by Jacob Wingate-Bishop

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a 2022 video game that combines all nine, episodic Star Wars titles into LEGO form. It is, technically, the sixth brick-based game of the franchise to be released, and without a doubt, the best example of what the LEGO brand has to offer when it comes to controllers and consoles.

Firstly, The Skywalker Saga does a staggeringly good job at embracing the mainstream ‘standard’ for open-world, free-roaming video games. In a climate like today’s, I’m unsure if a typical ‘LEGO game’ would really work anymore – episodic, linear levels that offer little in the way of real exploration beside a few nooks and crannies laden with in-game collectibles. In the mid-2000s, a game could rely on just that big, Danish-lettered brand and moments of childish humour.

‘Classic’ style LEGO minifigure of Luke Skywalker from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. (Photo credit: Gareth Bellamy/Getty Images)

Nowadays, the calibre of what can be achieved in the video game world is insane. Triple-A studios release open-world RPGs with a slew of unending content, endless patches and expansion packs. The Complete Saga, nostalgic as it is, wouldn’t survive in a tough, demanding world. It was just too small. Hell, even the brand’s presence began to shrink in their own titles. More of the levels in LEGO games were computer-generated – not made out of real-world, LEGO pieces – and began to feature voiced dialogue. The minifigure designs chased realism, not cute simplicity. What’s so bricks-and-blocks about that?

By expanding into a game that stands up as its own decent bit of free-roaming homage, The Skywalker Saga allows itself to be enjoyed by over-ten-year-olds, and audiences outside of the loyal LEGO flock. I admit I came to the game for LEGO and the nostalgia, but I stayed for a well-crafted level design, where the plot was almost secondary. Collectibles in this game are no longer rewards for wandering two steps off the beaten path. They’re locked behind puzzles, some of which are genuinely challenging. The replayability of the game is hammered into each level, with unlockable characters down the line who have abilities you’ll need for that big, shiny object.

There’s also a new combat system for the revitalised, comprehensive game. It’s not going to rival For Honor, but it’s progressed from previous LEGO Star Wars titles. That is to say, there is one. It’s not just button-mashing – you get attack combos, and can even begin to craft your own preferred ways of fighting. There’s cover you can build and hide behind, akin to a first-person shooter. This game feels much more like a depthy RPG – I adore 2007’s The Complete Saga (which encompassed the original and prequel trilogies), but I would be hard-pressed to return to it now and play more than a few levels without bashing my skull in due to its forced simplicity.

(L-R) Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, Chris Gollaher, Jill Wilfert, Douglas Reilly and Yvette Nicole Brown attend the ‘The Summer of LEGO Star Wars’ panel at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California on May 27, 2022. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is no flawless release, though. With all these new features and abilities, the game has a habit of throwing a lot at you, with little time to process them. Before I’d got to grips with my character, I was thrust into a ‘ship’ level, trying to shoot at massive fish from a Gungan sub without behind eaten – all sorts of flashy collectibles and loud noises going off in the background. At times, this game is like an LSD trip on an empty stomach. And whilst that spontaneous kind of mayhem makes the LEGO games what they are, it’s not always a good thing.

There’s also a lot of empty space at points. As I wandered the free-roam area of Theed (on the planet Naboo for you nerds), it was almost desolate. There’s collectibles and puzzles, of course – plenty of things to destroy for a quick, in-game buck – but between them, empty streets. I get it, as with most RPGs, you can’t have entirely populated towns; you can’t programme in hundreds of different NPCs with radiant AI. But for a title with this much newfound exploration and open space, there’s not enough to fill it.

But there are random encounters, a staple of any sandbox RPG. You can fly into space and end up in the middle of a dogfight, choosing to take down rebel scum or the evil Empire. There’s vast, terrifying battleships ready to take down and explore in their own right. Side quests involve you traveling to entirely different planets and tracking down multiple people. It’s incredibly packed when it needs to be, and there’s always something else to do, build, or solve.

It’s not going to rival the likes of The Witcher, or even The Elder Scrolls instalments, but LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a thoroughly enjoyable game, and one which stands up as an incredibly expansive world, beside the big-name brand. It has charm, ounces of playful humour, finesse and a plethora of things to keep you occupied. There are puzzles to ponder, and shiny things to collect, all the while remaining an amusing – yet faithful – reimagining of, quite possibly, the best work of science-fiction ever made.