The LEGO games are good, in a very inoffensive way. They’re exactly what you expect – pure fan service, simple combat and puzzles where the solution is nearly always to smash something. My kids love them, they’re accessible, and you can play them with pals in split-screen.
For my eldest child, LEGO Batman 2 was his first gaming experience. One of my favourite co-op gaming moments was soaring through the sky as Superman as he tore around Gotham below me in the Batmobile. Just seeing his reaction was priceless. It might be LEGO, but you feel like the characters. It’s always worked well enough, but it’s barely evolved at all since those very first Star Wars games released.
The Skywalker Saga changes that. Here you can fly between planets in the Millennium Falcon like it’s No Man’s Sky. The camera no longer hovers in the air and is instead pulled in close where you can appreciate the characters and all their individual quirks, as well as the sand that cakes the models as you explore Tatooine. You can shoot bolt casters in third-person with free-aiming. There’s a combo system for melee so you’re not just mindlessly battering enemies until they fall apart.
When you approach planets from space, each has various landing points featuring iconic locations from across all nine Star Wars movies, from the Mos Eisley Cantina to Luke Skywalker’s house on Tatooine. There are Star Destroyer replicas made up of 18 million individual bricks. It’s vast.
As well as helping you see all these details up-close, the new camera system also rewards curiosity. Rather than simply pushing your characters out to the edge of a screen and testing a level’s boundaries, you now push forward and drive your own journey. The Skywalker Saga rewards that curiosity in the form of Kyber Bricks, a LEGO take on Zelda’s Korok seeds. See a goal and a ball in front of you? Boot the ball into the goal and one might pop – it encourages you to experiment with the systems.
There are also a range of random encounters that work to make the world remain fresh. During our hands-off demo, we see a group of Tusken Raiders chasing down a massive Bantha.
As I touched on before, the combat system has been overhauled as well, not just with combos and free-aiming of firearms, but also with force powers. In previous games, you’d simply hold down a button and LEGO bricks would whirl into place. Here you can use telekinesis freely, picking up enemies and launching them into each other.
Every character we saw had quirks that move beyond a couple of new combat animations. Take C-3PO, who falls apart as you wander around, becoming a sentient pair of legs. I didn’t see it during the E3 presentation, but I can already imagine how Kylo Ren flicks out his lightsaber before battle.
It looks like this might be the last LEGO Star Wars game for a while, but Traveller’s Tales clearly plans to send it off on a high. It could have easily cashed in and created a simple upgrade, but what I’ve seen appears to have been born in a galaxy far, far away from that initial concept.