After two years of constant delays, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is finally here and offers all nine mainline movies in TT Games' interpretation.
In 2005, the same year as Revenge of the Sith was released in cinemas, TT Games launched Lego Star Wars: The Video Game. It was an instant hit and the start of a steady stream of Lego titles ranging from DC to Harry Potter to Marvel - and even more Star Wars.
Now the studio has consolidated its work into Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, a massive collection containing Lego interpretations of all nine films complete with extra content and major refreshes to both graphics and playability. It's also been significantly delayed, partly due to the pandemic of course, but also due to increased ambition.
And it should be said right away that what greets me when I start my adventure, is something vastly better than what I saw in the first trailer in 2019. Before the adventure can even start, we get a taste of how comprehensive this game actually is. Because you can choose which trilogy you want to go for, starting with either The Phantom Menace, A New Hope or The Force Awakens. But not their two respective sequels.
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So, in short, you can't throw yourself into the icy battles on Hoth, fighting snow monsters and AT-AT, until you've rescued Princess Leia from the Death Star's cell and blasted the latter into space junk. For myself, I opted to take the adventure in chronological order and thus went with The Phantom Menace. Qui-Gon Jinn and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi get to slay Battledroids ("roger-roger"), meet a certain unpopular Gungan, ride a submarine, visit Amidala, and of course get acquainted with Anakin Skywalker and Dart Maul.
While it's impressive how reworked this adventure is, it could almost be described as a remake (bearing in mind movies eight and nine have never before been released as Lego adventures), as it doesn't take long for me to realise that this is still a Lego game I'm playing. In reality, that means you'll recognise it quickly. It's certainly not about reinventing the wheel, but rather improving on it. Basically, you can once again hack your way forward by repeatedly pressing a button, solving puzzles that often just consist of holding down a button while your chosen character builds Legos, finding well-hidden secrets and getting frustrated by the vagueness of whether you can solve a problem you face at all or whether you need another character you haven't unlocked yet. Furthermore, I dare say that anyone who hasn't seen the films before will struggle to grasp the story via the Lego Star Wars games, which contain only a few lines of dialogue, short cutscenes and a lot of non-coherent storytelling.
Of course, I understand that this sounds very negative, and I haven't even mentioned the collection's single biggest flaw yet, namely the fact that the menus are very unnecessarily cluttered. Even the menus that exist to explain things are cumbersome and frustratingly laid out. In large part this is due to the enormous amount of content the game actually has to offer, and I can certainly understand why the menus might be difficult to present smoothly on those premises, but I don't think TT Games succeeded well.
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In the end, though, it's a pretty mild criticism, because at its core this is a fun game, both for younger people, Lego enthusiasts, and especially Star Wars fans. There's so much to discover and it's hard to be upset even at a character as obnoxious as Jar Jar Binks when he appears in Lego form. Plus, many elements from the movies have been nicely turned into gameplay in a way that I can be genuinely impressed by. Instead of having a lot of dialogue at Maz Kanata's lair from The Force Awakens, it's now a playhouse with plenty of secrets to discover. And older Star Wars lovers will love such a thing as the scene between Han Solo (who shot first) and Greedo (no, I still haven't forgiven George Lucas) culminating in Solo throwing his blaster at Greedo, who runs away.
Also, there are other things that are good, and that includes the fact that the combat system has now actually been overhauled. Instead of monotonous button mashing, there's now some subtlety with a combo system that challenges me a bit and several of the hidden secrets actually require both thought and nimble fingers. The set-up is also such that it prompts me to go back to an already completed level after I've unlocked more characters to solve the puzzles I may have missed on the first playthrough.
As with almost any Lego game, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is at its best when you have someone to actually enjoy it with. It also makes it easier to find the most elusive items when you can have multiple perspectives on the same location or multiple hands assisting you with time-consuming challenges. Brace yourself, however, for some parts being boring due to the characters on offer. At the start of The Force Awakens, for example, the person playing Rey will have far more fun than the person playing BB-8.
Of course, I must mention that there are over 300 playable characters to choose from, so most will be able to play as their favourites. They in turn belong to different factions such as Jedi, bounty hunters and evil-doers, and have different traits to help you. With Galaxy Free Play, you'll then jump between the locations you've visited to try and solve any secrets left behind. And there will be. You'll see how much you've found on each level after a playthrough, and often there's an almost shocking amount that's been missed.
Before I give my rating, I'd also like to comment on the graphics and sound. Because this is the first Lego game in a very long time that I really think looks good. TT Games also offer lovely details such as some characters having small visible plastic joints left over from the production process, scraped details and the likes. The backgrounds are also elaborate and made to be explored. In addition, there is now considerably more speech than in the original games (though those who want to run with miming can do so), as well as the music being, of course, John Williams' lovely compositions.
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga ultimately gets a very solid seven from me. At times I felt that an eight might have been in order, but a few times I also felt so frustrated that a six would have been closer at hand. It really is by far the best Lego Star Wars game today, but there is no doubt that there is room for improvement despite this. To get a higher rating, I would have liked to see much better storytelling, smoother menus and a few more gameplay innovations. At the same time, it's an absolutely massive package that will entertain for an incredibly long time for those who really want to do it all, and if you love Lego and Star Wars, I think the chances are pretty good that you'll really want to do it. And that's always a good sign.
7 / 10
Bursting with content, improved battles, varied gameplay, good graphics, a lot of secrets, great music, lots of fan service.
Non-existent storytelling, messy menus, several obscure puzzles.