When it comes to pop culture and entertainment few things are bigger than Star Wars, even though the original film released over fifty years ago. Thanks to Disney’s acquisition, and the company’s penchant for milking everything it can these days, there’s no shortage of Star Wars movies from the modern era, or TV shows. More are also surely planned.
Don’t get me wrong: the new trilogy was pretty good, but it lacked something the originals had. I enjoyed the movies when I saw them in theatres, but haven’t had any interest in watching them again. Perhaps you’re the same, but maybe not, and that’s ok.
Unfortunately, good or great Star Wars video games have been limited and far between. They release every now and again, but they’re sporadic, dating back to the great Super Star Wars titles. Perhaps the biggest thing to happen to Star Wars gaming in ‘recent’ memory, though, was the release of LEGO Star Wars on the PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox. Since then, it’s spawned a couple of sequels, a redo and now a complete refresh in the form of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.
When the first LEGO Star Wars game came out, I didn’t pay it too much attention despite loving Star Wars and growing up with many LEGO blocks in the 90s. However, after the word of mouth started to spread, I picked it up and gave it a chance. In the end, it didn’t blow me away like it seemed to do with everyone else. It was pretty good, rather funny, well made and something I respected, but I didn’t love the core gameplay loop of smashing blocks to earn studs and build something new with them, nor did I love the focus on puzzles. This has honestly kept me from being as big a fan of the entire series of LEGO games as I’d hoped. To me, some are far better than others, but most of them are way too repetitive. There have been some standouts, though, like LEGO Marvel Superheroes, LEGO The Incredibles, The LEGO Movie Video Game and LEGO City Undercover, though I was bored during my second play through of the latter.
These games are at their best when they’re creative, and when they place a focus on variety. Too many missions stick you into interior locations, like dark sewers, bases, control rooms, etc. and ask you to do the same thing over and over again. That is, breaking blocks to build something new and solving repetitive puzzles.
When I first heard about LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, I wasn’t as excited as most. That said, I still wanted to (eventually) play it, because I’ve played and finished almost all of the other games, with some notable exceptions including titles I bought at full price but never got around to playing (LEGO Indiana Jones, I’m looking at you!). Then, when it came closer to release, I became more interested and was able to score a late review copy after placing a disc version on hold at the local library.
Now that I’ve spent some time with what is maybe the longest LEGO video game out there, I must admit that I’m still not a massive fan. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a pretty good game, and it’s one that fans of these titles will love, but it’s not the amazing refresh or reboot that I was hoping it would be. Sure, they never said it would be a reboot, but I was hoping that a new generation of LEGO gaming would be more creative and less formulaic, and that’s only sometimes the case.
Upon starting The Skywalker Saga, you’re presented with a rotating menu that allows you to choose which movie to begin with. Only three of them are available from the onset, though, with those unsurprisingly being A New Hope, The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens. They are, after all, the first movies in each of the Star Wars trilogies. The idea is that you pick one of them to start with, then unlock the next movie in that trilogy upon completion.
I don’t know if it was because I was tired, but I misread the menu the first time I saw it and thought that I could only start with A New Hope, so that’s what I did. Then again, it’s perhaps my favourite of these movies, or at least right up there with The Empire Strikes Back. However, I could’ve started with any of the three ‘first’ movies.
Looking back, I kind of regret starting with A New Hope, because I found it kind of underwhelming. It’s certainly not the best of the bunch (in this game) by any means. While it’s a great movie, most of its levels suffer from problems that I felt plagued most of the other LEGO games: they’re too confined and repetitive. Walk here, break this, and use this character to do this or that. When it adds variety later on, by allowing you to fly, it gets better. The next movie I played was also a notable improvement, with that being Episode 1. The movie may be far from the series’ best, but its gameplay is more varied, fun and original, including an appreciated underwater chase section and some flying opportunities. Hell, even its more linear stages and environments felt more interesting.
Before we move on, I should explain more about how this game works. You see, when you start a movie you’re not just in for a set of stages. No, there are breaks in-between some of them, and those come in the form of open world hubs based on important locations from that film. Take, for instance, Episode 4 and its Tatooine hub, or its Mos Eisley Spaceport hub. It’s here where younger audiences, and big fans of this series, will get a lot of playtime. Reason being is that there are lots of special bricks to collect, quite a few (honestly mediocre and uninspired, in my experience) side quests to complete and some races to win. You can also talk to NPCs, explore the area or ride both creatures and vehicles.
Perhaps this design just isn’t for me, but I didn’t find much of interest in these open world hubs, which came off as lifeless and uninspired to be honest. I explored them, but wanted to get on with the missions and progress. I know that a lot of people love looking for bricks, exploring every nook and cranny, and replaying everything with every different character, but I’m just not that type of person.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a pretty good game, which does a decent job of revitalizing a milked series, but it’s not a flawless experience. Some of its levels are great, some are good and others made me wish they would end quickly, because they were too confined, slow and repetitive, meaning they suffered from issues that bothered me in previous LEGO games. I especially liked the levels where I could fly, those where I was being chased, and the unique set piece stages.
The new mechanics do make things slightly better, but it’s still very much a LEGO game. Sure, being able to use different face buttons to break enemies’ blocks during hand-to-hand melee combat is neat, but it’s still pretty basic. Furthermore, the same is true for the shooting, force powers and light saber combat, some of which includes throwing them. It’s pretty good, but unspectacular, and very familiar to what came before it outside of some moderate changes.
On the presentation side of things, TT Games’ latest really shines. As per usual, The Skywalker Saga is a funny, polished and often beautiful game, which does a very good job of bringing our favourite childhood toys to life. The characters generally look great, there’s some really nice texture and ‘shine’ to be seen, and there’s lots of colour to gawk it. It really can be a beautiful game, and is one that sounds really good thanks to a very familiar score and some good voice acting.
If you’re a fan of LEGO games, don’t let this somewhat downbeat review keep you from buying or playing LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, as you’ll likely love it. This opinion piece simply comes from someone who’s never been in love with, or hooked by, these games. A longtime gamer who was hoping that there’d be more changes and variety to be found within this first next-gen outing. Despite my qualms, I do think it’s a pretty good game and recommend it to those with interest.
This review is based on the Xbox Series S version of the game, which we were provided with by the publisher.