LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Preview – There are few games with unique opportunities to pull on our nostalgic heartstrings in multiple ways.
LEGO Star Wars has the appeal of being both Star Wars, and LEGO, and therefore attacks on both fronts. But generally, LEGO games have never been just nostalgic cash grabs.
Since their inception, LEGO games and particularly LEGO Star Wars titles have always been fun, puzzle-filled adventures with whimsical storytelling that made familiar tales feel new.
Thankfully, it seems like LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is no different.
With release only weeks away, I got to look at some gameplay from TT’s biggest LEGO Star Wars game ever, and after plenty of delays, one thing is clear – it was worth the wait.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Hands-Off Preview – Re-Building A Galaxy
What Does It Cost To Build A Galaxy
The gameplay I saw was definitely worth the wait – but we should have waited longer. It was only weeks ago that a report came out where 20 current and 10 former employees from TT spoke about the crunch culture which permeates through the studio.
The report speaks to the crunch that has persisted for work on The Skywalker Saga, but also how that culture is one that has been deeply ingrained into TT for years, well before development started on TSS.
Crunch culture is a cancer to game development. It’s not something that is exclusive to game development, but like it is everywhere else, it is a cancer.
No game is worth developers having to suffer this cancer.
The report does cite that recent management changes have the potential to change things, and that there have been positive changes made.
But this only serves to point out how establishing a crunch culture can be often prevented by little more than management simply making better choices, through communication and understanding with the team.
One Brick At A Time
LEGO Star Wars is a series that has always been close to my heart, as I spent easily hundreds of hours playing through the original games as a kid. In fact, I even kept my PS3 copy of LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga during the preview by my side, as a spiritual comfort.
It just always felt like the game I could play after a bad day to cheer me up. Even if I did nothing else but have fun swapping characters and blowing things up in the Cantina for an hour, I would always come out of that hour feeling at least a little, if not a lot better.
Which, in many other cases of fandom, would make me hesitant going into this new version of games I’ve known and already loved. That was not the case, because much as I did love them, there were definitely places for improvement.
Much of that seems to have come from quality of life improvements, made possible by today’s tech. Environments in old LEGO Star Wars games were never overtly impressive, more just functional enough to provide a proper atmosphere for whatever level you were playing.
Levels felt like just that, separate spaces which existed on their own, for you to run through when you chose. It didn’t feel like you were in the world, or the galaxy of Star Wars.
In the Skywalker Saga, it’s clear that a change of mindset was made to alter that feeling. You can explore the galaxy at any point, within any episode doing, well, whatever you want.
It’s like a re-building of the games we’ve known, brick by brick, along with three whole new episodes, with the sequel trilogy included.
But just having a bigger and more grounded play space with more freedom isn’t the only improvement that’s been made.
Use The Force…Or Try Something Else, That Works Too!
Fond as my memories of the LEGO Star Wars games are, I never thought them perfect. I was often frustrated with the puzzle design, especially for those collectibles which must be reached in a level only when you can return in Free Play, and with a character that could be potentially blocked to you through multiple barriers.
You had to first meet a character in the game world to have the ability to potentially add them to your roster, and afterwards you’d need to save up enough of the in-game currency to purchase them.
Though you technically only needed to do this once per character class, the tedium of it all on top of having to just replay a level you have otherwise cleared entirely, took its toll.
Now, I know their will be collectibles that can only be accessed through using a certain character class. But the tedium that bothered me has been seemingly cut down by a huge margin.
Going back and replaying old levels likely won’t feel tiresome, because there are now multiple routes you can take to get through to the end.
These new paths also open up other opportunities for collectibles you wouldn’t have been able to get the first time.
I already know that will make my time spent collectible hunting much more enjoyable, because my trip back into old levels will be more purposeful than ever for a LEGO Star Wars game.
A Galaxy Full Of Playable Characters
There are a lot of characters in Star Wars, and that’s always suited the LEGO games well. Collecting not only each character but their different variations added for plenty of playtime spent grinding for them.
In the end, having a massive wall of characters at your disposal always felt worth the effort, and the Skywalker Saga has taken that character hunt to a whole new level.
There are more playable characters and creatures in the Skywalker Saga than in any LEGO Star Wars game before.
Moreover, you can do more with these characters than ever before. Characters all belong to one of 10 categories, each of which has their own skill tree.
Character abilities have also been expanded to bring more variety to gameplay. You can do a hell of a lot more with each type of character, most notably droids.
While C-3PO might not be able to punch his way out of something, he can definitely walk up to a console and take control of a turret to clear out foes.
He can also translate an alien language to open up a side mission for you, which is pretty cool if you ask me.
Different abilities open up different paths within levels, and provide you with a buffet of choice when it comes to solving puzzles. Having the power to solve puzzles, and find different collectibles with whatever tools you can use really allows for more varied gameplay.
There also seems to have been a more focused effort on the co-operative play, with more engaging co-op sequences.
As character abilities have been expanded, so too has your basic combat. Lightsaber combat looks to have been greatly improved, though I’m most excited for the improvements made to melee and ranged combat.
Space combat has also been re-worked, and it like everything else, it looks to be for the better. It’s also exciting to see sequences like the cockpit view, during the opening scene of The Last Jedi. It makes me curious as to where else cinematic touches like that have been added throughout the saga.
There’s Just, So Much Stuff To Do
LEGO games have always been collect-a-thons, that even included layers of secret collectibles for full completion after you thought you were close to being done entirely.
So it doesn’t surprise me that the Skywalker Saga continues that legacy, but it is surprising just how much there really is to do and collect in this game.
Considering that it already seems like an overwhelming amount of characters, vehicles, upgrades, and whatever else there is to collect, and we haven’t even seen most it it – there’s definitely a lot here to keep you playing for a while.
I’ve spent a lot of time praising the effort to include variety in the gameplay, but there will almost definitely still be a grind to completing the game, for those who wish to.
I think there’s definitely the potential for it to feel similar to the tedium of the old games, but it seems like it would take me a hell of a lot longer to get there.
Or that tedium could never come, even after hours and hours. That’ll only be answered though once we can play the game ourselves.
Going Back To A Galaxy Far, Far, Away
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga has the potential to be one of the standout games of the year, especially if it’s able to capture the magic of the older games.
From what we’ve now seen, it’s entirely possible that this is the LEGO Star Wars game fans have truly been wanting for years.
That’s an exciting thought, but there’s no way to say for sure without playing it, of course.
Until release though, it’s comforting to see just how incredible the game looks, visually, and in how much it has been expanded, and how many new elements have been brought into gameplay.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga releases on April 5, 2022 for PS5 and PS4.