Publishers: Warner Bros. Interactive, TT Games
Developer: Hellbent Games
Release date: Available now
Daring to venture outside the lines of a movie-inspired setting, LEGO Battles invades the land of real-time strategy. It’s a welcome change of scenery for the series, but it might have overstepped its boundaries. This is RTS stripped down to the scaffolding, and the word “tactics” doesn’t necessarily apply. Sure, it might be an enticing notion to battle with all the jovial LEGO icons, as it always is, but the effect wears thin. The problem lies in that it doesn’t feel different to battle with one available army over another. And the cumbersome controls and bad pathfinding don’t make it easy to expand your empire.
There are six different campaigns you can play: Pirates, Royal Navy, King, Wizard, Earth (spacemen) and Aliens. The purpose of their conflicts is also rooted in archetypical plot devices. LEGO Battles delightfully takes clichéd themes and populates them with pipsqueak personifications of their characters. Missions for the medieval setting have you fending off an evil wizard who has a skeleton army, simply because he is a wizard and he’s evil. In the Earth missions you battle your arch-nemeses the Aliens for a power source. In the mission mode you fight your appropriate opponents, so Earth faces the Aliens, and Pirates the Royal Navy. It is in multiplayer and Free play that you can mix things up.
Following the RTS tradition, at the start of each game you farm resources and build structures. However, resources include only one thing – blocks – and you gain them by cutting down forests and creating mine shafts. You can produce up to 20 units at a time, but lag slows the action down before that point. Instead of tactics, you amass armies to throw at the enemies’ fortifications, hoping for the best. What little micromanagement there is comes with the hero abilities. Each hero has four abilities, but virtually all of them involve boosting your troops and doing area-of-effect damage.
The anachronisms are intriguing, and the charm of the LEGO people provides a chuckle when you watch the cut-scenes. Another possible draw is the customization that you can do in Free play and multiplayer. Trolls, pirates, dragons, all led by a ninja master? Battles lets you completely alter your army to include any unit from all the campaigns. As an added bonus, there are also plenty of special units to unlock and employ.
But once you get over these novelties, the game turns to mush. The action is cut-and-dried and working with your units is a chore. Your troops constantly need to be watched so they don’t get caught on environments on their way to their destinations. To make matters worse, the DS stylus betrays you at times. If you want to choose a specific unit in a crowd, you have to separate the units in your squad so you can nab him. This also applies when you want to target a specific enemy or structure, which makes battle scenes difficult to manage.
LEGO Battles puts on a strong front, but fun simply isn’t this game’s strong point. It’s a humdrum, rinse-and-repeat cycle. It has very little personality, and nothing sticks out as memorable. Also, the game flows poorly, mostly caused by the control scheme. The stylus isn’t responsive enough to help you issue quick orders, and selecting anything but a whole group in a battle is a nuisance. As it stands, you’d be better off buying real LEGOs than trying LEGO Battles. Your own creativity would probably last you longer than the 10 minutes of fun this game provides.