The success of LEGO Batman, LEGO Indy and LEGO Star Wars has been something of a two-edged sword for the Family Gaming site I run. The problem is that they got it too right.
Trying to wean readers off the action/adventure stylings of Travelers’ Tales excellent LEGO games has proved quite a task. The simple fact is that not many games can match them for sheer co-operative play.
We were therefore excited by a new LEGO release: LEGO Battles. This time our LEGO people are found in a new genre: real time strategy. While the game skews a little older than previously, we’ve found that it is a great gateway to other strategic games. Here’s our parent’s guide for LEGO Battles:
Parents’ Guide for Lego Battles
After the success of the action adventure LEGO games on the DS comes this full on strategy experience that looks to recreate those imaginary conflicts played out over long summer holidays on your bedroom floor?
What Sort of Game is This?
Strategy games provide experiences that require quick thinking, and forward planning from the gamer. They combine the unfolding tactics of classic games like chess, with more recent board games such as Risk. Usually focusing on a theatre of war context, players enjoy the tactical overview of the battle these games provide.
What Does This Game Add to the Genre?
LEGO Battles provides a real time strategy game not a million miles away from early Age of Empires games on the PC. Players choose between the popular Castle, Pirates, and Space Lego sets before doing battle with each other and the computer players. The LEGO theme permeates everything from the battleground, soldiers and horses to the menus and navigation.
The top screen provides information on the current unit and an overview map. The bottom screen houses the battlefield. The action here is all controlled with the stylus. Players can tap to select and then direct a LEGO man to chop wood, farm food, fight, build and generally do their bidding.
The game is unusual on the DS as it is a real time (rather than turn based) strategy game. Age of Empires DS for instance is a turn based version of the PC game. This makes the action a little more frantic as there is no waiting for your turn and time is of the essence.
As the game progresses players need to balance defensive and offensive resources as well as ensuring a strong supply of workers to keep the armies fed and watered. Groups of men can be select by dragging a box over a group or double tapping a particular type of unit – much like Age Of Empires. This can be a little tricky as the LEGO people’s sense of direction can be a little haphazard and need a lot of hand holding.
The action is viewed from overhead: top-down. This enables them to cram a lot of information onto the screen as the battle unfolds. When it gets crowed care is needed to select the right characters and buildings, but generally this works well considering the space available.
The game offers a strong solo campaign (story mode) and a free play multiplayer. You can play wirelessly against others with a DS.
What do People Play this Game To Experience?
Although younger players may be attracted to the game because of the LEGO theme, it is those with a little more planning and dexterity that will get most here. The sense of achievement that comes as you micro-manage a little flock of LEGO archers to victory can’t help but put a smile on the face.
How Much Free Time is Required to Play It?
Although the game size has been tailored to the DS portable capabilities, games can still last a good half an hour as the balance of power swings back and forth. It is useful to remember that you can save or sleep proceedings if you need to get some work done.
What Factors Impact on Suitability for Novice/Expert Young/Old Players?
Novice and very young players will find the demanding controls and complex planning hard going. With a little help there is scope for some co-operative play if they have someone more experienced on hand.
Intermediate players are best placed for this one. The combination of happy childhood memories of playing LEGO and the chance to take that into a proper strategic theatre of war will keep them happy for hours.
If experts find the LEGO theme a little simplistic or juvenile they can always opt for the turn based Age of Empires DS. Or if they want something more involved there is always Viva Pinata DS. Other than these alternatives though, there is plenty to discover here for strategy players of even expert ability.
Wired: Revisiting that Age of Empires feeling.
Tired: Sharp learning curve for the uninitiated.