Platform: PlayStation 4
Review Date: 6/19/22
This is quite possibly the definitive "Star Wars" gaming experience, and is literally bursting with content and super deep references. I'm a huge "Star Wars" nerd, and even I found myself having to look up numerous things that I wasn't aware of. As you would expect, "The Skywalker Saga" covers all nine movies that make up the main story arc. The game engine was rewritten from the ground up, and Episodes 1-7 have been completely revised rather than just rehashed from the previous games. The basic Lego formula, however, remains the same. You have to play the entire game in Story Mode before the world opens up and you can play in Free Play mode. There's also a Galaxy Mode where you can visit any planets you've unlocked for additional missions, puzzles, and challenges, and that makes up the vast majority of the game. Lego studs remain the currency of the realm (no Republic credits here!), while kyber bricks and data cards can be used to upgrade abilities and unlock special features.
There are a whopping 385 characters to unlock and nine different character classes including heroes, villains, Jedi, Sith, scoundrels, scavengers, bounty hunters, astromechs, and protocol droids. There's also a tenth class of "extra" characters that have no special abilities, but they're still fun to play. Even Willrow Hood and his ice cream maker from "The Empire Strikes Back" is included in the roster, but it's curious that Admiral Ozzel, Captain Needa, General Veers, and Captain Piett didn't make the cut. Unfortunately, the voice acting is hit-and-miss and a lot of it is downright cringe-worthy. Hearing an Aqualish with a Texan southern drawl or a Gran with a Scottish accent is just WRONG. James Arnold Taylor and Matt Lanter reprise their roles as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker from "The Clone Wars," so they sound like a natural fit, while the other actors try to emulate the original movie actors with varying degrees of success. Billy Dee Williams is on hand to voice Lando Calrissian, but his delivery is disappointingly flat. Anthony Daniels always seems willing to represent C-3PO, although his neurotic chatter becomes tiresome after a while. Given the long duration of the game, it's easy to get fed up with the constant and annoying dialog, and I eventually opted for a completely silent team. You also have the option to turn off the voiceovers altogether with Mumble Mode, which emulates the original "Lego Star Wars" games. Unfortunately, that's not as clever or enjoyable as I was hoping.
It was also nice that I could assemble a completely female team, including R2-KT as my astromech of choice (another deep reference). Sadly, even with the vast amount of characters at your disposal, you'll probably find your top six pretty quickly and just stick with them for most of the game. The writing is fun and clever, and while a lot of the humor falls flat, there are a number of genuinely funny laugh-out-loud moments. Whereas Darth Vader was the source of endless teasing in the earlier Lego games, that role has now been given to Kylo Ren, who is hilariously made fun of the entire time (and rightly so). I can now view shirtless Ren as a source of humor instead of a painful reminder of the dreadful "The Last Jedi." The game writers are clearly fans and have a strong affinity with the material, so they know exactly what other fans want to see in the game.
Unfortunately, the game is incredibly buggy and plagued with problems. The dev team underestimated how disruptive the new game engine would be and the project ended up running three years late. Even so, it feels like an unpolished and incomplete masterpiece. It has numerous performance problems, and often times the game will literally grind to a halt and you won't be able to move. This becomes especially problematic when you're trying to chase someone or have a time-sensitive task to complete. The map is mostly helpful, but it's difficult to use and not entirely accurate as it often shows things that aren't there, and hides things that should be there. Some challenges and mini-games are simply broken and there are a handful of bugs that limit you from making progress in the game. I hit one of these in Episode III where I was kicked out of the final chapter and wasn't able to replay it. That was infuriating. Fortunately, patch v1.05 came out after about a month that addressed the most serious problems and I was able to continue playing.
The game also suffers from some poor design decisions. It's almost a joke how many speedbumps previous Lego games presented you with before you get to the main menu, and "The Skywalker Saga" is no exception. While you do get the option to skip past the intro animation and the SIX different corporate logos, you're also presented with an unskippable epilepsy warning that you have to manually dismiss, and Rey's voiceover on the main menu becomes really irritating after the first hundred times you hear it. That was really poorly thought out. Story Mode is frustrating because of the amount of tedious walking missions that literally have you following someone back and forth across town. However, Story Mode does include some very clever and funny title text and cutscenes, but you can't revisit those unless you start a whole new game. That seems like a really bad design choice. Additionally, the accompanying title music is compressed and poorly edited, which is very grating. It's like they want to get past the title text as quickly as possible, because we know how much people don't like to read.
The in-game menu is overstuffed and overly confusing. Even after playing for 100 hours, I still had trouble selecting characters and ships, and it was never clear how to fill out my roster. The purpose of the capital ships is also unclear, and once you select one, it shows up in the sky of every planet forever. Although sometimes it goes away. And then there are times when you can't get one to show up at all, which was the case when I was trying to unlock the last two. You can purchase hints and rumors from the menu, which give you clues on how to obtain certain kyber bricks and characters. These are also offered by the useless and redundant H1-NT protocol droid, which is by far the most annoying character in the game. He's a sassy robot who simply won't shut up, sort of like Conan O'Brien in "Lego Batman 3" (2014). The taxi droids come in a close second.
Overall, "The Skywalker Saga" is a flawed, but immensely enjoyable game for "Star Wars" and Lego fans alike. It looks fantastic and captures the essence of what makes the "Star Wars" universe so endearing and iconic. It may also be the last Lego game we ever see, given the immense challenges that Traveler's Tales had while making it. Is there a future for the series or has it run its course? Are there any other pop culture franchises that haven't been explored and exploited yet?