The brand-new LEGO Star Wars game, The Skywalker Saga, launches on Xbox in just a couple of weeks on April 5th, and thanks to the folks at Warner Bros. Interactive, we had a chance to get hands-on with the game last week and see whether it's living up to the hype so far. There's a lot of anticipation behind this one, especially considering it appears to be the biggest LEGO game ever made, and based on our initial impressions, we're pleased to report it's everything we hoped it would be so far, and we can't wait to get stuck in with the full game.
Our play session was limited to an hour of gameplay from the original Star Wars (A New Hope), but we also tried to explore a few side-activities and play around with a few extra things. In case you haven't heard, The Skywalker Saga doesn't recycle any content from The Complete Saga or The Force Awakens games, so everything you see is completely new. Missions are the standard fare for a LEGO game, requiring you to complete basic tasks, solve easy-ish puzzles and destroy enemies to progress, but they're also a bit more open than in previous games, allowing you to essentially pause mid-mission while you go off and explore other activities in the open world.
In terms of gameplay, it's what you'd expect from a LEGO game, but with a few neat additions. Firstly, the camera is zoomed-in and lower down, which means The Skywalker Saga's impressive visuals are able to stand out a bit more, and it gives the game a unique look. Another thing we really like is the combo system, which allows you to vary your attacks and give yourself a boost in terms of the Studs you can earn. Take lightsaber attacks, for example — you can use a mix of the 'A', 'X' and 'B' buttons against enemies to chain a selection of basic moves together, and you're rewarded by getting a temporary 'X1' or 'X2' increase to the LEGO Studs you collect. Ultimately, the game feels fun, accessible and familiar to play, but also features a welcome degree of freshness.
Speaking of collecting things, we only had a chance to scratch the surface in regards to collectibles, but it looks like this game is absolutely packed with them. You've got 'True Jedi' style goals for each level, minikits to find, challenges to complete, hundreds of characters and ships to obtain, and much more. Then, you've got all the side activities in the various open world areas. There are over 100 side-missions to complete in the game away from the main storyline, and a whopping 731 (!) puzzles to take on, which are smaller (but potentially difficult) tasks that provide you with Kyber Bricks, a new form of currency in the game. Rest assured, you're going to be putting a massive number of hours into The Skywalker Saga if you want to achieve 100% completion.
Another thing that we absolutely love is the attention to detail in this game. We're only three missions into it, but we've already seen so many great touches that feel uniquely LEGO Star Wars. In the first mission when you're controlling Princess Leia, Rebels will stop and salute you every time you go past them. In the next one, Luke Skywalker can choose to break C-3PO apart and use the droid's body as a throwing weapon, and then you can watch his body and legs walk around independently from one another as you progress onwards. There are so many little things like this scattered within the first few missions of A New Hope alone, so we can't wait to see what other treats the game has in store throughout its other eight episodes and beyond.
The Skywalker Saga understands the humour of the original LEGO Star Wars games, too. Cutscenes are frequently hilarious and get the story across without taking anything too seriously, and the voice acting - while not spot on - is close enough to the original voices that it doesn't become distracting in a bad way. We also tried out the Mumble Mode that allows you to turn off the voices in favour of grunts like the old LEGO Star Wars games, and it's a surprisingly great addition. We still prefer to play with the voices on (the mouth movements in cutscenes are mapped to the voices), but Mumble Mode provides a worthy alternative, and you can tell a lot of care was put into it.
There are a few other things we observed but didn't really a chance to delve into very much. The game's upgrade system, for example, allows you to trade Studs or Kyber Bricks in return for improved abilities. We only unlocked one of them in the form of a faster default running speed, but it seems like there are many you can add to various characters as time goes on, so it'll be interesting to see how they alter the gameplay. Another thing to point out is that levels still have character-specific tasks, even if those characters aren't part of the original story, which means you'll need to go back in Free Play mode if you want to complete absolutely everything.
The whole user interface is different this time around too, and it seems generally well-designed. Helpful hints pop up and now again to guide you through the game's many features, and mission markers always at least point you in the general direction of where you need to go next. Just occasionally, there are times where it could be a little more obvious that you need to stand in a certain position to press a button or move something around, but that's only a minor grumble. Maybe that's just us being a bit oblivious...!
We've come away from this hands-on preview really excited for the full version of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, then, and we barely saw any of it to be honest. One hour was nowhere near enough time for us to get to the end of A New Hope (although we did also explore a few other things in-between missions), but we can already tell that The Skywalker Saga is shaping up to be a classic LEGO game, and quite possibly one of the best Star Wars games to date. Let's not get too ahead of ourselves before the full game arrives, but it seems like The Force is strong with this one.
Excited for the release of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga on Xbox? Tell us in the comments.