The circle is now complete…
It’s hard to imagine a time in videogames without developer Traveller’s Tale’s Lego games. Adapting many pop culture franchises into interactive brick form, from Indiana Jones to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, it’s probably the franchise that they started with that fans remember the most – Star Wars! Releasing in 2005, Lego Star Wars: The Video Game was TT’s first foray into that blocky world, adapting the recently completed Prequel Trilogy into videogame format, and nearly 20 years later, after a number of delays, the developer is set to release a magnum celebration of all things A Galaxy Far, Far Away, with Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.
An evolution of the gameplay
As you may have guessed, The Skywalker Saga is a fairly hefty game, covering all nine of the core Star Wars movies, from The Phantom Menace through to The Rise of Skywalker and all the classic and not so classic films in between. I’m not going to lie, as someone who grew up with Star Wars and appreciates most of the films in the series, I was pretty excited going into this to see what TT had come up with and I think it’s fair to say I did not come away disappointed.
From the intro sequence, which features soundbites from many of the key characters and basically serves to show how cool lightsabers are, I got that telltale chill down my back. Yes, this was Star Wars, regardless of the Lego sheen over it. Jumping into the game proper presents three initial options in how to start your adventure – you can take on either the Prequel, Classic or Sequel trilogies, starting with each of their first films respectively. Being that the Lego games are fairly kid friendly I let my two spend some time with the game, and they chose to tackle the Prequel Trilogy, with the first chapter being The Phantom Menace. Meanwhile, I jumped into the Sequel Trilogy on The Force Awakens.
Satisfying to play
Immediately it was interesting to see how different the gameplay presented by both of these starting points was. The Phantom Menace has a much larger focus on melee combat, with the first two characters the player takes control of being the young Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master Qui-Gonn Jinn, two Jedi armed with lightsabers. What was also apparent was how much TT has changed up the experience of playing the game. Where the older Lego titles took a much wider view of the action with fixed camera angles and a more top-down feel, The Skywalker Saga feels more like a modern third person action game, with an over the shoulder view and free look. It’s definitely an evolution of the gameplay which is still undeniably familiar under the surface, but with some quality of life improvements on top.
First off, the melee combat feels nice and tight, with a loose combo system allowing players to chain different attacks together. This is more than just a simple visual flourish; some enemies will actively block repeated attacks, so jumping from button to button is essential to win out in encounters. As I was playing through The Force Awakens, it stood out to me how different gameplay wise this chapter was; with a Lightsaber not being used by a hero character until part way into the story, this focuses largely on gunplay, with third person shooter controls being implemented for the first time. Holding down the left trigger will allow you to aim, while the right trigger will fire your weapon. Yes, all of these mechanics are simplified for a younger audience, but they are satisfying to play with and give each of the characters a level of variety I don’t think I’ve found in previous Lego games.
Puzzles are spiced up with new mechanics
The on foot sections also feature the traditional Lego game puzzles. From building, to moving objects around and finding routes through levels, these are as you’d expect, but are spiced up slightly with some new mechanics. Early on in The Force Awakens my characters were split into two groups – Rey and Finn, and Han Solo, Chewbacca and BB-8, as they tried to escape the Rathtar outbreak on Han’s ship. These groups were in different parts of the ship and I had to use levers and buttons to pass objects between them to help solve puzzles. It was a fun change to the usual “walk here, build something, open a door” type of puzzle I’ve found in past games and gave a real scope to the layout of the level I was in.
As well as the on-foot sections, there’s also vehicle based fun to be had, from starships to speeders, recreating even more classic moments from the films. These feel just as tight as the on-foot levels, with players ducking and diving after enemy fighters, dogfighting and priming proton torpedoes to do critical damage to capital ships and other key targets – it’s fun and feels like a fully fleshed out mechanic in its own right rather than a tacked on afterthought like it has in the past.
There is just so much to do in this game
Tying all the missions together is an expansive open world – well, open Galaxy I guess! As you play through the main films you’ll visit new systems, each with their own overworld and story elements that will guide you through, but as you finish the narratives you’ll be able to revisit these planets and the space around them to explore more, find hidden Khyber Bricks that you can use to unlock new features and characters, and even take part in random events like space battles. There is just so much to do in this game and it can honestly feel a touch overwhelming at times, looking at the list of possible unlockables and upgrades.
But, the audience that The Skywalker Saga targets is decidedly younger and, for those, this game will be an absolute blast, something I can confirm first hand! The sheer joy on my kids faces as they lightsabered their way through the Trade Federation ship at the start of The Phantom Menace was great to behold and testament to the years of development experience Travellers Tales has put into this series; and the game doesn’t stop after the main story has completed. The idea that there’s a massive sandbox there for Star Wars fans young and old to go and play around in is a great pull and there’s so many little references and easter eggs to find.
A healthy dollop of humour
Of course, being a TT Lego game, the story also comes with a healthy dollop of humour and silliness, from facial expressions, cheekily tweaked context gags and even really obscure references, the traditional Star Wars stories are retold here with a wink and a smile. While a handful of the original cast members like Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels have reprised their roles from the films, all of the dialogue here has been re-recorded with new actors. Some of the voices you’ll recognise from the various Star Wars TV shows like Sam Witwer as both Maul and Palpatine, but most of the cast are doing their best approximations of the likes of Liam Neeson, Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill. It’s a mixed bag – sometimes the impressions hit the mark uncannily, while some, like Qui-Gonn, just sound a little off. But, it’s not that off putting and it adds to the whole pantomime of it all.
Performance wise, there’s not much to talk about – the visuals looked gorgeous on my time with the Xbox version, with the modern console being able to push some terrific locations with a sense of scale. As for modes, they are purely based on frame rate, with the game targeting either 30fps or 60fps – Ben will, as always, be putting some footage of the game through the wringer and we’ll have a performance video for you soon.