The Force is strong with LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. Naff puns aside, this is the best LEGO game yet and one of the most ambitious Star Wars games of all time. In some ways, you could even say that it makes the films better.
Releasing this week on PlayStation, Xbox, PC and Nintendo Switch, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga retells all nine of the main ‘Episode’ films in the franchise, from The Phantom Menace through the original trilogy and all the way up to the conclusion of The Rise of Skywalker.
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It's worth noting that you can start with whichever trilogy you want, and swap between those trilogies at any point. So whichever way you like to watch the Star Wars films in order, there will be something to suit your preference on offer.
The beautiful thing is this: even if you didn’t like some of those films at the time of their release, you may enjoy them here. The game doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at them, validating and addressing some of the common qualms, jabbing good-heartedly at the exact same moments that probably offended your tastes in the first place.
The game adds in extra dialogue, new visual elements and plenty of gags to expand on what was seen in the movies, even going so far in some cases as to connect some dots that weren’t explicitly linked together in the films.
For example, if you hang around in Maz’s cantina for longer than Rey did in The Force Awakens, you’ll hear that Han Solo did know something about Rey’s heritage after all - even though the films didn’t reveal it until two instalments later. Moments like this, although played for laughs, tighten up the overall storytelling tapestry in a more cohesive way than the movies did.
This revisionist space-opera history is welcome in this writer’s household, to such an extent that we’d say LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is well worth seeking out for any Star Wars fans that would like to remedy their relationship with the films.
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Given that there seems to be very little chance of a non-LEGO game or any other retelling of those films, this is your best chance to rekindle your love for the eponymous Skywalker Saga. It goes some way to fixing the films, making all those disparate bricks fit together a bit better than they did on the big screen.
As well as that admirable structural work on the storytelling side, this game is also impressively vast in a physical sense. Each world that you visit for a story mission will also boast at least one open-world area, with each of these filled with fun little puzzles and side missions (many of which include Easter eggs and references).
In the ‘Galactic Freeplay’ mode that you unlock after finishing your first Episode, you can travel between these planets in any ship that you’ve unlocked (you might even encounter some space battles on the way), swapping between characters whenever you fancy it (for example, you might swap to a Force user like Obi-Wan Kenobi for one puzzle, and then swap to a protocol droid for the next task, and then a Stormtrooper, and so on).
Very few Star Wars games have offered quite this many planets to explore and characters to control. There are hundreds of characters in the game, split into numerous classes that each have different skills, and the paid-for Character Collection DLC adds in the likes of The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda as well.
And even though much of the world is made from bricks, there are still moments when the graphics and the design look noticeably impressive. There really is a whole galaxy to explore, which is no small feat. To be exact, there are 24 planets, which is certainly a lot more than your average non-LEGO Star Wars game.
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On a macro level, as well, the moment-to-moment gameplay feels deeper and more varied than previous LEGO games have achieved. You can now properly aim with gun-toting characters. Or in melee situations, there is now a combo system to stop you just hammering one button to attack.
The level design feels more intricate than previous LEGO games, and it all ran smoothly for us, making for a fun and sometimes mildly challenging experience (this is definitely a game for kids, but adult fans will love it too).
There are often multiple ways to progress through an area, and sometimes you need to swap between characters in totally different locations in order to find the solution you seek. LEGO games have dabbled in these sort of level design ideas before, but they feel refined and perfected here.
Some characters have multiple abilities - scavengers like Rey can cobble together a variety of tools, from gliders to net-throwing gadgets that help you climb walls - and this gives you options, allowing you to think your way through a situation rather than just charging through it.
It's worth noting that all of the Episodes have been remade from the ground up here. Even if you played the most recent LEGO Star Wars game (LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens from 2016), or all the titles that came before it, you won't have played through the Skywalker story in this exact way before.
A special shout-out should go to the audio, too, which blends those familiar orchestral parps with note-perfect dialogue and an array of authentic sound effects from the films. All of this adds to the overall immersiveness, helping to make this galaxy feel alive and interesting, even though it’s all made from toy pieces.
Playfulness runs through every element of this game, with punchlines and wry nods lurking around every corner on every planet. And as you bring together weird character combinations in strange side-mission situations (e.g. Emperor Palpatine and Jar Jar Binks working together to round up some rogue droids on Tatooine), it really does feel like the sort of silly fun that a child would come up with while playing with their Star Wars LEGO sets on the floor at home.
If you’re a Star Wars fan and you’ve ever enjoyed a LEGO game, we’d heartily recommend that you check this out. It takes a couple of hours to get used to all the upgrades, and the menu system is a little unwieldy, but it’s well worth sticking with it. Just like a real LEGO set, when it all clicks together, you’re looking at something wonderful and you just can’t wait to pick it up and play.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga launches 5th April 2022 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Nintendo Switch. We reviewed on Xbox Series X. Pre-orders are available at Amazon and other retailers