Ever since the release of the original Lego Star Wars back in 2005, TT Games' Lego titles have long held the line with an endless suite of family-friendly games designed with accessibility in mind, yet doesn't shy away from tricky puzzles and challenging platforming sections. The franchise had made use of a ton of licenses over the years, from Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter to Jurassic Park and both Marvel and DC. Still, the brand most intimately associated with Traveller's Tales' licensed LEGO adventures has always been Star Wars.
For the latest Lego Star Wars, TT is starting from scratch with a whole new game engine while telling a Lego version of the entire nine-film opus known as The Skywalker Saga. Though previous Lego Star Wars games have covered Episodes I-VII (in Lego Star Wars, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, and Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens), The Skywalker Saga isn't just building new levels on top of the foundation of those games. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a completely new game built with completely new gameplay in mind, and represents the start of a whole new generation of Lego games.
During E3 2019, I got the chance to see a live demo of the game at the Warner Brothers booth, and I came away impressed by what appears to be a true generational leap in technology over previous Lego games. Rather than a central hub world connecting all the movies, like the Mos Eisley Cantina or Dex's Diner from the original Lego Star Wars games, players choose which movie they would like to experience, and are presented with a variety of planets to explore and story missions to play. Thus, planets like Tatooine and Naboo, which appear in multiple films, can appear different depending on which movie is being explored.
For the sake of the presentation, my group was shown off a section of Return of the Jedi. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will feature both space travel and on-foot exploration, with both having the appearance of an open-world adventure, complete with seemingly random Star Destroyer encounters in space and a variety of locations to seek and discover on the ground below. On the surface of Tatooine, the major advancements taken by The Skywalker Saga become obvious. While still accessible to young players, the gameplay has clearly evolved. For example, gone are the fixed cameras of previous titles. The Skywalker Saga looks like the Lego games have finally made the leap to become true 3D platformers; it's a logical step for the series, since the most acclaimed parts of titles like Lego Marvel Superheroes and Lego Batman 2 have, indeed, been the fully open-world hub areas.
TT Games have done more than just map the camera to the right analog stick; characters equipped with blasters now play like a straight-up third person shooter, complete with dual analog controls. Gone are the days of tacky lock-on targeting and automated shootouts. The Force Awakens experimented with a cover system and timing-based blaster battles, but it's about time the series really stepped up on this level. Of course, without hands-on experience playing the game, it's too soon to determine how tight and responsive the controls are, or how exciting the gunplay will be, but my brief glimpse suggested things are going well for the game.
Lightsaber combat has been revamped with timed button presses akin to the Batman Arkham games to build combos, while characters proficient with The Force are no longer limited to moving predetermined objects; a brand new physics system allows characters like Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren to freely move objects with real time physics, allowing for more in-depth puzzle solving and combat applications. All combined, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga has all the appearances of a genuine, legitimate, fully realized Star Wars game... Only using Lego!
Lego's signature brand of humor remains in The Skywalker Saga, as evidenced by the sight of dancing banthas, though the story progression remains mysterious. It's unclear how closely the story will follow the films, or if the game will feature voice acting from the film actors. On that front, hopes are high The Skywalker Saga can build on the silly, yet sincere, storytelling in Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a game which famously got Harrison Ford to utter the phrase "Wookie Cookie."
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga looks incredibly promising, and has the potential to be the breath of fresh air for the admittedly slightly stagnant Lego franchise. Hopes are high The Skywalker Saga lives up to and surpasses its pedigree, especially if its fundamental gameplay changes are to serve as the foundation for the entire next generation of Lego titles. We'll find out for sure when the game releases sometime in 2020, perhaps in time for the home video release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.
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