On August 27, 1859, Edwin Drake became the first man to strike oil in the United States. More than $40,000 of investors’ cash and countless man-hours had finally paid off, paving the way for what TIME described a century later as ‘the greatest single source of wealth in America’ and essentially redefining the world economy for decades to come.
In 2005, TT Games did the same thing (on an admittedly much smaller scale) for the LEGO video gaming space with LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game. Revolutionary at the time, that carefully-crafted assembly of the prequel trilogy in virtual bricks was hailed upon release as not just the best LEGO video game to date, but also one of the best Star Wars games of all time. TT swung its pickaxe, and struck oil.
But for the decade and a half (and countless games) that followed, the studio effectively downed tools and stopped digging, content with the bounties it had discovered at the first time of asking. The original formula was mined into oblivion, with only minor tweaks along the way – so that by the time LEGO DC Super-Villains rolled around in 2018, it was hard not to feel like we weren’t somehow still stuck in 2005, perpetually playing the same game with only a different skin, like some terrible Groundhog Day spin-off.
The following summer – and with the disappointing and now mostly-forgotten The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame sandwiched in-between – TT announced LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. And in doing so, it promised to once again pick up its axe and start digging. What followed was unprecedented: multiple delays, a pandemic and huge staff turnover at a studio reportedly plagued by crunch, all boiling over into fan frustration and – to TT’s delight, no doubt – potentially the most hype ever generated for a single LEGO video game.
Three years later, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga has finally arrived. And across nine different movies, 20 different planets and roughly 400 characters, TT Games has done its utmost to bring the tired LEGO video game formula kicking and screaming into the 2020s – for better and worse.
On the surface, this is very much an eighth-generation game (announced long before the PS5 and Xbox Series X had chance to dream of stock shortages), and in many ways radically different to the rest of TT Games’ output for the past decade and a half. But bubbling away below the shiny graphics, new camera angle and tweaked combat systems are all the same trappings of basic puzzles, shallow gameplay and repetitive content that have plagued this series for more than one generation of consoles, seemingly inescapable within the contexts of what it means to be a LEGO video game: a box that TT Games can’t break out of, no matter how hard it tries to reinvent the wheel.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. There’s something comfortingly familiar about a LEGO video game, and it’s been three years since the last one – The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame – and a whopping six years since the last time the studio ventured to a galaxy far, far away in LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That’s a substantial departure from when they were coming out two or three times a year, and you couldn’t avoid the glaring truth that they were effectively the same game with a new lick of paint.
In that way, the Skywalker Saga’s very many delays genuinely work to its benefit: not only because the hype for the game has grown to unimaginable, intergalactic proportions, but also because it’s given the game the breathing space it needs to truly shine off the back of no fewer than 15 consecutive years with at least one LEGO video game from TT Games.
And to the studio’s credit, many of the changes here do genuinely shine. The first thing you’ll notice booting up the game – and will likely never fail to appreciate throughout your time with it – is just how incredible it looks. We’re still talking LEGO, so it’s largely toyetic over realistic – simple shadows, bright colours – but neat touches (like weathering in sandy or snowy environments, and atmospheric lighting) push things to the edge, without sacrificing the sense that we’re just playing in a big toy box.
Recapturing that feeling of pouring all your LEGO minifigures and ships out on to the floor is arguably what The Skywalker Saga does best, partly by dint of bringing together all three trilogies’ characters for the first time. Running around Kamino with Rey and Princess Leia, defeating Count Dooku with Maul (who’s the best Sith Lord now?) and hopping on the back of a Bantha with Emperor Palpatine is where it really kicks into gear, the culmination of 17 years of LEGO Star Wars video game fantasies.
Okay, we know what you’re thinking: tell us something we don’t know already. (Chalk that one up to our Jedi mind skills.) Mashing up characters and stories was fun in LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, too. Adding in an extra trilogy’s worth of characters (and then some, through the DLC) is cool. But what does The Skywalker Saga do differently?
Well, there’s the gameplay. Yes, you’re still mostly running from one area to another, slicing up or shooting enemies, solving a couple of puzzles, then moving on. But there’s enough variety weaved throughout the game’s core nine episodes and 45 levels that you’ll never really feel bored.
One minute you’re gunning down Stormtroopers, the next you’re locked in lightsaber combat, then you’re up in space getting to grips with dogfighting, and what’s this, now it’s a tower defence game? There are a lot of ingredients tossed in the big old cooking pot that’s given us The Skywalker Saga – there had to be, across this many levels – but even if not all of them sing (space combat feels oddly sluggish at times, and the races will have you tearing your hair out, as is the way of LEGO video games), they’re enough to keep you engaged.
And it all feels way more involved than any previous LEGO game, too. Aiming with the left trigger and shooting with the right doesn’t feel like it belongs in a LEGO video game at first – muscle memory had us automatically hitting the melee attack button for a little while – but eventually it all clicks, especially with the new over-the-shoulder camera angle, which replaces the classic aerial view to really bring you into what’s going on. You’re down there, on the floor, with all your minifigures, and you don’t even have to make the ‘pew pew’ noises. (Gloriously, there’s an unlockable extra that does that for you.)
That said, The Skywalker Saga also can’t escape the inevitable conclusion of any Star Wars game that gives you the chance to wield a lightsaber, and that is that you’re always going to choose the lightsaber. Shooting baddies with blasters is alright, but as soon as you unlock your first Jedi character, you’re never going to want to go back. The good news is that lightsaber combat has also had a refresh, even if it’s a little more surface-level than gunplay.
You can now string together combo attacks, for instance, but there’s not really any major benefit to doing so, and most of the good stuff is still tied to a single button. Mashing square (on PS4/5), just like the good old days, is still the most effective ways of taking down generic droids and troopers – particularly when they go down with so few hits. (Not one hit, though: these battle droids can take an immersion-breaking beating, speaking to another longstanding flaw in Star Wars video games generally.)
Boss battles give you more room to experiment, but not to any in-game advantage. Still, it’s worth messing about with different button combos just for how great everything looks on screen, whether it’s in blocking lightsaber attacks, dodging a dashing enemy at the last moment, or using the Force to fling a crate into the back of their head. There are (naturally) plenty of opportunities to do that during the prequels, particularly in Revenge of the Sith, which mirrors the movie by having every second moment involve lightsabers clashing.
Not every lightsaber fight in Episode III is playable in LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, however, which brings us to our main point of contention with the game: its squashed, rewritten and altogether confusing narrative. These are tales well told by this point, across the big screen, books, comics, video games – seven of them in LEGO video games, no less – and TT Games is clearly cognisant of that fact in how it’s presented them here. But as an ultimate celebration of all nine mainline Star Wars movies, it’s consequently a little wide of the mark.
By focusing on those parts of the movies previously glossed over in LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game, LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy and so on, The Skywalker Saga seeks to plug the gaps for those gamers who’ve been around since the beginning – from the Gungan sub chase in The Phantom Menace to a boss battle with the Dianoga in A New Hope. But in doing so, it skims through pivotal moments across all nine movies: Chancellor Palpatine’s arrest in Revenge of the Sith is a cutscene; Obi-Wan’s Jedi mind trick at Mos Eisley is an all-too-brief – and not replayable – open-world segment.
Those open-world moments act as narrative junctions for each of the nine movies, representing another paradigm shift in how TT Games has approached this particular LEGO game. The classic levels as we know them – minikits, True Jedi meters – are relegated to minor scenes, seemingly interchangeable with any other part of their respective movies (why is one area a level and one open-world? A lot of the time, it’s hard to say), and mostly just a few minutes long.
That’s a far cry from the bloated levels of LEGO video games of late, several of which have even used mid-level checkpoints to allow players to take a break. Breaking up LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga’s levels into shorter bursts, interspersed with open-world gameplay, does have the bonus of making everything feel more accessible – you can play without committing hours at a time to the game, an approach perhaps again taken with veteran LEGO video gamers in mind.
But it also begs the question: why bother with levels at all? If the open-world segments that sit between them aren’t replayable – and they aren’t – why stick rigidly to particular elements of the LEGO video game formula that might have otherwise been best left behind? If the answer is that being able to replay levels is core to the LEGO video game experience, then it’s only more disappointing that so much of the narrative happens beyond the boundaries of those replayable sections.
Certain choices around those open-world areas are genuinely puzzling, too. In Attack of the Clones, the Jedi simply show up at the Geonosian Arena to rescue Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padmé, but in The Skywalker Saga, we have to take a taxi across Coruscant with Mace Windu, Kit Fisto and Ki-Adi Mundi, then fly to Geonosis, land and head to the arena on foot. Those open-world environments already exist for other, more relevant moments in the prequels, so inserting that sequence into the game effectively feels like padding.
On one hand, it does give you more chance to naturally experience and explore the vast open world TT Games has created – and it really is incredibly expansive – but when you’re flying to a planet simply to watch a cutscene, as happens on more than one occasion, you do begin to question some of the narrative choices.
Also slightly questionable is the voice acting, at least in parts: when TT Games first made the switch to dialogue (rather than mumbling, which can be turned on here in the extras menu) with LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes and LEGO The Lord of the Rings, it frequently relied on pulling dialogue directly from its source material. The key to making it work, however, was that it then combined those lines with visual gags, or simply juggled around the order, to retain the studio’s classic sense of humour.
For The Skywalker Saga, the studio has seemingly chosen to record all-new dialogue, which opens the door to moving beyond the movies with original lines and jokes (some of which work, some don’t). Unfortunately, it also opens another door: one with a big sign on it that says ‘these aren’t the actors you’re looking for’. Hearing the movie dialogue we can probably all recite off the top of our heads delivered by new actors – many of which just sound like bad impressions – is jarring enough to momentarily take you out of these incredible and enormous worlds you’re playing around in.
Those open worlds (probably by virtue of their sheer size) can feel a little empty at times, too, with not much more to do in certain areas than smash stuff for studs (the game’s currency, unchanged in denominations from previous LEGO titles – silver, gold, blue and purple, from 10 to 10,000). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because cramming every corner with side quests could have made these spaces feel overwhelming.
As is, there are still plenty of missions to dive into beyond the main stories, but don’t expect anything too involved: you’ll mostly be repeating the same gameplay loop of exploring areas, chatting to NPCs and beating up enemies. Most of these quests (some of which involve painfully-drawn-out galaxy-hopping) will reward you with Kyber Bricks, The Skywalker Saga’s version of gold bricks, of which there are a total of 1,166 to collect – that should give you some sense of how much is packed into this game – and new characters to unlock.
It means there’s basically always something to do, though such is the nature of LEGO video games that you’ll probably want to complete at least one trilogy of movies before you venture out into free play mode. Exploring the galaxy isn’t as much fun when you realise you’ve yet to unlock a character within a particular class, and can’t complete a puzzle or mission you’ve encountered, so best to make your way through some of the story first.
Seventeen years ago, TT Games struck oil with LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game. It hasn’t quite repeated the same trick with LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga – the pace is too brisk, the story choices frequently bizarre, the voice acting jarring – and there are one too many familiar (and perhaps inescapable) ingredients in the mix.
And yet, there’s still enough here to elevate The Skywalker Saga above and beyond the rest of the studio’s LEGO library. It’s ambitious, enormous and – perhaps most importantly – fun, whether you’re tearing through waves of battle droids or gunning down TIE Fighters. We’ve finally moved beyond the basic formula of LEGO video games for something that feels genuinely fresh – even if all the shiny stuff is on the surface – while still capturing that sense that you’re just playing around inside a giant toy box.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch and PC. Check out our dedicated hub for ways to buy, and the best version of the game to aim for.
— FAQs —
When did LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga come out?
What platforms is LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga on and is it cross-platform?
Is LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga multiplayer?
How many characters are in LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga?
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga contains the biggest character roster of any LEGO game to date, drawing from all three Star Wars trilogies, its spin-off films and TV shows across the core game and downloadable content. The base game includes 376 characters, while the DLC takes the final total to 415.