LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

Given the huge, vast realms of potential content to adapt in LEGO form, it seems odd (if not downright cynical) that Traveller’s Tales seem to circle around the same 3 franchises. I guess it makes sense to produce a ton of games based around superhero brands like Marvel and DC; after all, they have endless scope for producing new stories as well as adapting already-extant stories. With Star Wars though, by now we’ve covered the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the Clone Wars tv show (well, a bit of it anyway) and even spent a game on The Force Awakens in its entirety. Surely there’s little else left to do?

Well, evidently Traveller’s Tales disagrees. You’d be forgiven for assuming The Skywalker Saga was a kind of updated version of The Complete Saga, with remastered versions of the levels we’ve already seen, but actually the developers have taken a chance to do a completely new game, with not just entirely new levels but a completely new open-world philosophy backing it.

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LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (PC, PS4 [reviewed], PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)

Release Apr 2022 | Developed: Traveller’s Tales | Published: WB Games

Genre: Platformer | HLTB: 19 hours 

As you’d no doubt expect, the campaign follows the storylines of each of the 9 main Star Wars films, from The Phantom Menace all the way through to The Rise of Skywalker. It’s set out in a very different way to the LEGO Star Wars games I’ve previously reviewed; in those games, each episode was represented via a series of levels (usually 6), with every one stuffed to the gills with platforming challenges, light combat, and a buttload of collectibles. The Skywalker Saga reduces the number of levels per film to 5 but given it’s got 9 films to get through that still represents a significant chunk of content. The majority of the game now takes place across huge hub planets; as you progress through the events of each film you’ll find yourself flying across the galaxy to each of these different worlds, giving you brief tastes of the places you can visit during freeplay. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, this gives The Skywalker Saga a greater sense of scale than any other LEGO game; Star Wars has a vast galaxy, but also asking you to follow along that closely with the plot of the films means you get a far more involved experience than before. However, it also means you spend a lot (like, a lot) of time just running around, following waypoints until a cutscene triggers and you get a bit more LEGO-ified film scenes and every now and again a proper level starts.

I was struck by how dramatic a change that felt when I was playing. One of the great advantages of the older LEGO Star Wars games is that there was very little guff in-between the game and the attitude towards adaptation. While they had a hub world, they were relatively compact, and they were only there to have a flavourful, themed location to run around in when you weren’t in a level. While the adaptations are reasonably faithful, there wasn’t any particular drive to re-enact every line or capture every interaction. Even as the broader LEGO franchise has grown and its games have gotten more elaborate, there still seemed to be a kind of line that wasn’t to be crossed – if the adaptation ever got in the way of the game, that would be a step too far. Chief among the other LEGO games I’m thinking of LEGO The Lord of the Rings here; that has a huge open world and a reasonable amount of time is spent recreating key moments from the films, not to mention recycling film dialogue by the bucketload, but it’s still all done in service of the game.

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In contrast, The Skywalker Saga tries to produce as close to a one-to-one recreation of the films as possible. Tons of dialogue from the films is scattered throughout your play, and you’re expected to make the same treks over the planets as the characters you’re following. Take The Phantom Menace, for example; you begin in control of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan aboard the Trade Federation Droid Control Ship. Now, in the original LEGO Star Wars game, this was its own level. Here though it’s merely part of the explorable galaxy, so you wander its halls until you get to the hangar and nip down to Naboo. You then have a merry wander about the swamps on the planet surface (again, this was another level in the first LEGO Star Wars game) before heading down to yet another map in Otoh Gunga and meeting with Boss Nass. You finally get your first proper level once you’re aboard the Bongo and have to travel through the planet core. This is how The Skywalker Saga proceeds, going from relatively lengthy semi-free-roaming travel sections to finally getting to a contained level and back. As I said, the scope is truly breathtaking, but it feels like the longest way possible to approach the films.

Because this is the way The Skywalker Saga chooses to engage with its source material, it falls into an intriguing trap where its recreations of the best of the saga are extremely fun, but when things are rubbish then that too is faithfully reimagined. I can remember playing the first LEGO Star Wars for the first time back in 2005 and feeling like it was the first time I’d really expressly enjoyed the prequels, and judging by the feedback it received at the time, I wasn’t alone in that mindset, and part of that comes down to the willingness to adapt and gamify elements of those films. Because The Skywalker Saga eschews this in favour of closer adaptation, it hits a snag in that it has to adapt even the slow bits of the prequels and all of the infinitely awful sequel trilogy. I really had hoped that this game might have been the thing that helped me engage with or enjoy in any way Disney’s horrific three film long mistake, but alas, even the joyous silliness of LEGO can’t save the sequels in the slightest.

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Playing through all 9 Star Wars films sure takes its time but don’t be fooled by the 19 hour HLTB time – if you engage with The Skywalker Saga in any way beyond the campaign it quickly spirals into what is undoubtedly one of the most expansive games in this franchise ever. There are 24 planets available for you to explore in the galaxy map, which is this game’s main free-play component, and each of those planets has at least one huge zone that is absolutely littered with collectibles and many of them have multiple maps. Most of what you’re gathering up are the hidden Kyber bricks, of which there are a staggering amount sealed behind platforming challenges and light puzzles. Usually in LEGO games the main collectible is just there to be collected, but The Skywalker Saga gives its Kyber bricks a significant boost in utility since they, along with studs, can be spent to upgrade skills for each character class.

Classes are a big new change to The Skywalker Saga. Previous LEGO games had each character set up with powers or abilities unique to them, but they’d fall into broad categories so you can pick or choose what character you want to deal with any particular problem. This time around though characters each fall into one of a number of classes, such as Jedi, Scoundrel, or Villains. Every character in a given class can access the same abilities and powers, so regardless of what Hero you want to play as, for example, you can guarantee that they can be used for the same things. Every class then also has a mini-upgrade tree on which you can spend your gathered Kyber bricks; some of them are useful, such as increasing damage or giving you a stud reward for hacking computer terminals with droids, but on the whole I didn’t really find a ton of use from the upgrades.

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True to form for these games, it’s not just Kyber bricks that we’re collecting but also the characters themselves. The Skywalker Saga features hundreds of characters drawn from the films, most of which are unlocked by completing missions in the hub planets. These missions are fairly varied, but some repetition is inevitable and it’s easy to feel like sometimes you’re just being asked to do banal planet-hopping, which naturally comes with the process of sitting through loading screens. Vehicles are slightly more fun to use after unlocking as every planet comes with a zone set in orbit which can be freely flown around in whatever ship from the films takes your fancy – I’m partial to the Millennium Falcon, naturally, or one of the many X-Wing variants. These zones aren’t just empty space but also come with their own Kyber bricks to earn, not to mention you can find yourself drawn into randomly generated dogfights to win for studs.

If you really commit to the dogfights and space battles, after a little while you can even attract the attention of a massive capital ship that screams in from hyperspace, replete with extensive batteries of guns trained on you and a personal fleet of protective starfighters. The first time this happens is undeniably one of the coolest moments I experienced in The Skywalker Saga; it succeeds in many ways but chief among them, as far as I’m concerned, is how slick it makes space fighting feel. Some of these capital ships are even special named ones, such as The Indomitable Hand, General Grevious’ flagship from Revenge of the Sith, or the Executor, Darth Vader’s massive Super Star Destroyer; these named ships can be disabled and invaded, setting off a frantic ship takeover event that leaves you with your own personal flagship to call upon and explore at your leisure.

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To say there’s a glut of content in The Skywalker Saga is to do the game a disservice. It’s easily the most massive of the LEGO games, and I suspect to many players that the grind for 100% is simply too much – I know I love a good full completion run of the LEGO games, and even I’m balking a little at the sheer amount of stuff to get through. One feature here that I think is a genuinely good piece of accessibility is the ability for players to buy hints from the menu for each individual brick or mission to find, and often it lays out exactly what you’re looking for or where you need to go to find it – it certainly saves from having to keep tabs open online or from trawling every inch of the game relentlessly.

But the question remains, does the vast amount of content make for an engaging enough game? Certainly I think I could sympathize with anyone who wouldn’t think so; after all, it’s asking an awful lot of its audience to sit and grind out the completion. However, that’s not all this game has going for it. For a start, it’s one of the funniest LEGO games for a while, with a lovely balance of the usual slapstick and absurdist comedy that the franchise is known for. It’s also got a healthy grasp of Star Wars memes; if you told me this game was in part made by people who frequent subreddits like r/prequelmemes, I’d believe you. The references and silly in-jokes this game has for its audience come thick and fast; some are obvious, like Obi-Wan and Grevious exchanging their now-immortalized-via-meme lines (“Hello there // General Kenobi!”) while others are more wry, like a young Anakin being told to be patient by Darth Vader when he asks how he can get a cool robot suit of his own.

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There’s also a sweet showing of The Clone Wars cast members returning to their roles in this game; Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor, and Dee Bradley Baker are some of the most immediately notable returnees as Anakin, Obi-Wan, and the clones respectively, which I thought was really sweet. I know we all love Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor, but after watching the entirety of The Clone Wars I really have a soft spot for the cast of that show and the energy and passion they brought to their characters, and I genuinely loved hearing them again. It kind of makes it a bigger shame that the game stuck so closely to its remit of the 9 films and opted not to include any of the other Star Wars content except as paid DLC.

Still, there’s not much about The Skywalker Saga that felt like a shame or a missed opportunity. The game seems to sell itself as the most definitive LEGO Star Wars experience out there and it’s impossible to argue against it, I think. While I do think that the sense of fatigue you might get from chasing down everything is a very real concern, on the way there it’s undeniably a jaw-dropping experience. For Star Wars fans, The Skywalker Saga is surely the easiest sell in the world, but thankfully it has more than just its fandom as a selling point.

5/7 – GREAT.

Damn fine stuff, a game that doesn’t quite make the top echelon of games but sparkles regardless and holds the interest expertly. Make the time to give this a play.

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