LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Lego Star Wars Skywalker Saga – PlayStation 4 Standard Edition
isn’t a remake. It’s a completely new game built from the ground up. TT Games’ Head of Design Arthur Parsons states, “It’s time to shake things up, shake the formula up and try something completely different”. From what I’ve seen this is entirely apparent. From its focus on freedom to its brand new approach to combat, it’s a reinvention of the LEGO game format, and signals that the series is growing up. After all, people like me who enjoyed the original LEGO Star Wars games as children will now be in their 20s and welcome a bigger, bolder gameplay experience.
Combat has evolved greatly and is perhaps the biggest departure from the traditional LEGO formula – it’s now more layered and complex than ever before. Numbers fly off enemies, Borderlands-style, as health is removed from overhead bars. A new melee combo system appears to provide more satisfaction than the traditional Lego approach of spamming one button until your aggressor falls to pieces. Combinations of different buttons will trigger more powerful attacks, allowing you to deal with the inevitable swarms that will surround you as you attempt to collect every precious stud. Elsewhere, ranged weapons no longer lock on, and free aim makes blasting Stormtroopers with guns like Chewie’s bowcaster more of a test of skill. Hopefully these new combat mechanics will provide a new challenge for players growing tired of the overly familiar structure of recent LEGO outings.
It shares a lot of the DNA of the more open LEGO games, from the wide, open spaces of Marvel Super Heroes to the freer camera perspective of LEGO City Undercover. With a considerable number of fundamental gameplay additions and tweaks, paired with a cast of over 200 playable characters, these factors come together to create what seems to be the most ambitious LEGO game to date.
All nine numbered Star Wars movies are available to play, in any order, from the get-go. Within each of those movies are five main levels that take each story’s major beats into account. These are all completely new and none have been borrowed or lifted from the previous games. “The game is built on the premise of freedom, the ultimate freedom to go wherever you like in the Star Wars galaxy. We want people to explore everywhere and find all the hidden areas, find the hidden Jawa village on Tatooine”, says Parsons.
You get to each of the galaxy’s planets by flying across the vast galaxy, getting into random encounter space battles with Imperial Star Destroyers (comprised of 18 million digital LEGO bricks, apparently), and warping through hyperspace to far-flung planets. This deep space setting works as a hub between missions, but appears to serve more function than just getting you from one objective to the next, even offering its own dose of gameplay. Indeed, some missions won’t take place on actual planets but will instead be triggered by jetting to waypoints located in space.
Arriving on a new planet is accompanied by a slick intro animation, not dissimilar from Kingdom Hearts 3’s introductory world graphics. These serve as a lovely flourish to an already beautiful game, as the gleaming LEGO figures contrast against their realistic-looking surroundings. Seeing a green lightsaber-wielding Luke Skywalker Minifig skip over the twinkling sand dunes of Tatooine as coarse grains fall from his feet is a sight to behold. It’s a slightly bizarre but ultimately satisfying looking mashup, and a graphical improvement on any LEGO game to date. The new technology being implemented to create these results is a further sign that these games are ready to take the next step.
Depending on which episode you’ve selected in the main menu, those environments can even evolve. While venturing around Tatooine with A New Hope as your chosen episode you may see Jawas and a Sandcrawler in the area. Select Return of the Jedi, however, and you may encounter Jabba’s Sail Barge instead. It’s yet another touch that displays an impressive level of detail, and exemplifies TT Games’ love of Star Wars, as Parsons enthuses, “It’s about a celebration of Star Wars”.
It remains to be seen how each of the 45 main missions will play out, whether they will follow to classic LEGO game structure that seasoned players are used to (smashing up objects to rebuild others from the scattered bricks while fighting off waves of enemies), or whether a new approach will be taken to further emphasize the reinvention. No matter how much the series may be maturing, it will be interesting to see how far TT venture far from what has made it the renowned family-friendly developer it is.
As well as progress through main missions, there’s a plethora of side quests promised along the way. These relatively small-scale tasks look to take a break from the galactic drama at play and instead focus on lesser billed characters and comedic scenarios – for example, escorting a beloved Gonk Droid to safety while being ambushed by bellowing Tusken Raiders.
Although there is still a lot of familiarity on display for veteran LEGO game players. Perhaps most importantly, the charm that makes LEGO games so loveable is still there. There were several moments that put a stupid grin on my face: watching C3PO’s torso-less legs running around in the sand after his top half was separated from the rest of his body; using force powers to throw a boulder into a football net, much to the delight of a couple of onlooking Jawas; and Jedi mind-tricking a Bantha into dancing under Tatooine’s twin suns.
LEGO games have always encouraged co-op play and The Skywalker Saga is no different. Couch co-op is core to the experience and you can still switch between playable characters in a scene with the press of a button depending on who you need to complete a specific task. Unfortunately there’s no word on online co-op, a feature fans have been clamouring for a while, though Parsons did tease the possible introduction of this, “at the minute we’re not revealing any more information about that, but stay tuned”. Dialogue will be fully-voiced – although the developers are exploring an option that makes the characters grunt, to keep the experience true to the original.
It’s these familiar aspects, combined with ambitious nature of The Skywalker Saga that have me so excited for what is being built here: a more open, narratively free LEGO game that encourages exploration, rather than syphoning you down a prescribed route. If it all comes together it could usher in a bright future for a franchise that was beginning to feel tired. There’s a clear love for the source material and it shows in the sheer level of detail packed into the game. This, combined with the exciting new game mechanics, makes me want to jump right back into this brick-filled galaxy, far, far away. I hope that this fresh approach to a LEGO Star Wars game brings me the same joy I remember from near 15 years ago, and with such a consistent track record as TT Games I have no reason to doubt this.
Simon Cardy is a video producer for IGN in the UK and wants Rogue One DLC just so he can play as Bor Gullet. Follow him on Twitter.