Commanding units takes on a new significance in the game's Ground Assault modes, which mixes the series' love of vehicles with a basic strategy game. A mini-map at the top of the screen shows a series of colour-coded circles across a large-scale environment, with blue signalling friendly and red denoting enemy encampments. Wiping out all buildings on an enemy patch turns the circle blue, thus allowing you to call in various structures to summon troops, vehicles and long-range cannons, with most of the creative thinking devoted to sussing out how to strategically dismember the enemy bases in the right order.
Ground Assault is mixed in with the game's campaign levels, though an entire mode is eventually unlocked which pits you against rival enemy commanders. The strategic options at your command are fairly limited, however, and before long you realise the enemy team will never attack your structures nor will your allies push the offensive without direct intervention. While the mode is more an illusion of the genre rather than actual RTS, it's an interesting addition that feels thematically at home considering the game's focus on the Clone army.
Also, if we feed the kids a bit of lightweight strategy early on then maybe the genre will continue to exist into the next decade.
We're back in hub zone territory, however, which is a shame when compared to the last game's rolling freedom of Hogwarts. Still, Anakin Skywalker's starship Resolute is mammoth and peppered with hidden corridors and unlockable secrets, and the initially confusing layout quickly unfolds into a homely environment.
While much has been expanded and improved over earlier iterations, a few persistent niggles remain. Switching between characters is still a fiddly and cumbersome task, for instance, and the solutions to some puzzles are surprisingly obtuse. I ended up at one particular head scratcher without having gone through the tutorial sequence (located in another level) and was therefore left fumbling around for about half an hour before figuring out that you can force droids into using their rapid-fire blasters to overheat golden bricks.
Other things are just left unexplained in their entirety. While you're able to hop on a ship and fly over to villainous battlecruiser The Invisible Hand, for instance, the game never makes this explicit and ensures its discovery remains an interesting fluke. Too often my attempts at progression hit a brick wall: I spent about an hour searching for Robonino, for instance, who is essential for accessing many of the game's locked doors, before finding him deep down within some Bounty Hunter mode that I didn't know existed. Unlike in previous games, attaining 100% seems to be impossible without resorting to internet guides.
It's also worth noting that the series' unsavoury reputation of glitching is still present, with the PS3 copy tested rendering progression impossible in two separate occasions and routinely forgetting to unlock Trophies. Anyone who thinks that's trivial clearly hasn't had the ordeal of explaining to a distraught child why they aren't getting their achievements without sacrificing their save game and restarting afresh.
There's plenty of things to like in LEGO Star Wars III, though some of them might be buried a little too deep for younger players. In a manner oddly befitting the game's LEGO heritage, its success comes from the sum of its component parts rather than any individual features. There's some well-realised ambition on display here, however, and the general experience is just as endearing as any of the previous titles in the series. At the current rate we're burning through the franchise, however, TT Games is only a couple of years away from being forced to make humorous recreations of dodgy Star Wars fanfiction.