IGN Review of Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes
Star Wars: The Clone Wars -- Republic Heroes stars the heroes of the recent computer-animated series and film. Mixing known quantities like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker with new faces like Ahsoka Tano (lovingly nicknamed Snips by Anakin), Republic Heroes sets up a plot involving General Greivous making a power play within the fragile republic. And if that's not enough drama, it is set against the background of the evil Count Dooku and his separatists engaging in a full-scale war with the Senate-controlled clone army. War. Political intrigue. Shadowy figures doing dastardly things. Energy swords. How could any of this be boring?
Well, Lucasarts found a way. Republic Heroes is about as much fun as watching Mace Windu do the dishes. At no point in the game does the narrative pick up steam. Neither does the action. You control two heroes at the same time, switching back and forth for co-operative action. This promises to infuse the game with some strategy. Will Obi-Wan stealthily flank the droid army's position while a clone trooper draws fire away from his master? Or how about Anakin barreling head-first into a horde of enemies, his tempter getting the better of him while Ahsoka tries to thin the herd and save Anakin from himself? Nope. You get a lot of switch puzzles and uncoordinated combat scenes. One hero shoots some dudes on a platform while the other shoots more dudes on a lower road.
Republic Heroes attempts to mirror the touch-screen movement and object manipulation controls of Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. It is nowhere near as elegant, due in no small part to the occasionally unfriendly camera angles (can the game zoom out any farther from the action?) which lead to heroes getting stuck on objects and questionable precision when it comes to platform tapping. Jedi jumping is particularly depressing. To leap across gaps, flaps, and use your lightsaber as a makeshift grappling hook, you just tap little green spots on the screen. If you tap when they are red, your Jedi falls and you get to re-do the sequence. This is frustrating with just two- or three-jump sequences. But fudging up a lengthy platforming sequence close to the end will have you cursing your ancestors.
The control woes extend to combat. You tap on enemies to attack them, which slowly turns the game into a jab-fest. Tapping a Jedi swings their lightsaber, deflecting laser fire back at the enemies, unless that enemy is a really big turret. Then apparently the lightsaber just can't do it. There are contextual sequences where you swipe along arrows to take down large targets, kind of like every action game since God of War. Your Jedi can also use the Force to lift, pull, push, and more.
As a clone trooper, you tap and hold to charge up big shots, which are useful against clunkier, larger enemies with additional shields. Clone troopers can take cover behind some objects. This cover system works about 80-percent of the time. That extra 20-percent where my clone trooper just stood up despite being behind a rock and caught laser fire with his face? Erg. Oh well, look at it this way. At least clone troopers can take cover. Jedi? Apparently Yoda never taught any of them how to duck. Maybe because he's so short, it was an unnecessary skill for him.
You see, stuff like that really breaks the spell. Here you are, controlling a hero that can move things with their minds because they are attuned to a cosmic power close to divinity. But something so simple as ducking? Nope. These are Jedi. Jedi were set up as so powerful in those original movies, but here they are now, struggling with mundane switch puzzles. Give these heroes more Herculean tasks worthy of their skills, like showdowns with General Greivous, who is a legit badass.
Republic Heroes is drained of drama by the camera's refusal to get you close to the fight. Droid troopers look like little stick figures. Your Jedi hero is sometimes scaled so small he or she looks like a collection of little blocks. It's unfortunate, because the Jedi have a few cool moves. You can tap an enemy halfway across the room and make your Jedi arc through the air, artfully slicing into the foe. Let me see that. Don't keep me at eighty arm-lengths so all I really see is a flying mass of colorful pixels in the middle of a lightsaber trail.
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