The Skywalker Saga’s competent design is elevated by its infectious, charming sense of humor.
I knew I was in for a good time with Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga when I began the Prequel Trilogy portion and saw Qui Gon Jinn and Obi Wan’s ship get stopped at a traffic gate floating in space. After a quick video conference with the Trade Federation—who hastily tried to hide their evil plans, labeled “evil plans”—Qui Gon and Obi Wan breeze through the gate, accidentally knocking a hapless battle droid, sending it floating off into space.
The Skywalker Saga pushes its charm, with practically every cutscene featuring some visual gag or punchline at the film series’ expense. Kylo Ren is pumping iron and flexing as Rey contacts him in that infamous scene from The Last Jedi. Ben Kenobi pops some popcorn before watching Leia’s message to him in A New Hope. At the beginning of Revenge of the Sith, Lego Count Dooku makes a cheeky plastic pop noise as Anakin scissors his head off.
This ribald sense of humor reminds me of the classic Star Wars parody Spaceballs in the best way, and it really centers the experience. Lego Star Wars has been working its strange magic ever since 2005, and the series’ keen jokes have often been able to elevate what might otherwise just be a soulless melding of two brands. The Skywalker Saga seeks to be the definitive entry, covering all the ground of previous games in the series, as well as including The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker in Lego form for the first time. The result is a grab-bag of different gameplay styles all lent just enough depth to make them work, held together by that through-line of humor and charm.
There’s an enormous amount on offer—though that does serve as a reminder of recent reports of crunch, bullying and high turnover of staff on the project at developer TT Games. The final product is full of joy, but the alleged human suffering behind it casts a pall over the game’s release.
Build me up
As in previous Lego games, every character, vehicle, and interactable object in the game is constructed out of Lego, with a commitment to the destructibility and creativity inherent to the medium. You’re often required to break down detritus and environment objects to produce the raw materials for puzzle solutions, and some playable droids can split in half to squeeze through tight spaces. The currency of the game is, as ever, ‘studs’, those tiny, one-peg pieces that always seem to find their way into couch cushions.
The actual terrain of the world and most buildings have always been realistic rather than made out of Lego in the series, and here in The Skywalker Saga the ludicrously detailed environments add another layer to the presentation. The underwater city of the Gungans on Naboo or Star Destroyer graveyard on Jakku look like they could be maps from a lost Battlefront game. Instead they’re inhabited by cute little Lego versions of iconic Star Wars characters. It has a similar effect to Mario exploring New Donk City in Nintendo’s Mario Odyssey, a wonderfully absurd combination of cartoonish characters with an authentic world.
The charm of the setting also extends to the voice acting, a feature I wasn’t sold on before starting The Skywalker Saga. Back in the hazy prehistoric mists of the mid 2000s, I played a Lego Star Wars full of charismatic mimes pantomiming the events of the series, and change is a hard thing to deal with. Thankfully, The Skywalker Saga sells the dialogue with incredible voice acting talent.
Not only is there a stellar cast of veteran voice actors, including old hands reprising their roles from The Clone Wars and other spin-offs, but several actors from the films return too. Brian Blessed as Boss Nass, Anthony Daniels as C3-PO, and even Billy Dee Williams as Lando are all a joy to hear.
Yoda May Cry
Mechanically, The Skywalker Saga is a jack-of-all-trades, mixing multiple genres over the course of its nine condensed movie campaigns and bevy of side content. The Skywalker Saga is most often a 3D brawler, with very easy encounters disguising a surprisingly deep melee combat system. With either lightsabers or fists you can launch opponents into the air and combo them into oblivion, divekicking and countering like Dante from Devil May Cry. Most enemies go down a little too quick to pull off anything crazy, but The Skywalker Saga’s many boss fights offer more opportunities for flashy stunt work.
Unfortunately, those same boss fights are a bit padded for my taste. I don’t mind General Grievous’ multiple health bars so much as the fact that we have to take a break in between each one, with him running off in a cutscene followed by some mandatory battle droid clearing and light platforming and puzzling. It really kills my Duel of the Fates buzz, and it’s a shame because otherwise those fights are where the combat actually starts to come alive for me.
Jedi characters also have access to a Force throw ability to pick up and toss objects and enemies, while non-Force powered characters possess rudimentary third-person shooting mechanics with their blasters. All of these options leave you with an oddly deep toolbox for how easy the challenges are. The game provides a stress-free sandbox with room to experiment at your leisure, but I ultimately wasn’t taken with its combat, and The Skywalker Saga’s more drawn-out fights left me feeling kind of bored.
Outside the usual brawling, The Skywalker Saga also features some extensive space and aerial combat. I find the dogfighting to be a bit more engaging than battling on the ground. The challenges are still fairly straightforward, but being able to fly around and explore space made up for it. I’m especially fond of how The Skywalker Saga lets you tool around in planets’ orbits in-between missions, shooting down meteors and ferreting out side missions. As with the planetside environments, TT Games swings for the fences with its hi-fi space backdrops: the dogfighting takes place over some phenomenal skyboxes of Star Wars’ colorful planetary systems.
The myriad planetside areas can be revisited at will following completion of their story missions, and they contain various puzzles, sidequests, and minigames, some of which can only be approached post-game when the correct character has been unlocked. You’re limited to canonical cast members during story missions, but free-play lets you select from dozens of major and minor unlockable Star Wars characters. This ties into a key long-term timesink—Kyber Bricks, this game’s main collectible. There’s over 1,100 hidden throughout the game, and I discovered only a little over a tenth of them in my playthrough. In a series first, they also tie into a light progression system. You can invest them into upgrades across all playable characters, or small bonuses to individual archetypes like Jedi, Hero, or Bounty Hunter. Many of the more hidden Kyber Bricks reminded me of the creative Moon placement from Mario Odyssey, and I could see sufficiently motivated players investing the time necessary to find them all.
Phone a friend
The Lego Star Wars series has been defined by its commitment to drop-in couch co-op, and The Skywalker Saga is no different in this regard. With a second input method and the press of a button, a player two can take control of one of your secondary characters. This is perfect for laptop play in a dorm, or maybe if you’re one of those new millennium dad types with a media center PC, but it’s not a great fit for desktop play, and The Skywalker Saga cries out for online co-op. TT Games hasn’t implemented any online play system of its own, but there is Steam Remote Play to fill the gap. I’d never used the feature before, but it didn’t take too much wrangling to get a friend of mine halfway across the country controlling Han Solo to my Obi Wan in A New Hope, all without him owning a copy of the game to boot. Unfortunately, this proved a bit too demanding an ask for one or both of our shaky internet connections, and the Comcast corporation proved the greatest opponent of fun in a galaxy far, far away. I lost my friend and had to invite him back three times over the course of an hour of play. As it stands, you’ll need pretty reliable internet on one or both ends to enjoy online co-op in this game—and need to own the game on Steam rather than Epic.
The Skywalker Saga is not a particularly demanding game, and I was able to maintain a near-locked 144fps at 1440p with an RTX 3070, but the graphics menu is relatively sparse. I didn’t have any significant graphical glitches or performance hiccups aside from the game resetting its refresh rate back to 60hz every time I quit and came back—annoying, but not a dealbreaker. What it lacks in graphics options, it makes up for with an impressively granular accessibility menu. I appreciated the multiple sizes of subtitles, different settings for health regen/static HP pickups, and alternately making QTEs easier or even doing away with them altogether.
The Skywalker Saga is an impressive package, successfully adapting some of the most iconic sci-fi movies of all time with equal amounts playful mockery of and loving adherence to the source material. The only shame is that its sense of lively fun stands so in contrast to stories of the game’s development, mismanagement allegedly laying undue stress and suffering on the people who made this whimsical journey possible. I can only hope that the developer’s next project is delivered under better circumstances.
Source link : PCgamer