A closed doors presentation of Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga shocked and surprised with its new sense of scale and presentation.
As a LEGO figurine of Return of the Jedi-era Luke Skywalker runs around the dunes of Tatooine, we observe the build-up of dirt and sand on the figurine’s feet. The LEGO Millenium Falcon, which the developers from Traveller’s Tales can give the exact number of bricks that make it up, is covered in dust, its age quite evident. This is a closed doors presentation for the recently-announced LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, and it is absolutely nothing like what I expected from it.
I fully expected to come into this E3 2019 appointment to see “another one of those” again. While my peers and colleagues have tired of the LEGO video games and its familiar formula, I held the first two LEGO Star Wars games with reverence and nostalgia. Plus, as I never played the following LEGO licensed games from TT Games, franchise fatigue was something that I luckily avoided. That didn’t matter by the end, because The Skywalker Saga will be a complete reinvention of the proverbial LEGO wheel.
It is easy to constantly drop the word “new” during the pitch of your upcoming project, but TT Games backed up each utterance of the word in their convincing presentation. The first indicator of this game’s charm was the episode selection screen—The Skywalker Saga boasts the inclusion of all nine Star Wars episodes, including the forthcoming The Rise of Skywalker, all wonderfully visualized in diorama form.
The selection screen was a rotating wheel, with nine discs featuring a tiny iconic scene in motion to represent each movie. And the game, the developers promised, will allow players to experience the nine episodes in any order they wish. This essentially allows players to choose their own “timeline path,” the repercussions of which will be evident later. If you’re really into watching the movies in “Machete Order,” this feature will surely be pleasing.
Given the secrecy surrounding the next film, the developers disappointed all in the tiny theater that they could not show anything from The Rise of Skywalker. Instead, they explored the world of Return of the Jedi, a favorite from one of the developers. Instead of being thrown into a cutscene, or a similar hub world of Lego Star Wars games past, the demo took the player straight into the Millenium Falcon. The next intriguing part of the pitch was that players can freely fly to any planet whenever they wanted to.
My dreams for an “open galaxy” Star Wars game has never quite been achieved, but The Skywalker Saga is aiming to hit that concept on the mark. The demo player took the Falcon towards Tatooine—but not before getting into a brief altercation involving a massive Imperial Star Destroyer. After this, the Falcon safely landed on the sandy planet. This wasn’t a remake of the equivalent level from the original Lego Star Wars games, but instead a brand new world from a new perspective, quite literally.
Gone was the automatic isometric camera from the previous Lego games; instead, The Skywalker Saga iused a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective. We are closer to the character, and thus, identify more with them. This new Tatooine looked larger in scale overall, with tall rock structures, dunes, and variations in elevation—Lego Star Wars is more of a sandbox than it ever was. Nearby was a moisture farm, and a Jawa Sandcrawler, which the developers said may or may not be there depending which movie you’re playing and in what order you’re playing them in.
“Is there blue milk?” one attendee of this appointment asked. The developers told us to wait and see, as they taught us the basics of movement. Force powers were more interactive than they were before—I remember moving rocks around in a predetermined path for solving puzzles and whatnot, but Luke here was able to freely move objects, for the purpose of either throwing them at enemies or even block enemy gunfire. The developers switched around between characters to show more.
It wouldn’t be the beginning of Return of the Jedi without Lando Calrissian in his classic disguise—the developers switched to this character to show off another style of gameplay in this new take on the Lego game formula. The camera perspective stayed the same, close and over-the-shoulder, but when Lando pulled out his blaster, a reticule appeared on the screen. While it didn’t look as responsive as say, a Gears of War game when engaging with Tusken Raiders, it was shocking to me seeing what was basically a family-friendly third-person shooter portion of a Lego Star Wars game, with actual precision needed.
Back to Luke, the demo players walked over to a lonely Gonk droid standing around in the desert. Luke approached the droid, which despite being a square with feet, emoted in a way that expressed concern. What the Gonk droid said was total gibberish to Luke, so the player switched to C-3P0 to utilize his familiar ability of interpretation and translation. The Gonk droid’s dialogue box became readable, and it was clear from the dialogue that the droid was giving some sort of escort side mission.
There are quests in this The Skywalker Saga, something quite alien to me for this type of game. And there would be many more, with developers telling us that there are 500 quests planned for the game. We didn’t get to see this particular escort side quest, with the developers instead showing off 3P0’s ability to split in half between his torso and legs, both able to be controlled separately. Dude always gets broken up, no matter which movie we’re talking about.
This is the “next generation of Lego games,” said the developers, and the pitch easily won me over. Nothing looked reused, and everything was not only rebuilt but reconceptualized from the ground up when compared to Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. I didn’t notice any studs, the main collectible that eventually became a chore in past Lego games, although the developers did mention that “Kyber Bricks” would be a main form of collectible in the game.
I still had plenty of questions about the demo that I had just seen. How would the mission structure be changed up? Was every planet from every movie going to be an expansive sandbox like what they showed from Tatooine? What would the swapping of characters look like in the final game? Despite my positive impressions on the hands-off demo of Jedi: Fallen Order, I was shocked that the next Lego Star Wars game looked to be the larger scale title.
Everything was still early, of course, with no release date just yet. It became evident to me why this was a hands-off demo, with a brief moment where Luke was rendered immobile. This was quickly remedied, with Luke once again walking around, even taking out a bottle and taking a massive gulp from it. “See?” the developer giving the presentation said, addressing the earlier audience question. “Of course there’s blue milk.”