Games preview: Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will subvert your expectations

A trilogy of Star Wars trilogies is being jammed into a single game as the Lego video games finally get the makeover they’ve long needed.

We’ll get into the details later, but the gameplay reveal for the latest Lego Star Wars game resulted in one of the most satisfying nerdy moments we’ve ever experienced. The game was announced just before E3, when it was revealed it will be adapting all nine mainline Star Wars films (so not Rogue One or Solo). But its purpose is not only to wrap up the Skywalker ennealogy but to give the whole concept of Lego games a much-needed revamp. The first ever Lego movie game, back in 2005, was an adaptation of the three prequel films, so it only seems right that the next major evolutionary step should also come via Star Wars.

For over a decade now the Lego movie tie-ins have been almost the only quality, multiformat games suitable for all the family. They hit a peak with Lego Dimensions but the unsustainable nature of toys to life saw the concept quickly run out of steam, which meant that going back to the regular releases suddenly seemed very anticlimactic. Especially as they began to overegg their features list, with overly complex rules and abilities for characters and split-screen co-op that has become increasingly cluttered and frustrating – with 2018’s Lego DC Super-Villains becoming almost unplayable at times.

There was a brief pretence that The Lego Movie 2 Videogame would right the ship, but it was even worse – and clearly just a repurposed version of Minecraft wannabe Lego Worlds. And so it has fallen to Star Wars to rejuvenate the concept. We’re not clear how the ninth movie is going to work in terms of spoilers but we imagine it’ll probably be added in later as DLC, after the film’s release in cinemas. But although each movie can be selected from the main menu this doesn’t set off the series of linear levels you might expect, but instead it transports you to what is essentially an open… galaxy.

Although we’re sure it’s all very compact in reality the fact that the first point of comparison is No Man’s Sky gives an indication of just how convincing the impression of scale is – something that’s certainly been missing from any of EA’s Star Wars games so far. We’re shown a map featuring multiple planets, but you can fly around in a spaceship in full 3D and there are randomly generated encounters with enemies that you have to fight off or escape from.

Each planet has multiple open world areas, with Tatooine having three separate zones: Luke’s homestead, Mos Eisley, and Mos Espa (from the prequels). Apparently, the exact locations and characters available at any one time will depend on where you currently are in the movie timeline. You don’t have to play the movie missions in order though, so it seems to just be a case of making sure Uncle Owen isn’t on Tatooine when you’re doing a Return of the Jedi mission.

We never actually saw a story mission though, just simpler fetch quests and escort missions – such as one where you need to do a favour for a Power Droid that only C-3PO can understand. These seem perfectly entertaining though, given how different the game looks with its new third person camera. The camera is now zoomed in much closer to the action and allows for not only free-aiming with a blaster but what seems to be a surprisingly involved combo system for melee combat.

We’re not expecting Devil May Cry but it certainly looks more interesting that the previous one-button mashes all system, with enemies having health bars and damage numbers flying off them as you land a hit – almost like an action role-player. The use of the Force has similarly expanded and now instead of it just building Lego models automatically you can pick up individual objects and take them wherever you want or throw them at enemies, all of which is strangely reminiscent of Remedy’s Control.

There even seems to be influences from Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, with collectible bricks taking the place of Korok seeds as a reward for solving smaller environment puzzles or simply exploring and finding hidden areas.

You could argue that all of this should’ve happened years ago but even the graphics have been given a major upgrade, with everything on Tatooine looking weather-beaten and battle-damaged. All the characters having unique animations too, with C-3PO slowly falling apart until he’s just walking about as a pair of robot legs. Some of the vehicles, such as Jabba’s sail barge, are absolutely huge, while we’re told the Star Destroyers are made up of 18 million virtual bricks.

But that geeky moment we mentioned… when trying to pick out any hidden details on Tatooine, that the developer wasn’t mentioning, we saw what looked like a wrecked Skipray Blastboat in a scrapyard. Blastboats were fairly prominent in the old Star Wars canon, before everything got wiped out by the Disney takeover, and we had thought them to be non-canon (we checked when we got back and apparently they got a brief mention in a recent role-playing sourcebook).

We confronted one of the developers and asked how it was they were allowed to use a non-canon ship. With a grin he admitted it was a Blastboat and when we asked about others he confirmed the Assault Gunship (our favourite non-movie ship) from the X-Wing space combat simulator series was also in the game. Apparently, that’s been added back to the canon recently as well, although at the time we’re not sure he realised that any more than we did.

Either way though we took it as proof that developer Traveller’s Tales are not doing this purely for the pay check. This is clearly a labour of love for them and we get the feeling we’re going to be similarly enthusiastic about it when the game is released this Christmas.

Formats: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC
Publisher: WB Games
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Release Date: 2020

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