Even after nearly 20 years, there’s just something quite magical about Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO games. Over the years we’ve had games based on Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and of course – Star Wars. After several different iterations of LEGO Star Wars games, TT is back with a brand new ambitious entry that covers all nine films in the main saga.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is the first major LEGO title from TT Games in three years, and it’s easy to see why. The entire formula of what makes a LEGO game has been completely upended here. The hearts that previously represented your life have been replaced by a regenerative health bar, there’s a bigger emphasis on using combos in combat, and the camera is pulled in much closer for a more third-person over the shoulder view compared to the older titles.
This is a much-needed break from the formula. LEGO games have been using this same format to design gameplay since 2005, with changes coming few and far between each other. It’s quite clear that this massive interval between releases was to focus all energies on making Skywalker Saga the best LEGO game it can be.
PATIENCE, YOUNG PADAWAN
Encompassing all nine films from the titular saga, you’re given the choice to play the films in any order – provided you’re starting at the beginning of each respective trilogy. Of course, that meant I started with the Original Trilogy. Much like the movies, there’s the familiar Star Wars opening crawl, and then the immediate jump into the action aboard the Tantive IV.
What immediately jumped out to me compared to previous LEGO games is just how quickly everything moves. As much as I love this series of games, one thing that always bothered me about replaying levels was how long it took to beat them. The pacing felt very off, as a quick 5-minute sequence in the corresponding media could be stretched out in its LEGO adaptation to a repetitive half-hour affair vaguely replicating the same scene.
Fortunately, however, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga recognises that it’s already a chunky enough game as it is, and so each level is appropriately paced so you’re not kept in the same place for too long. If you intend to beat the story levels first and mop up the extras later on, you will find yourself spending only around 90-120 minutes on each one.
This is ultimately a good thing due to the aforementioned pacing issues older LEGO games had. LEGO Batman 3 and Jurassic World felt like major influences on this decision to cut it back with how badly those games dragged at certain times. But of course, the inclusion of nine full films is also the big factor here. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is ambitious in its amount of padding, and I feel that it skirts around any possible pacing issues by making each film adaptation as short as possible.
This has the knock-on effect of some sequences ultimately feeling a little undercooked. Return of the Jedi especially suffers here. The chaos of the fight atop Jabba’s barge is reduced to a few small boss fights, and large segments from the Battle of Endor are only covered through a few quick cutscenes. Even The Last Jedi, one of my personal favourites in the saga, is stripped down quite significantly that it doesn’t give the source material the credit it deserves.
On the other hand, Skywalker Saga offers you so much in the form of side content. You can freely roam throughout the galaxy at any time, travelling to any of the planets you’ve previously visited to complete quests, find collectibles or earn studs to buy new upgrades. You can even use bricks to buy skill upgrades and unlock stronger abilities, something that previous LEGO games had not toyed with. This gives you ample reason to go back and replay older levels in addition to finding all the collectibles.
This is easily the best draw of the series for many players, that will entice the collectors to seek out every secret the game has to offer. Upon beating A New Hope, I found I’d only completed around 30% of everything it had to offer. By the end of the game, I was sitting at around 25% overall game completion, with plenty of activities left to go back and complete.
The same goes with the variety of characters available to play as. With over 350 playable minifigures to collect across all nine films, it’s likely your favourite Star Wars character is amongst this roster. This can lead to fun moments where you’re wondering what a cage match between Jar Jar Binks and Kylo Ren would look like, or what if Han Solo and Rose Tico teamed up to fight in the Clone Wars? Fan fiction writers, eat your hearts out.
JEDI MIND BRICKS
This translates well to the co-op mode too. If you’ve played any of the previous LEGO games in two-player mode before, you will know what to expect here. A second player can drop-in and out at any point, during free play or story, as another character. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rings true here, as there aren’t many necessary improvements that needed to be made to this feature. Chances are, if you play these games for the fun of playing with another person in the room, you’ll have a great experience here too.
What is a little disappointing is the lack of online co-op, however. A couple of older LEGO games had this, including Star Wars: The Complete Saga. But for the most part, it’s impossible to play online co-op with your friends without jumping through some weird technical hoops. It’s a shame that at this point, online co-op still isn’t a thing for these games.
‘THE BEST LEGO GAME I’VE PLAYED IN YEARS’
One neat feature that got a bit of marketing during the pre-release period was Mumble Mode. This is an optional extra that switches off dialogue in favour of hums and mumbles, similar to the style of the older TT LEGO games before they added dialogue. It’s a workable alternative for anyone who grew up on those games and wasn’t much of a fan of the speech that came in later iterations.
However, every cutscene in Skywalker Saga has so obviously been built around the dialogue that it doesn’t live up to the hype. The grunts should really be replacements for spoken words, like in the original where physical comedy would contextualise each scene instead. Here, characters’ lips still move and their dialogue is simply replaced by some incoherent babble. It’s not a mumble mode, it’s a Mr Bean mode.
Altogether, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is the best LEGO game I’ve played in years. It rightly innovates far beyond the standardised formula that this series has built over the years with some fresh ideas. With such strong source material, however, there are so many sequences that feel hung out to dry. Star Wars fans will find it to be a little undercooked as an adaptation.
For our LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga review, a digital Xbox copy was provided by Warner Bros. Games.
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Tested on: Xbox Series X/S
Featured Image: Warner Bros. Games