LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Review: "The Galactic Sandbox We've Been Waiting For"
LEGO Star Wars has laid dormant for some time, and it was only a matter of time before it came back around to celebrate the sequel trilogy of Star Wars films. Wherever you stand on the trilogy, and however complicated The Rise of Skywalker made it as a uniform experience, there was still an opportunity for it to prosper with a fresh plastic sheen - and even from the promotional push of the game (after its punishing delays), it was clear that it was going to be something special.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga wasn't going to satisfy itself with just the sequel trilogy, working in threes as the previous games had - no, it was time to rebuild the entire saga of nine films from the ground up for an all-new audience. There's no denying that the move was ambitious, and though exciting, there was still reason for concern after reports of "extensive crunch" inside TT Games were revealed. It's clear that staff struggled to make the game work, but at the very worst, this game would suffer the fate of being branded just another inconsequential game for children.
But, lo and behold, the Star Wars universe was clearly in safe hands, as The Skywalker Saga has defined itself as one of the best ways to experience the galaxy far, far away - with a few caveats.
Building The Galaxy, Brick By Brick
Rather than opt for a hub world with different "chapters" of each film, The Skywalker Saga adopts a more linear approach to its storytelling, letting players start the game from their trilogy of choice. The narrative has interconnecting segments in the game's open-world that let you loose if you choose to chat to some droids or explore the galaxy between story missions. It's a refreshing approach to the LEGO Star Wars framework that keeps it from stagnating for the length of the game.
But when you really dig into the levels themselves, it's a little more hit-or-miss - naturally, there was always bound to be some levels that beat others for quality, but sadly, the difference can be pretty stark in places. Podracing, easily one of the most video-gamey parts of Star Wars simply falls flat, and one level in Attack of the Clones sees you simply dashing around Coruscant delivering messages as some sort of political correspondent.
Some missions simply don't land, but others absolutely bang in comparison. The very first mission in the Return of the Jedi storyline lets you zip around Jabba's Barge, taking down bosses and battering goons with glee. It feels enough like the classic LEGO Star Wars experience with more than enough variation to keep it fresh, and its charm is as persistent now with voice acting as it was with its daft mumbles by default.
It also serves as a loving reminder of what exactly makes Star Wars so special. Playing through the events of the films (even the crap ones) help to reframe the galaxy far, far away as a property about space wizards made for children, which is something that seems to get lost in translation with its constant online discourse. The genuine laugh-out-loud moments of the story and emphasis on the goofiness of Star Wars' characters are refreshing, and let this super-nerd let go of the rage that The Rise of Skywalker instilled in him, if only for a few hours.
From The Windu To The Wall
The main draw of The Skywalker Saga going forward isn't likely going to be its return to the films - rather, it's going to be the vast open world. And it may seem bizarre to say, but this LEGO game has provided exactly the open-world Star Wars experience that fans have wanted for years.
Imagine a Star Wars planet, and it's probably here for you to explore, rendered with a charming plastic shine on its surfaces. The level of detail poured into each of these locales, even if the game is confident you'll never return to it after you've finished its story mission, is astounding - the game is filled to burst with secrets, separate paths, and other bits to explore all across the galaxy. Whether it be Coruscant or Kashyyyk, the worlds are gleaming and gorgeous, and if you're a real dedicated Star Wars fan, you'll struggle to resist poking around in each of its nooks and crannies.
The world offers plenty to do, with missions and secrets in abundance all across the galaxy. Rewarding the player with new characters and Kyber bricks for completing side missions keeps up the incentive to poke around the worlds and all they have to offer, and it makes the game the ultimate sandbox, especially when most of the characters have their own voice acting and animation quirks instead of following the same template and being a carbon copy of one another.
There are an astounding amount of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga characters, ranging from core Jedi to the most bizarre offshoots of Jabba's Palace and beyond. The possibilities really are limitless, and if you ever wanted to see how Sy Snootles or Klaud can handle the sweltering climes of Mustafar, you finally have your chance.
Gonk With The Wind
The Skywalker Saga is a pretty big game, with equally big ambitions, so it's only natural that there are some weak spots in the game's performance. The game looks stunning, and there's no faulting it on the front of its visual presentation; the reflections that bounce off the water on Naboo and the furious spouts of lava that lurch in attack on Mustafar are stunning, and despite its LEGO theming, make The Skywalker Saga one of the most beautiful Star Wars games to date. On the Xbox Series edition of the game however, we had a few bugs and glitches that kept the game from being completely airtight.
The first time booting up the game, we had some trouble actually getting the game to start, and it often prompted us to sign in again on the main menu before refusing to let them progress, requiring a hard restart. One glitch during the final showdown with The Emperor in Return of the Jedi backed our Luke Skywalker into a corner, unable to see or even engage with the incoming force lightning. A few more minor hiccups appeared, and though much of this is likely to be ironed out in future updates, it was still a hindrance to the gameplay.
The Skywalker Saga: A New Hope
The Skywalker Saga may not be perfect, but frankly, it never needed to be. It's easy to forget that the intended audience for these games is literal children, but this entry into the LEGO Star Wars series does a lot to prove that it's for you, even if not every instalment in the film franchise tickled your fancy. Even the low points of the films can be a riot of a time, culminating in a narrative climax that serves as a reminder of just how special Star Wars really is.
With a post-game this rich and a roster of characters this bizarre, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is the galactic sandbox we've been waiting for. Quirks aside, this game is the one that TT Games were always destined to make, and the benchmark for each of their titles going forward. And if the rumoured LEGO Doctor Who game is actually in the works, and will be following suit, we need not worry, because it'll be in safe hands.
Played on Xbox Series S. Code provided by the publisher.