Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga review: Focus, Padawan

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga review: Focus, Padawan

Rey explors Ahch-To in Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

MSRP $59.99

“Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga has lots of ambition but lacks focus.”

Pros

  • Beautiful visuals
  • Deeper gameplay
  • Improved combat
  • Free Play mode shines

Cons

  • Rushed retellings
  • Unfocused structure
  • Tonally inconsistant

While past Lego games were enjoyable, entry-level puzzle platformers, they were also simple games that many players, myself included, grew out of. Developer TT Games appears to have recognized that because Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is the most ambitious Lego game in years.

It retells the stories of nine iconic films, features a lot of hubs worlds that players can explore and collect items in, and deepens combat with its new class systems. This makes it a perfectly enjoyable Lego title for players who may have fallen out of love with the series and an exciting teaser of where this franchise can still go.

Unfortunately, it’s also an experience that doesn’t fully coalesce. Throughout my adventure, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga always felt torn between being a faithful recreation of every mainline Star Wars film and becoming the freeing galactic sandbox it clearly wants to be.

From Padawan to Knight

When I first booted up The Skywalker Saga, I could select the first film of any of the trilogies. I chose to play the game in release order, from A New Hope to The Rise of Skywalker. The introductory level of A New Hope does an amazing job at highlighting how much has improved compared to past Lego games.

The visuals are gorgeous, especially when levels are entirely made of Lego blocks. As I mentioned in my preview, the game also has fun adapting and satirizing the plots of each Star Wars film while deepening the gameplay. The Skywalker Saga’s cover-based shooting makes fights more intense, even if it’s not more difficult than previous Lego titles.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the new features here. Melee combat got a much-needed rework, as players need to string attack combos together while occasionally countering attacks. Each film’s story is mainly adapted in linear levels, but every planet has at least one big open level that players can explore. These open-ended hubs are all large and full of exciting challenges, Easter eggs, and even full-blown side-quests to discover, and are by far the best part of the game.

The Skywalker Saga constantly throws out new ideas and riffs on preexisting ones.

Kyber Bricks are the primary motivator behind doing anything in The Skywalker Saga. Collecting studs and completing challenges in the linear levels grants Kyber Bricks. They are often the main reward for the challenges found across each planet, and they’re needed to upgrade each class’s abilities.

The Skywalker Saga’s 300+ characters are part of individual character classes, each of which has unique abilities in and outside of combat. For example, Jedi can use force powers, droids can hack certain terminals, and heroes can disguise themselves as enemies after defeating them.

Rey explors Ahch-To in Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.

The Skywalker Saga constantly throws out new ideas and riffs on preexisting ones, which keeps the experience fresh. This approach does mean that some ideas aren’t fully fleshed out and that some character abilities, like a Protocol Droids’ ability to hack turrets, feel useless. I can forgive that in such a large game, but this design mindset also gives The Skywalker Saga a structure that some may consider unnatural.

Identity Crisis

Going into The Skywalker Saga, I couldn’t wait to see how TT Games seamlessly integrated the stories of nine Star Wars films into one open-world sandbox. I was disappointed to find that the game really doesn’t do that.

One of Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga's many hubs is Cloud City on Bespin.

The Skywalker Saga features many planets and locales that are truly fun to explore. Players can even fly in space above each planet. Despite that, all nine films are telling linear stories, and the game is constantly trying to shuffle the player to the next big thing. I couldn’t go to a planet until I visited it during one of the films, which means The Skywalker Saga’s sandbox felt incomplete throughout my whole adventure.

The story missions obviously don’t offer the same level of freedom as the open worlds and favor some character classes and abilities over others. I always felt obligated to continue the story and not stop and smell the roses in each hub as I made my way through each film, so I was often not engaging with the best part of the game.

The Skywalker Saga’s sandbox felt incomplete throughout my whole adventure.

This was also unfulfilling as The Skywalker Saga has to rush through each story to include all nine films. Some key moments, like Lando blowing up the Death Star, aren’t playable, but some story levels are entirely original, like Empire Strikes Back‘s opening level where players explore Hoth as Han. The developers seemed more interested in making massive 3D collect-a-thon levels rather than retelling these Star Wars stories for a second or third time, but the experience suffers when these open-ended levels sometimes directly interfere with the story being told.

Tonal whiplash

This dissonance between the linear movie adaptations and open-ended galaxy sandbox came to a head in Revenge of the Sith. I watched the cutscene where the Jedi are annihilated by Order 66, only to be spawned in Corosaunt’s Jedi Temple Library next to a Youngling, who eagerly told me about a puzzle that would grant me a Kyber Brick.

I guess Anakin didn’t get to him.

The tonal whiplash of that moment was unintentionally hilarious, but it also cemented that the open-ended galaxy and film retellings don’t mesh very well together. There are so many characters, ships, side missions, and set pieces from radically different Star Wars eras that the experience doesn’t always feel coherent, even with the improved gameplay.

The open-ended galaxy and film retellings don’t mesh very well together.

Completing each film felt like a long-winded prerequisite for the Free Play mode, where the game doesn’t have to care about Star Wars canon or certain side-quests not making sense in a film’s context. As a result, the adventure feels unfocused. This high-level dissonance probably won’t bother the kids who will likely spend countless hours beating the game and then exploring the galaxy in Free Play mode, but it certainly was frustrating for me.

Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Jar Jar Binks in Theed on Naboo in Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.

TT Games is trying to change the notion of what a Lego game can be. The Skywalker Saga demonstrates that the games can still attract older audiences with deeper gameplay and that these games are at their best when the emphasis is on giving players a giant sandbox to explore and interact with.

Exploring all of these ideas in The Skywalker Saga ultimately makes the game a messy experience. Still, I’m excited to see how the developer could expand on these ideas in an adventure that also doesn’t have to worry about faithfully recreating nine movies.

Our Take

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is the most engaging Lego game in years, thanks to its deeper gameplay and all of the faithfully recreated Star Wars locales that players can explore. But like the protagonists of each Star Wars trilogy, The Skywalker Saga has an identity crisis. It always feels divided between being an accurate retelling of the Star Wars series and an ambitious galactic sandbox where players can go anywhere as anyone.

Is there a better alternative?

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga still holds up. It’s a much more linear, level-based experience but is also a more focused game as a result. Still, not much out there can match the scale of what TT Games included in The Skywalker Saga.

How long will it last?

This is the biggest Lego game yet. Making your way through every Star Wars film will take over a dozen hours, and you’ll still probably have a lot to unlock and explore in every level.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Despite my complaints about the identity crisis The Skywalker Saga faces, it is worth picking up if you love Star Wars or want to introduce your child to the franchise. It’s a lot of fun to play, especially once you unlock everything in Free Play.

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was reviewed on Xbox Series X.

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