The first thing that strikes me in Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga isn’t a bolt of blaster fire, but the game’s stunning visual presentation. Developer Traveller’s Tales latest dive into the galaxy far, far away covers much of the same cinematic ground as 2007’s Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, but this totally rebuilt, re-imagined entry immediately looks leaps and bounds better than its predecessor.
My 90-minute hands-on preview begins at the start of Episode IV, on Princess Leia’s diplomatic ship, as she’s attempting to keep the recently acquired Death Star plans away from Darth Vader. In The Complete Saga, the Corellian Corvette is mostly comprised of bland corridors and rooms covered in white and gray hues. Fifteen years later, this same environment pops from the screen with vibrant colors, authentic details, and more slick visual effects than you can swing a lightsaber at.
Lego Star Wars The Skywalker Saga
As I trade rounds with Stormtroopers, sparks and steam emit from damaged electrical devices, computer terminals glow and flash with rainbow-rivaling variety, and red, rotating cones of light from triggered alarms realistically reflect off the ship’s shiny floors. Despite the many immersive details on display, there’s no mistaking the scene as anything but a space meticulously constructed from tiny, toy bricks. Exposed studs, visible seams where pieces connect, and the occasional glimpse of the iconic Lego logo regularly remind me I’m just a lightsaber swipe away from reducing my dark side foes to a pile of plastic.
Given how far technology and game development tools have advanced since 2007, it’s no surprise The Skywalker Saga puts its predecessor’s presentation to shame. What is unexpected though, is the fact the studio hasn’t simply slapped a fresh coat of polygons on recycled content, but completely re-imagining how these familiar scenes play out. In one of the preview’s cooler moments, for example, Darth Vader’s boarding of Leia’s ship – at the start of A New Hope – is deftly remixed to include the Sith Lord’s more aggressive arrival from Rogue One.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga LEGO Sets
More than just pretty new cutscenes though, many objectives and puzzles have been reworked or entirely changed. A bit deeper into my demo, we find ourselves at Mos Eisley spaceport, fending off Stormtroopers while Chewbacca readies the Millennium Falcon for take-off. In the original game, this same scene tasked players with eliminating a few waves of baddies before escaping in Han’s flying hunk of junk. In The Skywalker Saga, you still fend off swarms of Stormtroopers, but between the action you also help Chewie fix the ship by solving puzzles. The extended sequence had me utilizing various characters’ strengths – including Obi-Wan’s Force abilities – to assemble the ship’s cockpit, attach its sensor dish, and mount its cannon.
When not playing starship mechanic, I got a taste of the game’s overhauled combat. On top of a tighter, over-the-shoulder camera perspective, the gunplay benefits from more depth and strategy. Stormtroopers come in a variety of damage-dealing – and damage-absorbing – flavors, from standard rifle-wielders to snipers and heavies. You can also target enemies with more precision, aiming at their feet if you want to watch them hop around in pain, or popping off their helmets to reveal a more vulnerable target. A new, intuitive cover system, which includes destructible barriers that can be rebuilt, layers in some additional nuance.
Lightsaber and hand-to-hand combat have been similarly enhanced. Rather than spamming a single attack button, you’ll need to mix different inputs to unleash increasingly powerful combos. Rely on one string for too long, and enemies will begin blocking your attacks, forcing you to switch up your strategy. The same goes for recycling lightsaber swings, although the ability to unleash the Force on unsuspecting foes – usually by pelting them with massive environmental objects – allows for even more variety. Combined, these various changes to combat – whether you’re firing a blaster, wielding a lightsaber, or relying on your fists – make for more rewarding and challenging encounters. They also look fantastic, as chaining combos spawns a number of slick, cinematic animations.
This revamped take on reducing baddies to bricks also fuels a fresh take on collecting studs. Achieving higher combos – tracked by a meter on the right hand side of the screen – results in more studs being added to your total. The Skywalker Saga also introduces Kyber bricks, a new high-value collectible tied to the series’ “True Jedi” system. In previous entries, collecting a specific amount of studs per stage granted you a coveted gold brick, along with True Jedi status. The system’s meter is now segmented into three sections – filling each one not only helps your True Jedi progress, but also unlocks a Kyber brick.
These items aren’t just another shiny collectible – they feed a brand new character progression system. Kyber bricks are invested to unlock both core and class-based special abilities. The former benefit all characters, while the latter are specific to certain Star Wars archetypes, such as scoundrels, bounty hunters, heroes, Jedi, and more. Upon successfully landing on Tatooine with the Death Star plans, for example, I was able to unlock “Speedy Sprint,” granting a 10-percent pep in my step. With another 15 Kybers, I could’ve upgrade this skill again, gaining a 30-percent increase.
By the time my demo came to a close, I’d only amassed three more Kyber bricks – one shy of the amount needed to unlock the scoundrel class’ “Combat Slide.” While I giddily envisioned this ability letting us topple Stormtroopers like bowling pins from behind a skidding, “yahoo-ing” Han Solo, we’ll have to wait until The Skywalker Saga lands on April 5th to see if it lives up to our lofty collective expectations.
Of course, if that doesn’t work out, it seems there will be plenty more to do in this content-packed offering. In addition to encompassing all three film trilogies (including first-time Lego adaptations for The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker,) the game contains 300-plus playable characters, dozens of pilotable vehicles and starships, a sprawling free-play mode, and numerous other features and surprises only hinted at during my demo. Toss in ambitious DLC plans, including The Mandalorian Season 1 and Solo: A Star Wars Story packs on day one, and, well, fans will be digesting this one longer than a Sarlacc savoring its last supper.