Star Wars play sets do an excellent job of condensing and stylising the movies and animated series into bite sized but faithful shapes of their own. Furthermore the breadth of the Toy Box is impressive, it benefits greatly from the ultimately form of persistent progression; giving you toys. The key idea to remember if you’re considering picking up Disney Infinity 3.0, and the philosophy I believe holds its various elements together is; it’s all about play, and play has no fail state, this isn’t a challenging game, it’s just fun. It’s a game ostensibly designed for a family environment with young children, but having neither that environment nor children of my own, did not prevent me having a damn good time with it.

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