Lego Star Wars is one of those games that holds special significance for me. Back in the day, I used to share a keyboard with my younger brother while we played Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy. It was the first real experience I had in being fully engrossed in a game to the point where we couldn't stop until we'd gained True Jedi rank on all the stages, collected a bunch of optional unlockables by replaying the levels with different characters, and spent a ridiculous number of studs purchasing the invincible Yoda Ghost.
When the full Skywalker Saga was announced, I was hopeful but sceptical. I haven't played every single Lego game since then, but none of the ones I've tried have quite captured that same magic.
Well, from what I saw in a preview session of the first couple of levels, we're back, baby. Lego Star Wars has returned in all its goofy and delightful glory, and I couldn't be happier. The folks over at TT Games haven't rested on their laurels and just recreated the same game from 2006. It's a whole new thing.
Stuff To Do
Anyone who's seen the Star Wars films knows what they're getting with regards to the game's story. In the levels I played from A New Hope, I had to save the Death Star plans by fighting through waves of invading stormtroopers and giving the plans to R2-D2. Then, I had to waltz through Mos Eisley spaceport, find Han Solo and the Millenium Falcon, and fix it up to get on with our quest.
It's nothing new.
The game is far from the linear experience you might expect from a Lego version of a film from the '70s. It's also a long shot from the Lego Star Wars games of old, which offered a few reasons to replay levels but don't give a great deal of incentive to do so.
There are multiple paths to take in levels, such as the option to put out a fire or blast through a door in the first level - hopefully further on in the game, these choices deliver more significant changes.
You can talk to NPCs in hub areas to take on little mini side-missions to find more collectables. There's already a solid range from what I've played. A Jawa sent me off to find a womp rat who'd got hold of a Kyber Brick (the upgrade currency in the game). Another time, a spaceship thief was operating in Mos Eisley and I had to get to the bottom of it. I look forward to seeing how other areas and environments will use this aspect of the game. Maybe an Ewok will need help doing their taxes or something.
Finally, there's a huge upgrade from the old games when it comes to action and combat. When you start shooting at stormtroopers on the ship, the game becomes a full-on third-person cover shooter with melee combat if they get too close. Princess Leia uppercutting baddies and slamming them into the ground is a far cry from the extremely basic action seen in the original Lego Star Wars games and adds a reason to actually learn how to fight. Also, if you headshot a stormtrooper their helmet comes off, revealing that you're murdering people with hopes and dreams.
I didn't get a chance to try the lightsaber combat out yet - keep an eye out for my review on that note. It looks like there'll be a bit of thinking required to beat big baddies. In some footage we were shown, Count Dooku throws stuff at Anakin and Obi-Wan with the force while jumping around (admittedly in a fairly telegraphed way). With a big ol' health bar, it looks like it'll be a matter of dodging and countering while keeping track of other enemies coming at you at the same time. Of course, it's likely that each iconic lightsaber fight offers unique gameplay too - we'll need to find out with the full game.
Also, for boss fights like this, it says the enemy's name as they pose as though you're playing Yakuza, which I love.
Attention To Detail
Sure, it's a game about running around as plastic toys. This doesn't mean Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga hasn't done brilliantly in the way the game looks, though.
The way the light bounces off the smooth plastic of characters' hairpieces, the 'Lego' inscriptions on bricks and limbs exactly where they'd be on a real Lego set, even the environments look like they were built from Lego in the world's most luxurious toybox. It's obviously just Lego, but it feels like more somehow.
The voice acting has been excellent so far, too - I could tell exactly who was talking with vocal flairs and mannerisms kept in from the films.
Another very cool thing added is the interaction with the environments. If you're running around the sandy wastelands of Tatooine, your characters will start getting sand all over their clothes and caught in nooks in the Lego design (don't tell Anakin). It's little details like this that give Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga its own unique vibe you can't really get elsewhere.
It Takes Itself As Seriously As It Should
That being absolutely not at all, by the way.
Lego Star Wars knows that Star Wars is kind of silly, and isn't trying to fill you with dramatic tension the entire time. We've all seen the films. We all know what's going on. Everyone playing has purchased a video game in which you play through the events of a bunch of films as plastic toy versions of the characters. No one is pretending it's a highbrow piece of art to be enjoyed alongside Michaelangelo and Da Vinci.
Instead, you get in-jokes and just enough wink-nudge comedy without the whole thing becoming overly Marvel-esque. I won't spoil too much, but things like Han and Greedo in the cantina are done very well, with a cheeky nod that series fans will really appreciate.
It remains to be seen whether they say out loud that the music played by the cantina band is called Jizz. I can hope.
Hopefully, the same energy is kept through to the full game. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is all about busywork and overturning every rock to find collectables and upgrades. Even if this isn't your thing, though, you'll be able to enjoy the upgraded gameplay, wandering about shooting and slicing your way through the Empire and First Order's shenanigans.
It's not for everyone, but it sure is for me.