LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is now less than a month away, and I was fortunate enough to spend about an hour with it last week at a hands-on event held by the publisher. It’s set to be one of the biggest LEGO games yet, combining all 9 main movies into one extra large gaming experience, giving fans of LEGO games and Star Wars alike (I will admit that I’m both) more of the LEGO Star Wars magic that they love while adding in some extra polish and (it looks like) just a whole lot more stuff to do.
As a fan of the LEGO formula, it pretty quickly became obvious that this entry in the series comes with all the elements fans now expect – some creative building elements, a whole lot of chaotic (and sometimes productive) destruction, and a humorous take on the franchise it’s presenting. From the opening cutscene that humour is on display, mostly in the form of environmental jokes or slapstick gags from background characters and sidekicks, and I immediately felt at ease running around this world that is, at times, ridiculous. The section I got to play started at the beginning of A New Hope, which meant taking on the role of Princess Leia as she grappled with a surprise visit by Darth Vader and his attacking Stormtroopers, and attempted to send a famous cry for help to Obi-Wan Kenobi via everyone’s favourite pair of trusty droids. Just as I remember from the original LEGO Star Wars, that meant occasionally coming across troops from both sides during their downtime, often in some hilariously compromising positions. I guess if you’re already in the shower when the enemies board, what’s the point in rushing out?
Throughout Leia’s section of the level, I got to experience some of the more combat-focused elements. Melee attacks are still a big part of fights, but they’re a little more complex than before. Rather than just mashing the attack button, you can now execute combos, some of which are necessary to land hits on enemies with shields or the ability to otherwise block attacks. It looks to be a fun way to shake things up a little, and will at least mean the button-mashing will be a little more varied, if nothing else! Ranged combat has also changed for the better with the addition of manual aiming, meaning you aren’t at the mercy of only shooting wherever the game decides to target, or just wildly hoping for the best. You can now shoot with precision, and from behind cover, and it all just feels a lot cleaner.
Once control switched from Leia and her admiral to the droid companions, gameplay became a little different. While droids like R2-D2 and C3PO can attack, their main abilities revolve around stealth and puzzle-solving. Other droids won’t attack unless you attack them first, which allows you to traverse areas a little more safely, and to unlock doors you will often need to play mini games like memory games, relatively simple rotation-style puzzles, or timing-based inputting. I like that the game seems to be leaning into giving you different options for approaching areas, and I hope to see more of it in the full experience. One section even divided into two paths, and instead of simply asking the player to build a preset object, presented a pile of bricks and offered a choice of two things that could be created from it – a laser turret, or a water cannon, each of which would aid in a different approach. Whatever the choice, the object could of course be broken down and turned into the other object if you changed your mind. I’m looking forward to seeing more of that, too.
One of the big drawcards of this new, bigger game, is the focus on hub worlds and exploration as well as individual levels. While spending some time as Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi running around on Tatooine in the Jundland wastes, where multiple characters gave me side quests and hints about where I might find some extra loot or extra missions. It just seems big, but hopefully not in a way that’s going to be overwhelming. To me, it feels like the natural progression for these games, and when you’re dealing with a series that has as much content as Star Wars, it makes sense that it needs to be supersized just to fit everything in. While I didn’t get much time with it, I did have a poke around in the menus and get a sneak peak at the upgrade system, which seems to group upgrades by character ‘type’ (Jedi, Sith, Bounty Hunter, etc), and function like a series of skill trees that will teach new abilities and improve existing ones. Characters (of which there are many) and ships can also be purchased from the menu, and of course you can check maps and objectives, as well as the locations of collectibles like Kyber Bricks which can be used for upgrades. It feels a lot more like an open world RPG than its predecessors, but maintains a lot of that LEGO feel, which is what I was hoping for.
For people who are already fans, I think this will be a hit. It’s bigger, better, and allows for more freedom than previous games, but it also maintains that charm and (hopefully, from what I could see) simplicity that the series relies on. It’s definitely looking like the best LEGO Star Wars game yet (which may seem like a specific claim, but there’s quite a catalogue now) and honestly as long as it still gives me that cathartic, world-destroying experience (it just feels nice to break things) it should be a great addition to the series. An hour definitely wasn’t enough time with it – I can’t wait for more.
Time Until Launch (April 5, 2022)
Player 2 was kindly given access to this hands-on preview by Koch Media.