After what felt like a never-ending stream of delays, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is almost upon us. The latest game in Traveller's Tales' long-running Lego Star Wars series encompasses a trilogy of Star Wars trilogies, all in brickified form.
Anyone who has played Lego games over the years knows that, despite some mechanical tweaks, they’re all essentially the same. The Skywalker Saga is no different, although perhaps paradoxically, Traveller's Tales has built the game to be unlike anything we’ve seen from a Lego title before.
Based on what we saw during a hands-off demo during a digital preview event, Lego Star Wars; The Skywalker Saga is noticeably different from its predecessors. But it’s still the same Lego style of game that we all know and love.
Lego Star Wars in its entirety (almost)
Despite the influx of Lego video games over the past few years, Lego Star Wars has been on the backburner. The last title we saw was 2016’s Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which came out six months after the movie.
But instead of releasing adaptations for the other four Star Wars movies, including Episodes 8 and 9, Traveller's Tales instead went for the all-encompassing approach. The Skywalker Saga retells nine movies in one game, and they're all made of bricks.
The Skywalker Saga is just the nine ‘Episode’ movies. That’s not to say it ignores the other movies entirely; they just don’t get full levels the way that the “proper” Star Wars movies do. One such example is a Rogue One-style sequence, featuring Darth Vader marching down the corridor on the Tantive IV. (That's Princess Leia’s ship from the beginning of A New Hope.)
The Skywalker Saga should be familiar to anyone who has played a Lego game before. Each level requires at least two playthroughs: one in story mode and another in the character-agnostic freeplay. Each level is likewise littered with collectibles, potential upgrades and more Easter eggs than an entire church group would know what to do with.
We saw a handful of those Easter eggs during the demo, including the return of the classic Lego Star Wars hot tub Stormtroopers. That may sound weird for anyone who's never played Lego Star Wars 2, but that’s just what Lego games are like.
It also means that The Skywalker Saga isn’t going to tone down all the ridiculous things that we’ve come to expect from Lego video game franchises. The demo did feature characters talking, though, and unfortunately we didn’t get to see the promised “mumble mode” in action.
As for the levels themselves, TT has promised that player choice is going to be a key part of the game. Not only will some levels offer different routes and tactics, but you will also get to decide which trilogy you play, and when. For example: While The Empire Strike Back won’t be unlocked until you finish A New Hope, you don't have to play the entire prequel trilogy first.
Plus, unlike certain big-budget titles, split screen co-op remains a core part of The Skywalker Saga, letting your friends drop in and out of the game as they see fit.
Reinventing Lego Star Wars without alienating fans
If you’ve been working on something for as long as TT has been working on Lego games, it’s easy to stick to a formula. But over the years, we’ve seen a slow evolution in Lego games. The studio isn’t in the habit of churning out the same old thing with a different skin.
That’s especially important when more than two-thirds of a game’s source material has already had the Lego treatment. In fact, The Skywalker Saga marks the third time the studio has released adaptations of the original and prequel trilogies. But based on what we saw, Traveller’s Tales has remixed that formula to ensure that The Skywalker Saga is both fresh and exciting - all while maintaining the “authentic” Lego Star Wars experience.
The first big improvement is in the camera angles. Rather than a fixed camera angled downwards on the level, as we saw in Lego The Force Awakens, we have a truer third-person experience, where the camera follows the player. This should make players feel more immersed in the action, with a better appreciation of the brick-built levels around them.
Combat has also had a major overhaul, ditching the old system that let you run through levels by spamming the attack button and killing enemies without much thought. The Skywalker Saga introduces a combo-based combat system, complete with counterattacks and the ability to hide behind cover.
You won’t be able to just spray and pray, either, since different enemies require different tactics to defeat. Helmeted characters, such as Stormtroopers, are one example. Instead of firing at them until they die, players can shoot off Stormtrooper helmets and make them easier to defeat. Similarly, bosses will be able to anticipate repetitive attacks, and react accordingly.
None of this is as unique as far as modern games go, but it’s a first for a Lego video game.
TT has also pushed The Skywalker Saga more firmly into RPG territory by overhauling the way character abilities work, and how they change throughout your runthrough.
Each character belongs to one of several classes, each with its own abilities and skills. Players can upgrade skills using “Kyber bricks,” which replace the gold brick as the most common collectible in the game.
One open-world section of the game promised 1,166 Kyber bricks. It’s clear that the game is going to be just as collectible-heavy as before.
If Lego Star Wars were a person, it’d be old enough to drive. But, like Star Wars itself, it looks like the franchise has no intention of stopping anytime soon. It would be easy for the franchise to get stuck after so long, rigidly sticking to the same gameplay and mechanics as previous games.
But it doesn’t look like that has happened. Despite the fact that Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga isn’t covering a lot of new ground, the demo we saw shows that developers have worked hard to make the game stand on its own. Even if you played all five previous Lego Star Wars games, it looks like The Skywalker Saga will have plenty of things ready to surprise you.