Star Wars Outlaws

Hands-Off Impressions about Star Wars Outlaws: The Hype is strong with this one

A new scoundrel story in A Galaxy Far, Far Away, a fitting actor and tone, and a promising mix of genres and possibilities that remind me of what Amy Hennig's and the 1313 game could have been... and then some more. Are these the ingredients for the perfect modern game adaptation?

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Out of the titles I (anybody) didn't get to play, Star Wars Outlaws automatically became my Game of the Show in the past week or so of Summer Game Fest events in L.A. I honestly thought it was far, far away, and so I didn't expect Massive Entertainment's second team effort to be "TBA2" in Ubisoft's confidential schedule, less so with the also promising Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora finally releasing in December.

But there we have it, Star Wars Outlaws was revealed to be launching in 2024 (!) during the Xbox Showcase with a fantastic first cinematic trailer, followed up with in-game footage at Ubisoft Forward... And right afterwards we got to learn much more about the project both at a BCD session with its narrative director and Jedi-like named Navid Khavari, and also during an upcoming Gamereactor interview with its associate game director Mathias Karlson and its associate narrative director John Björling. And after learning more than what's been shown publicly, I have to tell you that the Force the Hype is strong with this one.

Star Wars Outlaws

You probably know the basics from the official announcement, but let me remind you that this is a single-player, open-world action-adventure in which we play as Kay Vess, your everyday smuggler surviving in the convulsive year gap (3ABY-4ABY) between Empire Strikes Back (Episode V) and Return of the Jedi (Ep. VI). She, you, are not alone, as the little creature Nix accompanies the player during the journey, same as they have done ever since Kay was a little girl, and the twist here is that Nix not only plays the funny little furry pet sort of role you would expect in Star Wars or from Disney, as it goes beyond both narratively (for example frowning when something feels wrong), and mainly gameplay-wise. The in-game sequences showed to the public and then behind closed doors demonstrated how the companion character can cause a distraction in combat, be sent to activate buttons or switches, or perhaps retrieve weaponry from the enemies and bring it to the heroine, effectively becoming a new tool at hand to approach every situation.

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Combat has been compared to Uncharted in its cinematic style, just with the alternatives Nix provides, in that it feels very staged so far despite the open world, in a way limiting combat areas within pre-defined spaces with lots of cover and verticality where you put both your blasters and your fists to good use. But here's another change: besides knowing how many enemies are left in the area, your own Kay can get a bounty on her head in the form of a wanted sign, making for pursuits and escapes along the lines of Assassin's Creed or, of course, Grand Theft Auto.

Star Wars Outlaws

Back to the setting and the story, it all starts when a job goes terribly wrong and Kay becomes one of the most wanted faces in the Galaxy, which at the same time offers the bounty hunter the opportunity (and the great risk) to take on one of the greatest heists the Outer Rim has seen. The premise is as intriguing as it sounds, but even more interesting is the fact that there's a reputation system going on behind the scenes, which means that every decision made during dialogue (for example tense negotiations), as well as every time Kay has to resort to engaging in combat instead of for example using stealth, it will impact her already complex relationships with the different, competing criminal syndicates.

There are several, including the Hutts, the Pykes, or the new Ashiga Clan, and all are thriving at the moment as they take good advantage of the galaxy-wide climate caused by the Rebellion fighting against the Empire in the Civil War. As it happened to Han Solo (who, remember, should remain frozen in carbonite for the duration of this game) and others before and after him, I'm looking forward to striking both good and bad deals with these syndicates, but also with the Empire and the Rebels, as more and more canonical products dare showing the not-always good side of the latter (including for example Episode VIII or The Mandalorian's S3). However, as the developers confirmed during our interview, the reputation system won't put players to irreversible ends; it's more of a day-to-day reaction system to dynamically colour the story and the encounters.

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Star Wars OutlawsStar Wars Outlaws

Khavari defines the three main pillars of the game as "dense living cities" (with an special emphasis on alleys and cantinas, but of course), "stunning open world environments" (in different planets, meaning different biomes and a more diverse gameplay offering), and "the lucrative, risky space" which includes dogfighting as Kay grows from a rookie pilot to a skilled, fearsome ace, as the name of her Trailblazer spaceship resonates more and more "from intimate encounters to large scale battles" (a ship in which, apparently, droid ND-5 will become another important ally).

With all this in mind, the biggest question mark hovers over the fact of the actual scale of the game. The devs didn't want to get into specifics as of yet when I asked, but in our conversation they kind of implied that, as this is the contained story of the main character, it is the narrative what ultimately drives the places you can visit, be it cities, open areas on the planets' surfaces, or the orbits around them, even if you are very free to decide the when and the where in order to piece the tale together. And while this might sound unambitious to those coming from the ever-increasing promises of the seemingly infinite Starfield, I totally buy the idea of, yes, "the first real open world Star Wars video game ever", but in a scale in which everything is reachable and makes sense with a nicely-paced plot.

Speaking of traversal, you gotta love the design of Kay's speeder, which has been inspired by the world of motocross and also retains the best 80s Tatooine look to it. The vehicle will be the pair's means of transport while on land, and players will even be able to perform stunts and tricks (just for the show off, no XP granted), or to engage in combat on the go. In this regard, the slow-mo tagging sequence activated during the public demo is a player-triggered ability and not a scripted sequence, we could confirm.

Star Wars Outlaws

With both the speeder and the Trailblazer, Kay and Nix will visit or revisit new and familiar places in the franchise, including the moon of Toshara (the game's signature location) and its orbit in the Toshaal System, the big city of Mirogana, Jaunta's Hope, Akiva's orbit, and more. But when I earlier mentioned that the Force is strong with this one, I also meant it in a double sense. When I asked he devs whether the Force would be present in the game (as in, Jedi, Sith, Lightsabers, sensitive characters and whatnot), associate narrative director was fast to smile as he replied with the most elegant, fan-servant, Luke-like, yet inconclusive answer one could come up with: "The Force is everywhere". This could mean anything, but something tells me that those crystals that seem to be part of Kay's treasure hunt will inevitably hold some mystic power inside.

Finally, I'd like to emphasise two things that seem to go hand-in-hand in this game: the nailing of the genuine tone and humour of the original movies (even Indiana Jones', with Kay visibly hurting her hand when punching an enemy, or with how some arguments are quickly resolved with a very Western blaster draw), and the role of Venezuelan actor Humberly González, who I somehow immediately empathised as the best fit for the character.

We have to keep in mind that we'll get a firm release date for Star Was Outlaws in a year from now at the very earliest, and of course the success of its promising ingredients relies on the variety and accuracy of the gameplay loop and on the balance between the different pillars. However, I can't help but getting excited about the project as a whole after what I've seen and learnt, and to some extent (open worlds aside), it feels like Massive are leveraging on some of the fans-approved concepts on which the sadly cancelled Star Wars 1313 and Amy Hennig's "ragtag" project were being based. May the Force be with Massive.

Star Wars Outlaws

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