E3 2019: LEGO Star Wars The Skywalker Saga Preview

E3 2019: LEGO Star Wars The Skywalker Saga Preview

When it comes to attending E3, a lot of appointments are scheduled that I don’t have names for. They usually pop on my spreadsheet with words like “Unannounced Title” or “Unannounced Casual title.” What information I do know is who the publisher or developer is and sometimes, it’s easy to infer what the game might be. In this case, I was scheduled for “WBIE Presentation, TT Games.” It wasn’t hard to figure out what I was going to see. And so, just like rise and fall of the sun, another LEGO game from TT Games—another Star Wars LEGO game—is in the works. I don’t mean to be snarky but I had little expectation for what The Skywalker Saga was going to bring to the table. That is, until I sat down for a presentation that not only changed my mind, it blew it up like Alderaan.  

The Skywalker Saga isn’t a lazy attempt to cash in on the craze Star Wars is going through right now. Instead of slapping new content from the upcoming Rise of Skywalker film onto a re-release of LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, this a brand new experience built from the ground up and then some. Instead of having to play through all movies in order, TT Games is giving the player full access to every movie from the beginning. That alone is great, great news. The demo presentation showed us a small slice of the game set on the planet of Tatooine during the sixth film, Return of the Jedi. Like other LEGO games, you can spend time before a level exploring an open hub and collect studs, find hidden Kyber blocks, and do side-quests. Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit. Before touching down outside Jabba’s Palace, the game opened with the player controlling the Millennium Falcon as it flies towards the large desert planet, letting you choose whether or not you could land in Anchorhead, Mos Eisley, and Mos Espa. During the flight, the Falcon was waylaid by the presence of Darth Vader’s Super Star Destroyer, which came out of hyperspace and launched TIE Fighters that triggered an optional space battle. It was inferred that random situations like this could happen when flying around and I as really excited by the idea.

Once on the surface of Anchorhead, we could see Jabba’s Palace resting high on the rocky hills and off in the distance, his famous sail barge that was to be the setting for the playable mission. For the first time since I was introduced to this LEGO franchise in 2005, I experienced a feeling I never had for a game like this: total awe. Tatooine looked gorgeous with its high-resolution textures, awesome ambient environment effects (sand now catches and clings to the feet of the LEGO miniatures) and the vehicles looked like real, complex LEGO builds. I never really paid attention to the LEGO-fied vehicles in the past, assuming that they were simple 3D models with a LEGO texture but our presenter, who maintained a high level of excitement and pride for the project he was showing off, told us that every vehicle in the game was made out of individual LEGO bricks. The sail barge, for example, was so big and complex that it took their development team three months to build it piece by piece. That’s a level of commitment I never really considered in past games but the work they’ve put in really shows.

I didn’t get to see the game in action that much because the presentation ended without starting the sail barge sequence but the small things they showed off held great promises and exciting implications to making combat way more interesting. In the older games, fighting stormtroopers and droids was an overly simple “hit the attack button until it dies” affair. While that went a long way to making the games accessible to all ages, it’s hard to stay interested when lightsabers swing left and right and blaster shots automatically track. The combat system in The Skywalker Saga has been retooled in a way that had me thinking, “My god, why did it take this long?” Projectile-based weapons, like the blaster or bowcaster, now enjoy a slightly zoomed-in, over the shoulder camera angle allowing for precision shooting modern gamers are comfortable with. Melee weapons have light and heavy attacks that can be strung together to make combos! The game maintains its accessibility to younger gamers, as the intricacies of combo-based attacks is optional, so if you have someone who just wants to hit the same attack button repeatedly, the game is ready for them.

At this point, I was salivating. Being thanked for my time and ushered out of the presentation felt like being shown a plate of the most delicious and painstakingly prepared food only to have it rudely taken away just when I lifted my fork. Were this an actual, hands-off demo, no doubt security would have had to pull me off the station--I’m that eager to get my hands on the game. I expect the game won’t be out until close before or after the release of The Rise of Skywalker this December. All I can really tell you right now is that the way is going to be excruciating.

Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.