“Powerful you have become…”
Disney Infinity was a game that came out of nowhere when it first launched in 2013. To be fair, the Toys to Life genre had already been a big hit thanks to Skylanders, but Infinity took the basic formula and added a little magic. The game played to the emotions of kids from 5 to 55 by taking the properties that are known and loved throughout the world and handing over control to the players to create our own adventures. The final product, while having good core ideas, ended up falling short of the glory it could be. In 2014 Disney stepped up their game with the release of 2.0 alongside a full line up of Marvel figures. Disney Infinity 2.0 improved almost every area of the first game while adding some great new features like Flying and Skill Trees for player progression. Still, the world was lifeless, the missions were bland, and the combat was repetitive. This brings us to the release of Disney Infinity 3.0. Once again we get a new character line up, in the form of Star Wars. There are new combat mechanics, new flight mechanics, new skill trees, and a bunch of new Toy Box features. So is the third time a charm for Disney Infinity?
What I Liked
Gameplay is the foundation of what makes any great game great. This is an area I believe that Disney Infinity has seriously lacked in the past. The game has basically been a two button mash fest with no finesse. This year Disney handed over the combat mechanics to Ninja Theory and Studio Gobo. Anyone family with their work has every reason to be excited…and it shows. From force pulling an enemy in close, popping them up high in the sky with a three button combo, to blasting them out of the air, everything works so well together. The game actually feels like a kid friendly version of DmC. Even with Jedi Knight II and The Force Unleashed, I don’t know if there is better lightsaber combat available. The gameplay doesn’t stop with combat. Disney has also improved flight mechanics specifically with the assortment of Star Wars ships available. It’s easy enough to jump in a Gunship and fly around a level, but just like combat, they added some finesse to the controls and before too long you will be banking left and right and doing full loopty loops to avoid enemy attacks.
Story was also something that saw a major improvement. The game includes the “Twilight of the Republic” play-set which takes place between Episode 1 through 3 and is heavily influenced by The Clone Wars animated series. However, this is an abbreviated, slightly altered storyline. All the characters and story beats are there but it’s told a little differently, for example you get to face off as Adult Anakin Skywalker against Darth Maul. This never happens in the movies, but it works here because the concept is these are toys that have come to life in a child’s imagination. If you handed a child a box of Star Wars Toys, he’s not going to have a Senate debate about trading, he’s going to beat up Darth Maul with Darth Vader, and that is why the story in this game works so well, it’s both true to the source material and the heart of fans both young and old. You are getting about 4-6 hours of content with story and side missions and takes place in 4 open world areas from the films: Tatooine, Geonosis, Coruscant, and Naboo
It is worth mentioning the figures themselves. The game is overflowing with Star Wars. The Starter Pack includes Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano. Also available at launch are Yoda, Obi Wan, and the Rebels Crew (Kanan, Ezra, Sabine, and Zeb). There are also Disney Classics like Mickey, Minnie, Olaf, and Mulan. All of the figures look spectacular, especially the Jedi with their lightsabers.
Now, let’s talk Toy Box. Disney Infinity has offered two main modes from day one. Playsets, where you complete story content in different worlds and then Toy Box, a fully fledged level creator. The great advantage to Toy Box is that you can play as anyone you want, where most of the Playsets have been limited. For example, Donald the Duck and Captain America couldn’t play together in “Twilight of the Republic”, however both characters can play together in a Toy Box. Now, the biggest issue with 1.0 and 2.0 is that if you didn’t want to create, or weren’t good at it, you were limited to downloading games from the community if you wanted to play. Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful levels out there in the Infinity Community, but you are locked into that creator’s vision. In 3.0 Disney does something amazing by adding the Toy Box Hub. When you start the Toy Box Hub, you are dropped into a center circle with 6 spokes that represent 6 different areas of the Toy Box. Whether it’s farming or racing or shopping, there is a ton or stuff to do, and that is what really sets it apart this time. I actually spent almost 2 hours in the Toy Box Hub before ever starting the Playset. I did several combat challenges to hone my skills and gain XP, I did a few flight missions to learn how to fly better, I redecorated a room in my INterior to look like the Death Star, and then I planted apples in my farm. The best part is that you can play as any figure that you own in the Hub. 1.0, 2.0, Marvel, Star Wars, it doesn’t matter, they all work inside the Toy Box Hub. It’s the first time they have actually made the Toy Box a fun place to be even if you never create anything. For the record, you can still create anything you want using all of the prior creation tools and they have added some new Toy Box tools as well including probably the most important: Custom Path Creator. The Path Creator allows you to assign characters or items or even vehicles on a path that you can then use to create cut scenes or various other in game additions. It might not sound like much, but the Path Creator is huge for the creation community.
What I Didn’t Like
I had a lot of fun with Disney Infinity 3.0, but no game is perfect. There are some technical issues in the game. Clipping, dropping frame rate, screen tearing, and various audio dropping in and out are all present in the game. None of these happened too frequently and it never really ruined my experience, but they are notable. It’s also worth pointing out that the loading times are very long. I timed the load screens several times and my results ranged from 90 to 130 seconds. That might not sound too long, but think about having to restart a mission several times during a play-through or having to jump out of a game and then load back in which triggers a loading screen each time, and it starts to add up.
I also had a few technical issues with the mission system. There are several times your objective isn’t clear and then times when the game is literally broken and won’t let you progress. Let me share an example, there is a mission that asks you to build a Droid Factory. The purpose of the Factory is to customize droids in the world (if you are familiar with Disney Infinity, it’s like customizing town folks). The issue I ran into was, after I build the Factory I was asked to toss a droid inside to customize. So, I threw a droid into the Factory several times without ever being allowed to customize. I ended up having to back out to the home screen and force quit the game, reload, and then everything worked fine. That is just one example, something similar to this happened several times during my play-through.
I also think it’s a misstep not launching the game with classic Star Wars. There is a Playset called “Rise of the Empire” which includes Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa and has story content from Episodes 4 through 6 that is sold separately. I understand that the game is aimed at a younger audience and even my 6 year old son loves Anakin Skywalker. However, I would be dishonest if I didn’t feel just a little let down after beating the main campaign knowing that it wasn’t from the Classic Trilogy. Small complaint, and Twlight Light of the Republic is good, but you just can’t beat the original.
Multiplayer is also a bit of contention for me. Disney Infinity offers 2 player split screen and 4 player Co-Op Online. This is evident by the Disney Infinity Base (Included with the Starter Bundles), which only has 2 character slots. The problem is, I have 2 kids. So when we all want to jump in and play, one of us has to be a spectator (and it’s normally Dad!). This isn’t a major issue, but if you are sharing your game time with more than 2 people, it’s worth noting. Disney Infinity has said they are going to offer a 4 player split screen experience with the new Marvel Battleground Playset due out in 2016 but how that works exactly has not been revealed.
Before moving on, I do have to mention the issue that I have with Toys to Life. I get their appeal to the company, they make a lot of money, and I get the appeal to the kids, they like toys. Where I’m really struggling to make the connection is with adult gamers. I like family friendly games and I love Star Wars so I would have probably been interested in 3.0 even if I didn’t have kids. But let’s be honest, when I’m sitting on the couch with a bag of twizzlers running around Geonosis I just don’t really want to walk across the living room to switch figures on the base. Another issue is for collectors that want to keep their figures in the box, or maybe on their desk at work. Even better, what happens when your 2 year old runs off with Luke and you can’t go any further without him?! Sure, these are all 1st world problems, but there should be a better solution. When you buy a figure you get a card with a code on it that can be redeemed for that figure to be used in the PC version of the game for free. What’s the matter with that? Give us an Xbox Code that can only be used once so we can unlock that character to use in our game at any time. In my mind, I want to hit a menu button, see all of my unlocked characters, and switch on the fly. You will still be forced to buy the figure to get the code which means they are still getting our money. I honestly can’t figure out why this is still an issue.
In a year that Toys to Life games are dominating the family gaming space, it takes something very special to stand out. Disney Infinity 3.0 definitely has something special. Maybe it‘s the inclusion of Star Wars. Maybe it’s the amazing lightsaber combat. Maybe it’s the new, feature packed Toy Box Hub. But whatever it is, there is something magical about playing 3.0. It’s not without it’s flaws and the Toys to Life gimmick is still an issue, but I dare any Star Wars fan to fly an ARC Fighter over Geonosis and not have a smile on your face!
Final Score: 8.5/10