StarWars.com tries out the ambitious new game -- in advance of its release on April 5.
Before our sneak peek of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, TT Games' studio head Michael Denny introduces the game as the series' “biggest” and “best” entry yet. Thirty or so minutes later, as I watch a playable rancor tear through Coruscant's Federal Square, sending scared citizens scurrying in every direction, I realize he's not kidding.
Of course, Denny's claims are further confirmed during StarWars.com’s hands-on time with the game, where I take a number of the title's new features for a test drive. While LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga adapts many of the same films that have already received the LEGO treatment in previous games, it's offering an entirely fresh, updated take on the galaxy far, far away. Rebuilt and re-imagined from the ground up, it not only leverages the latest development technology to deliver an eye-popping visual presentation, but it introduces gameplay, features, and enhancements that are completely new to the franchise.
My demo kicks off at the start of Episode IV, where I immediately get a feel for the revamped combat system. Behind Princess Leia's blaster, I’m able to target stormtroopers with more precision, aiming down her rifle's sites and popping off individual pieces of the enemies' armor. Thanks to an improved, pulled-in camera perspective, the blaster-play further benefits from a more up-close, immersive feel. Toss in accompanying cinematic effects, such as environmental damage and realistic lighting and shadows, and the snappy action looks as good as it feels.
Unleashing Leia’s fists is just as satisfying, as melee combat has also received a significant overhaul. Forgoing the simple button-mashing bouts of previous entries, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga adopts a deeper combo-based system that's as fun to execute as it is to watch unfold on screen. By mixing different inputs, I’m able to deliver devastating attacks accompanied by a variety of stylish animations. While still accessible, the fisticuffs are also more challenging. Rely too heavily on the same attacks, for example, and targets react accordingly, blocking blows and forcing you to alter your strategy.
When not reducing stormtroopers to piles of plastic bricks, I encounter new puzzles and divergent paths within Leia's LEGO-constructed Corellian Corvette. I arrive at a figurative fork in the road, where I can choose to put out a fire to progress in one direction or hop on a turret and blast through a different route. I choose the latter option -- effortlessly taking out more stormtroopers from behind the cannon -- but I learn the former, stealthier choice would’ve allowed me to amusingly suck them into space via a hacked airlock. I’ll try that next time.
On top of allowing for more freedom to pick your path and play-style, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga encourages fans to shape their characters' progression and skills. The game's 300-plus mini-figs all fall into specific classes, from scoundrels and scavengers to droids, Jedi, bounty hunters, and beyond. Each has special abilities that can be unlocked with Kyber bricks, a coveted new collectible that's earned and found throughout the world.
A Jedi-favoring player, for example, can invest four Kybers to acquire “Force Flinger,” increasing the damage done by Force-tossed objects. Those who prefer a scoundrel, on the other hand, could spend those same four bricks on “Charged Shot,” a blaster upgrade that not only increases damage, but causes bolts to ricochet off objects.
Speaking of scoundrels with itchy trigger fingers, my demo also takes me to Mos Eisley spaceport, where I help Han Solo get his Kessel Run-dominating craft off the ground. Fans of 2007's LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga might remember playing in this same location, defeating waves of stormtroopers before making a hasty escape. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, however, offers a whole new take on this level on par with the rest of the game's enhancements.
Once again, stormtroopers pour in from all sides, as Han, Luke, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Obi-Wan fend off the foes and scramble to get the Falcon up and running. This time though, the Empire's finest come in a variety of flavors, from long-range snipers to turret-toting heavies. More than just battling new baddies though, the scene introduces entirely new puzzle-solving elements. Between battling enemies, I’m tasked with assisting Chewie with ship repairs. Leveraging the various characters' specific skills -- especially Obi-Wan's Force powers -- I’m able to assemble the cockpit, mount the turret, and attach the sensor dish, ultimately prepping the Falcon up for its jump to lightspeed.
Of course, this re-imagined level is just one of many stages that has been completely retooled to take advantage of the game's fresh features, enhancements, and impressive production values. My demo concludes shortly after I meet the business end of the Death Star's tractor beam, allowing me just a teasing taste of an experience that will ultimately encompass all three of the sci-fi saga's film trilogies.
And that doesn't account for all the extra content crammed into the sprawling free-play mode, as well as multiple DLC packs, which will see both The Mandalorian Season 1 and Solo: A Star Wars Story characters launching alongside the game.
I can't wait to dive back in and enjoy all the game has to offer -- and take that rampaging rancor for a spin -- when LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga snaps together on April 5 for the Xbox One family of devices, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
For more on LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, check out StarWars.com’s previous coverage:
- Go behind the scenes of the game's worlds in a revealing featurette
- Watch the gameplay overview trailer
- Watch the gameplay trailer and check out our list of highlights
- Discover 20 details we love from the first trailer
- Read StarWars.com’s interview with TT Games’ Jonathan Smith and Lucasfilm Games’ Craig Derrick
- Get a look at the creative packaging for the deluxe edition of the game