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I don’t want to shock you, but there is more Star Wars on the way.
I recognise this statement reeks of cynicism, and you’d be correct to take that feeling from my words. But in this constant slew of never-ending sequels, prequels, and animated CGI corpses of deceased icons, it’s incredibly easy to become jaded by the constant barrage of content aimed squarely at our nostalgia.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga feels like the antidote in a way. It’s not only the most authentic Star Wars experience this side of the 1997 special editions, but it also manages to make fun of everything the audience has been for the last (checks Google) 45 years too!
I was given the chance to play an hour to myself, covering the opening of A New Hope, as well as check out a good chunk of hands-off footage featuring gameplay and cutscenes from across the in-game saga.
The first thing to pick up on is that the famous LEGO humour hasn’t been stripped back. I had a feeling that the sequel trilogy especially would end up being restrained in the jokes department, what with the excessive fan criticism to the seemingly unplanned and reactionary films - but I’m glad to say that doesn’t seem to be the case. I even catch a glimpse of the ever-contentious The Last Jedi and, I tell you now, I didn’t expect a callout to Ben Swolo in a LEGO game, but here we are.
The voice acting is surprisingly great, too. Thanks to shows like The Clone Wars and Rebels, we’ve become accustomed to different actors taking on these iconic roles. But by not fully tying the dialogue down to original soundbites ripped from the movies and letting the actors react to what's happening instead, The Skywalker Saga adds a better flow and sense of immersion, something that was missing from previous (fully-voiced) LEGO games. Of course the fan in me would love them to use Carrie Fisher’s audio from A New Hope, but to get a fully encompassing experience where the audio links to the slapstick humour on screen, this is how it needs to be.
The gameplay itself has seen a major shake-up from the last time we played a LEGO Star Wars title. The ‘top-down’ view is gone and has been replaced with a more third-person viewpoint. It works well when it comes to the combat, but I did find myself at times missing parts of a puzzle or things to build because I wasn’t looking down at the ground and instead more straight-ahead. It doesn’t negatively affect the experience too much and I expect with more time adapting to the new style (rather than just a one-hour sitting), this will no longer be a problem.
The combat is more comparable to Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series or Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man. Where combo-based attacks build up, rewarding you for building up a range of different attacks. If you’re playing as a character with a blaster, there is now a third-person, over-the-shoulder view to aim down sights, with the ability to take cover. I never expected LEGO to take influence from Gears of War, but it works!
An interesting side effect of this new viewpoint is that the whole thing feels more engaging in a way I didn't expect. I came away from my hands-on feeling like this could easily have not been a LEGO game; that by stripping away the LEGO IP and humour, this could have been simply Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga - The Game.
As you progress through each film you unlock more planets and hub areas, and these - at least from my experience so far - feel like the most true-to-film adaptations seen in any game. Metaphorically speaking, if you could go into Mos Eisley or the Tantive IV with a piece of sanding paper and rub away all the iconic LEGO bumps, you would be left with an almost perfect recreation of the franchise’s locations, albeit with a gamified slant (which of course you’d want, since this is a game).
It’s a slightly bittersweet sensation because, on the one hand, this is a LEGO game full of all the childish and endearing humour you’d expect; but on the other, this is a massive undertaking. All nine films in one package as a game, clearly recreated with a lot of passion (and, reportedly, copious amounts of crunch), but by tying it down to a LEGO project, it feels like a missed opportunity. In a way, this is a testament to the amazing work the developers have put into the project.
When it comes to the scale of the project, levels seem to absolutely fly by. In my session, I played from the beginning of A New Hope up to arriving on the Death Star in the Millennium Falcon - which ties almost perfectly in line with when that happens in the movie (the Falcon touches down in the hanger at around 1:06:00). In that time I did do one side mission on Tatooine, alongside the main narrative.
At the end of each mission, you can choose to continue the story or explore the hub world you're in. The two hubs I experienced were both on Tatooine: the first around the Lars homestead with the surrounding areas including Obi-Wan’s hut, and the second was, of course, Mos Eisley. Both felt full of life with plenty of little trinkets to find.
As mentioned above, I was able to pick up a side quest to help guide a lost gonk droid home. The poor droid was stuck near Obi-Wan’s hut but Tusken Raiders blocked a safe way back. As the bottom half of C3-PO (Oh yeah, Protocol Droids can split in two), I dispatched the Tuskens (by kicking them a lot) and helped the poor gonk home. Completing the mission unlocked a new character for my troubles - Weequay, hidden in a cave behind the Lars homestead.
Even though in our gameplay I was starting afresh and could only play with the characters unlocked so far, if you visit again down the line - or seemingly play after completing sections in other trilogies - you can play as other unlocked characters, with their powers, and find and unlock new things. In hands-off gameplay, we saw Qui-Gon Jinn exploring the land around Tatooine during the events of A New Hope, chopping up womp rats with his lightsaber.
The Stud Bar is now called the True Jedi Meter and is broken into three parts. Collecting studs will fill up the meter of course, but each section you fill will earn you a Kyber Brick. These are used to upgrade abilities for each character class (of which there are several!), or core upgrades that affect all characters (like Speedy Sprint). Each level also has challenges, and completing all of them will unlock a Kyber Brick.
A few aspects I saw in b-roll but never had a chance to go hands-on with myself included split-screen co-op, dogfights, and lightsaber duelling.
The space combat footage came from the intro of The Last Jedi as Poe Dameron attempts to take down the Dreadnought. It looked to control similarly to the flight segments in the Battlefront games, as the player took down waves of TIE Fighters in preparation for the bombing run.
Lightsaber duels on the other hand use an auto-lock system, with the options to throw your saber, dodge, block and attack, all with the standard range of mobility and combo build-up. The fight we saw was from Revenge of the Sith, between Anakin and Count Dooku, where the villainous Darth Tyrannus had two health bars to deplete, with a phase in the middle where you tackle a couple of B1 Battle Droids. The whole game feels like the devs at TT Games looked at every recent Star Wars game, like Battlefront or Fallen Order, and said, “Yeah, we can do that, too”. And they did.
A huge selling point for The Skywalker Saga is the ability to travel between planets at your leisure in Free Play. As you progress through the films, each location you visit will unlock on the Galaxy Map, and between story moments players can casually jump between all the locations. Some sidequests will also send you planet-hopping.
In the b-roll we saw Anakin hopping into Poe Dameron’s X-Wing on the Coruscant Federal District landing pad, heading to the Rise of Skywalker Resistance Base on Ajan Kloss, doing a few Force-related tasks and then heading back into space around the planet in Boba Fett’s ship. While here, the player was able to take on a side mission from a nearby NPC pilot which took them to Empire Strikes Back-era Echo Base on Hoth (not before being attacked by the Imperials part way through travelling to Hoth Space!).
This is potentially where LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will shine best. Taking the concept of an open galaxy to travel around, set in different eras, allowing you to play as different characters across the saga, it’s sort of like emptying your box of Star Wars LEGO all over the floor and playing exactly how you want. And isn’t that exactly what you’d want from a LEGO game?
At the start, I mentioned my recent pessimism toward the Star Wars franchise, and to an extent that still exists. But from my experience with LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga so far, we could soon be able to have the purest and most authentic Star Wars experience in a long long time.
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