Disney Infinity as a series has evaded me ever since its launch. I had vague notions of what the game was about, but it never quite clicked enough to bring me to commit all the way. One thing I did understand though was the idea that Disney were bringing together all their franchises into a self-contained 'digital toybox', making it perhaps more platform than actual game.
So, coming into Disney Infinity 3.0, my question was is this the dream 'digital toybox' it wants to be, now with Star Wars joining the likes of Marvel and the rest of the Disney family in the game? To be frank, Yes. Yes it is. The room for imagination and dream cross-over scenarios is huge here. It's a wonderful platform. I'd argue it's dedication to this idea is almost to a fault though.
Before I get into that though, let's start at the natural point here. The best content in the game is undoubtedly the Star Wars playset that comes with the Starter Pack. Twilight of the Republic is set towards the end of the Clone Wars, and features Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka, Obi-wan Kanobi and Yoda going up against a hidden force who starts production in a defunct droid factory. You then hop between four planets, as well as their immediate atmosphere, running through a two or three hour adventure. The levels are neatly designed and harken back to great, older 3D platformers that are exceptionally rare nowadays. The story, while not groundbreaking, is functional, (even if Jar Jar Binks tries his best to tank things) and it culminates into a great final boss fight I enjoyed immensely. It's by far the best content in the game with voice acting, cutscenes and specifically designed spaces that are ripe for exploring.
Despite being new to the series, one of the things I have been informed about is that the combat has been entirely overhauled in this game. It shows too. DmC maestros Ninja Theory have revamp the way combat work and it's a real delight. Initially, I wasn't overly impressed as I thought the combat was restricted to four move combos and a few special attacks. This was compounded by the fact that all melee attacks are mapped to one button. As you progress your figures though, you can buy new combos based on timing allowing for a lot of creativity. Soon you can be mixing melee assaults together at your own whim and it reveals a surprisingly deep hand to hand (or lightsaber, or Tron disc, or whatever else) experience.
There is a new explorable hub that houses your interaction with each of the modes in the game too. It's a neat and varied place to roam around in, whether you are trying to get into your interior, do some driving circuits, combat training, platforming, leveling your side-kick or accessing several other features. It's more or less a menu UI that you walk around in. It's actually quite cool and a great idea that works in practice. It certainly makes for an inviting place to try new content.
The problem I had with Disney Infinity after finishing the initial playset though was that choice was too broad a concept. The experience more or less throws you into the Disney Infinity platform, sight unseen. There is a lot to learn in the game, but the sense of discovery I was looking for was stifled a little bit by the directionless nature of the content. This is a 'digital toybox' where you can do anything you want in, but at times it felt like being thrown into a deep end of variety that I don't think the game took the time to teach me about. In a game geared towards younger audiences, that is somewhat of a problem. So yes, it was that toy box experience where I could do what I wanted. This absolutely is a platform to build games within. I just wished sometimes it felt a little more like a directed experience or at least had interesting tutorials.
However, once you do come to terms with the scatterbrained skeleton of what is here, the potential is huge. The level creator, (while again, quite complicated and needing of better tutorials) is robust and would genuinely let you create huge levels. In fact, putting the high quality Twilight of the Republic to one side, it feels like you are using the same tools as the designers to create your own levels. It's deep and hours could be spent in perfecting your levels, be it a platformer, beat 'em up, flying game or a kart racer track. Having said that, it would be nice if you didn't have to buy all the usable tools in the creation mode with earnable in-game currency. I understand why it's the case, mind. This is an example of Disney trying to stop you having an overwhelming tool selection, but it would be nice to just start throwing Avengers towers next to huge treehouses from the off.
One other thing I do need to bring attention to is the figures themselves. These things are gorgeous. They are lovingly painted and sculpted and are by far, they are the best looking toys-to-life figures on the market. Even if I had no intention of playing Disney Infinity again (which I do), I'd happily buy my favorite figures for the price they are at. They really are just lovely, lovely toys.
Disney Infinity 3.0 is a complicated game to praise, but it is one I do believe deserves it. The portions of play you can engage with, such as combat, are fun, and after initially being deceptively simple, show real depth. While not quite as tight as I'd perhaps like, the addition of vehicle play is certainly a neat distraction too. Also, Twilight of the Republic, which is bundled into the starter pack, is a lot of fun and worth playing if you've missed older 3D platformers. However, its lack of structure is a key point I should note. Once you complete the playset, there isn't a lot of definition to the experience. That is obviously by design as this is your 'toybox', but the wealth of things to do can sometimes work against the game as there is just no guiding hand or clear direction of what to experience next. Since you can complete the main adventure in 2 or 3 hours, I still felt like a beginner while being thrown in the deep end of choice. Of course, more high quality playsets are coming later down the line (which you'll be able to purchase separately) that will extend this initial play, but that doesn't help right now at launch.
Again, there is so much to love about this package that I do want to say it's an experience worth having. The combat is neat, the figures are gorgeous and now having Star Wars, Marvel and Disney all under one roof, the true power of this company is felt in the game. And that is a good thing. This isn't a cynical cash grab or just merely a reason to flex Disney's influence. This is a game that stands on its own legs and is made by developers who clearly care. If they could just help guide the player's education of its systems better and where to go next in a cleaner line, Disney would have something really special on their hands. Right now though, it's a complex game with a lot of complex systems. The mechanics add depth that I found to be a little incomprehensible at times, but there is depth here none the less. If you take the time to explore the mechanics available to their fullest, I doubt you'll be disappointed.