The Corellian Corvette Tantive IV soars by, the darkness behind it punctuated by thousands of stars. Moments later, the large Imperial-class Star Destroyer that’s pursuing it dominates your field of vision. You smile as you see one of the most iconic moments in cinema history re-created on your game console.
The scene switches to the interior of the smaller ship, as Stormtroopers begin the boarding process. The camera pans to a shot of the good guys, and you see Princess Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca discussing getting the droids into an escape pod and launching them to the surface of the planet Tatooine below. Stormtroopers bust in, and Han quickly shoots a metal grate above them and takes them out.
While I greatly enjoyed Disney Infinity 3.0 and its included Twilight of the Republic Play Set, I was most looking forward to taking control of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader in the upcoming Rise Against the Empire Play Set. Now that it’s in stores (available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, and Xbox One), I have to sadly say that Obi-Wan Kenobi was wrong about Mos Eisley spaceport. I have indeed found a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Imagine taking everything you know and love about Star Wars Episodes IV-VI and completely ignoring it in favor of creating plot and gameplay moments that never happened in the films. This is the essence of The Rise Against the Empire Play Set, and it amounts to a disturbance in the Force of epic proportions.
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What you’ll like
Within Disney Infinity as a whole, Luke is one of the most versatile and most useful characters. He has both a blaster (for ranged combat) and a lightsaber (for melee engagements) and the talent trees to improve both. Like most other Jedi (or Sith) in the game, he also can learn the Force Jump ability, which makes it easier to reach higher ledges in search of mission objectives or collectibles. This makes him useful for almost any situation: combat, exploration, or shooting small targets such as those pesky Mynocks.
What you won’t like
Complete disregard for Star Wars: Episodes IV-VI
I’m going to summarize a good part of the main storyline quests in Rise Against the Empire just to illustrate its utter disregard for the existing Star Wars universe. If I thought I’d actually be ruining anything, I’d probably give a spoiler warning here. Please just trust me when I say I’m doing you a favor.
Picking up where, we left off above, the heroes launch the droids in one escape pod and then jump in another to follow them to the surface of Tatooine. Luke kills a bunch of Tusken Raiders with his lightsaber on his way to find Obi-Wan Kenobi, who then inexplicably gives Luke his first lightsaber. Obi-Wan then tells you what you already know: You need to get the droids off of the planet. All of you head to Mos Eisley spaceport.
When you get there, you meet Bib Fortuna, the head-tailed Twi’lek majordomo of Jabba the Hutt. He informs you that Jabba has surrounded Han Solo’s trusty ship, the Millennium Falcon, with a forcefield, and he will not release the vessel until you pay off Han’s debt to the Hutt crimelord (best not to ask how he got off-planet and aboard another ship without the Falcon to begin with). So you run around Tatooine, bull’s-eye a few Womp Rats in your T-16 Skyhopper (a small, winged airspeeder), throw some trash into the Great Pit of Carkoon until the Sarlacc pukes up some parts you need, and then round up some baby Banthas.
You finally get enough money to get Han’s ship out of forced impound, and the heroes blast off. Leia, Luke, Han, Chewie, Obi-Wan, and the droids promptly get captured and brought aboard the Death Star. Obi-Wan instructs the others to take down the tractor beam while he takes care of other things. A few acrobatic jumps lead to a few switches, which quickly take care of the tractor beam. Obi-Wan turns off his lightsaber, lets Darth Vader kill him, and the rest of the good guys escape the Death Star.
A quick trench run later, the Death Star blows up, and we see a cutscene where the Emperor tells Darth Vader, “Well, we lost the Death Star, but at least we located the son of Skywalker.”
As unlikely as it sounds, it just gets worse from there. Like when Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker have that lightsaber duel in the middle of the rebels’ Echo Base on Hoth, and Vader reveals he is Luke’s father in the same location. Or when you first land on the forest moon of Endor and find Lando Calrissian is heading up the ground effort to disable the shield generator that protects the second Death Star and recruiting the Ewoks to help. It’s almost as if the developers never heard of Star Wars before.
Contrived gameplay that is just silly
I’m willing to bet that most people who are interested in Star Wars video games have never thought to themselves, “Boy, it would really be fun to help the evacuation of Echo Base on Hoth by picking up officers that are too stupid to walk to the evac spot on their own and throwing them through a revolving opening on the side of a Rebel transport.”
I’d also guess that if you asked fans how Luke took down the first AT-AT walker, they wouldn’t say, “First, he shot off the leg armor with his blaster pistol (never mind that the armor was too strong for the blaster cannons on the snowspeeders to penetrate). Then he climbed up the now-revealed handholds until he reached a lever that opened a panel on the side of the walker. Next, he jumped in and destroyed something that looks like a giant AA battery with his lightsaber, after which the walker launched him about 50 feet vertically and 500 feet horizontally away, which he easily survived without taking damage. Then he repeated that process three more times until a giant button appeared on the back of the walker which, when stepped on, made it fall and blow up.”
Rise Against the Empire is just chock-full of these contrived gameplay moments that make absolutely no sense in the context of the Star Wars universe. While I can understand gamifying certain elements to make them easier for younger audiences to complete, I cannot understand deviating so far from the original script that even my 6-year-old son knows many of these actions are just plain wrong.
Rise Against the Empire is, by far, the biggest disappointment I faced in gaming this year. Disney, Lucasfilm, and mobile developer Kabam put so much care into crafting a new story that fits with the canon of both the old movies and the upcoming Episode VII in the mobile title Star Wars: Uprising. In light of this, it’s difficult for me to comprehend why Disney would attempt to add content from the original Star Wars trilogy to their flagship gaming product, Disney Infinity, by completely ignoring the existing plot of a fantastic story that is beloved by so many. As much as it pains me to say this, if you are even the slightest fan of Star Wars (and you probably are if you’re looking into this expansion), you’re better off skipping this and saving yourself the frustration.
Disney Infinity’s Rise Against the Empire Play Set is available now. The expansion itself is platform agnostic and works on the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Wii U versions of Disney Infinity 3.0. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a retail copy of this expansion and additional figures for the purpose of this review.