More Star Wars? Really? We wouldn’t blame you in the slightest if your reaction to more Star Wars, whether it be of the film, TV series or video game variety, was somewhat apathetic at this stage given the sheer amount of it we’ve had thrown at us in recent years. Indeed, as we sat down to boot up this latest LEGO Star Wars adventure, we couldn’t help but wonder if we were particularly up for diving into this universe from scratch all over again.
However, after just a handful of minutes — yes, minutes — with LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, well… we were completely hooked in and ready to savour every moment of this epic space adventure once more. TT Games has served up a spectacular re-treading of the three trilogies here, combining fast and frantic campaign missions that bounce from set-piece to set-piece as they take in all the big moments from the movies, and a huge open world that’s absolutely stuffed to the gills with secrets, puzzles and exploration to dig into in your downtime. It’s a Star Wars fan’s fever dream and, for our Galactic Credits at least, the very best LEGO game this developer has made to date. Yep, it’s that good.
Of course, the big question with regards to this Switch version in particular is does it run ok? Can Nintendo’s hybrid console handle all of this hot Jedi action without melting like so much Mustafarian lava in your hands? Well, we’re very pleased to say, it does a stand-up job. This is the best we’ve seen a Lego game perform on the Switch so far and, although there is the odd stumble here and there along the way — which we’ll get to talking about in due course — for 99% of our time with this one we were hugely impressed with how well it looked, played and handled.
If you’ve been following along with development of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, you’ll likely already know about all the biggest gameplay changes and improvements that have been made to what’s come before in LEGO Star Wars games. Combat has been overhauled entirely here with a new combo system giving you much more to dig your teeth into with regards to melee action. Get up into a stormtrooper’s face and you’ll need to use light, heavy and jump attacks to pull off a variety of moves as spamming just one button will lead to your foe blocking everything that’s thrown their way. There are counter attacks added to the mix too, with a great big “X” appearing over enemy heads when you’ve got the opportunity to flip their incoming assault around to your advantage, resulting in close quarters combat that moves well away from the one-button drubbings of old towards something that feels much more satisfying to get stuck into. It’s not exactly Devil May Cry or God of War – this is a kid’s game first and foremost, after all – but it’s a big improvement.
Get a lightsaber in your hands and these improvements continue, with block automatically deflecting all incoming laser fire in a satisfyingly slick manner as you move forward and lay into opponents with combinations of flashy attacks. You can also fling your saber to cause ranged damage and even send it ricocheting around environments to have it cut down scenery for sneaky attacks. Combine all of this with some sweet force powers that let you fling objects and enemies around and mind tricks that allow you to confuse, scare and even take control of foes to have them do your bidding (we like to walk them off the nearest cliff) and Jedis feel pretty darn awesome to control here.
Gun-toting characters are catered to with an all-new over-the-shoulder camera angle taking effect when you decide to come over all pew-pew-pew, and the game even has a slick Gears of War-style cover system, snapping you into the nearest safe place and allowing you to pop in and out to get your shots off – heck, you can even barrel from cover to cover with a press of ‘B’ to close in on enemies whilst keeping your head down.
With this new cover system and over-the-shoulder camera view combined, the corridor blasting sequences here come to life like never before in a LEGO Star Wars game and the intro moments of A New Hope, with Vader and his crew invading the Tantive IV, provide a bombastic opening that shows off all of these new gameplay mechanics in their very best light. This is LEGO Star Wars like you’ve never experienced it before.
TT Games has also, as usual, made fantastic use of original movie sound samples as all of this blasting and whooshing of lightsabers is going down, with every weapon, door and enemy in the game sounding exactly as it should do, resulting in battles that you just can’t help but get swept up in. It’s an absolute nostalgia tsunami.
There’s new depth provided in the many skill trees you’ll dig into for each class of character too, giving you the chance to beef up your core skills — health, attack power, sprint speed and so on — as well as specialising a little in the direction of your choosing. You can pump points into your Jedi powers, for example, beefing up your force pull or having your mind tricks last that little bit longer, maybe make your scavenger’s glider whoosh through the air a little faster or increase the blast radius of your bounty hunter’s shock grenades. There are a total of nine classes to work with and you’ll need to swap them out on-the-fly continuously during open world play and in main missions in order to solve all the puzzles and grab all the secrets and collectibles thrown your way.
Of all the changes that have been made for this latest Star Wars adventure, however, it’s likely the new open world aspect of proceedings in which prospective players are most interested, and in this regard they’re in for quite the treat. It may not be a true “open world” that can be traversed from one side to the other without a loading screen – fair enough when your story spans an entire galaxy – but what you do get here is pretty much every major location from all three trilogies to tool around in at your leisure. From Tatooine, Hoth and the forests of Endor to Coruscant, Kamino, Naboo, Jakku and many more, you’re let loose to wander, taking in the sights, exploring and, of course, solving the endlessly clever puzzles that dot every inch of the landscape.
It’s not just planet-side activities, either. Oh no, this time around you can hop into your favourite spaceship and take to the skies to engage in surprisingly fluid dogfights against enemy forces; barrel-rolling and flipping and launching proton torpedoes as you go. You can partake in wave-based smuggling runs that put your TIE-destroying skills to the test, tear meteors apart for prizes and roll up alongside friendly faces to take on a range of space-based side missions.
All told, the level of freedom afforded to players here really is quite breathtaking and in-between story missions, or in Galaxy Free Play mode, you can select any character/location combo from all the episodes you’ve unlocked (that’s over 300 characters and 24 locations in total) to get stuck in to collecting Kyber Bricks (the means by which you’ll unlock the game’s many class-based upgrades) alongside all of the minikits, ships, secrets, side missions, challenges and trials you can shake a filthy Sith at.
There’s a staggering amount of side activities to engage in, and the game keeps things kid-friendly and intuitive by providing hilariously mouthy planet-side guides who are ready and waiting with tips and instructions for every aspect of play, as well as a rumours system that lets you cash in some of the LEGO studs you’ll hoover up in order to receive help as to where the next unlockable character, ship or side mission may be. You’ve got access to lots of pointers and markers and little coloured trails to guide you on your way should you need it as well, and all of this stuff can be switched off should you prefer a less busy HUD as you explore. There’s speeder bikes, Bantha and all-manner of methods of transport scattered around locations, too, so you can tear around environments at speed in search of goodies, or just take the lazy way out and jump in a space-cab to reach your next destination.
So, the open world stuff, then: it’s huge, it’s kid-friendly and it gives you an exhaustive amount of freedom to mix and match characters and locations as you please, easily shaping up to dozens of hours’ worth of top-notch exploring, collecting and puzzle-solving to dig into, but it’d still be a shadow of the game we’ve ended up with if the story side of proceedings wasn’t up to scratch. Luckily, what TT Games has provided in terms of its campaign missions here is a wonderfully fast, flashy and funny retelling of the franchise’s major plot points; a punchy procession of the very best, most memorable sequences from all nine Star Wars movies.
You (and a buddy if you’re indulging in drop-in co-op) will swoop into the trenches of the Death Star in an X-wing to deliver proton torpedo justice, take part in the Boonta Eve Classic, battle Darths Vader, Maul and Sideous, blast baddies above the Sarlacc Pit, destroy AT-AT walkers during the Battle of Hoth, escape Jakku in the Millennium Falcon, blaze through the forests of Endor on a speeder bike and so much more in your time with this one. All of this is, of course, delivered with that trademark LEGO humour and there’s plenty of sly nods and digs at some of the weaker aspects of the movies to enjoy, as well as lots of slapstick — and Stormtrooper hot tub parties — thrown in for good measure. The voice-acting is top-notch across the board and, if you’re so inclined, you can switch things up to mumble mode for the quintessential LEGO Star Wars experience. All bases are well and truly covered.
All in all, the high-octane tempo of the core campaign action here feels like a perfectly balanced accompaniment to the mostly chilled-out nature of your open world endeavours, and the zippy nature in which the game blasts through each episode (you can barrel through each movie in about two hours) helps to almost entirely neutralise any getting bogged down by boring filler. We say “almost entirely” because although TT Games has pulled some thrilling sequences out of the prequel messes, they’ve still had to beef them up with a few tedious gameplay elements — serving food in a restaurant, anyone? — in order to flesh them out. Prequel blips aside, though, this is super strong stuff for the vast majority of its running time, and in particular the original trilogy and the latest batch of movies are just non-stop high points, blasting you from set-piece to set-piece at breakneck speed as the quips, jokes and slapstick comedy moments roll in from every angle.
The campaign does an admirable job of mixing up its various gameplay mechanics, too, keeping things simple enough for younger players while still packing in plenty of vehicular action, boss fights, lightsaber duels, shootouts and puzzle elements to keep things cruising along at a nice pace. It doesn’t all come off perfectly — a handful of the boss battles are a little clunky in how they segue from gameplay to cutscene and back as they progress, for example — but for the most part this is all the classic Star Wars action you could possibly have wanted for, served up in the slickest LEGO package we’ve seen yet.
With regards to performance on Switch, as we mentioned at the top, we’ve been really impressed for the most part. In both docked and handheld modes this one looks the business and manages to hold a pretty smooth frame rate during frantic firefights, space battles and podraces alike. We did have a few sequences where things began to stutter, most notably during The Force Awakens‘ Rathtar shenanigans, and it can feel a tad sluggish in the open world here and there, but this is definitely the best-performing Star Wars game we’ve played on Nintendo’s console thus far — quite the feat when you consider it’s also the biggest and flashiest.
In terms of co-op mode, we played through the entirety of the prequel episodes with a pal in tow and although the resolution does take a noticeable — and entirely understandable — dip from time to time here, the frame rate held up surprisingly well with just the odd stutter now and again. Even big flashy battles against the likes of General Grievous performed decently in split-screen and blasting around in space together or zooming around in vehicles presented little to no issues for the vast majority of our playtime.
Yes, graphical quality has taken the expected hit when compared to other versions of the game. You’ll notice the dynamic frame rate dips and things can get a little muddy in busy open spaces but, when all’s said and done, we’re still super impressed with the Switch version. There’s still a ton of detail and fancy effects and lovingly-crafted spaces to explore here regardless of a few rough edges. The whole thing’s an absolute dream to kick back with in handheld mode, too, so much so in fact that we’re fully committed to returning to this one post-review in order to 100% the entire thing in portable mode. A sure sign of a great game.
Overall then, besides the odd lame prequel mission, and a few rough edges and frame rate bumps here and there, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is an absolute triumph on Nintendo Switch. Adjust your expectations accordingly in terms of graphical downgrades and what you’ve got is one of the very best LEGO games to date playing, looking and performing wonderfully in both docked and handheld modes. This game is an absolute treasure trove for fans of LEGO and Star Wars alike and one of our absolute highlights of 2022 thus far, a year which started with some real bangers.
There’s no such thing, it turns out, as too much Star Wars.