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‘LEGO Star Wars’ Is Rebuilding ‘The Skywalker Saga’ Brick by Brick

There was a lot of chatter about EA’s “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” at E3 this year, but that wasn’t the only “Star Wars” game on display. Freshly announced at Microsoft’s media briefing earlier this week, “LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga” combines all nine core “Star Wars” movies, including the yet-to-be-released “The Rise of Skywalker,” into one game. Considering that there have already been LEGO games adapting the first eight movies, you might think “The Skywalker Saga” is simply an HD remake with one new title thrown in. But Game Director James McLoughlin says that’s not the case; every “Star Wars” adventure was “built from the ground up.

“This isn’t an HD remake,” McLoughlin said in an interview with Variety. “We have new AI, we have new camera systems, we have new combat, we have new shooting… we wanted to do a whole new overhaul of all of our technology, which essentially has meant that we’ve designed the game completely different.”

The biggest change to the saga is the newfound sense of freedom found in every story. If you’re playing through “Return of the Jedi,” you could head straight to the Sarlacc pit for Jabba’s theatrics and play through a story mission. Alternately, you can switch up your character and roam Tatooine’s vast deserts, checking out the Skywalker and Kenobi homesteads before heading over to Mos Eisley for some drinks and debauchery.

While the more recent “LEGO” games have incorporated some elements of exploratory freedom into the gameplay between levels, “The Skywalker Saga” takes it even further. “Jedi” would have been a very different movie if, instead of helping his rebel friends, Lando Calrissian hopped back in the Millennium Falcon and took off for another planet, but that’s exactly what this game lets you do.

“We get more rope than anyone,” McLoughlin said of the development team’s relationship with Lucasfilm. Most “Star Wars” stories are serious affairs made with strict compliance to canon and lore, but the “LEGO” games are all about telling familiar stories in new ways, and that’s what “LEGO Star Wars” has always done. It’s a much more humorous telling of an epic saga, with plenty of hidden gags designed to make the player smile.

The focus on exploration has changed how “LEGO Star Wars” tells its stories. Instead of a lot of linear levels, each episode of “The Skywalker Saga” has five “story moments” that encompass the major beats of each movie. Each story moment is only about 10-15 minutes long; story moments might also be boss fights or vehicle sections. While that makes each episode seem rather brief, McLoughlin said, “The world itself is obviously huge. We expect players to spend a lot of time there, as well as exploring all the little nooks and crannies of all the different planets and locations we give them.”

One thing that surprised McLoughlin about fans’ reactions to the announcement trailer: “There’s been a big response about the mumble,” he said. In earlier “LEGO” games, there wasn’t any voice acting, so characters spoke in an incoherent mumble while conveying their dialogue through physical movements and context clues. The CG trailer used a “mumble script” to evoke the nostalgia of the previous games, while in the E3 show floor demo, “we’ll have the voices because we expect people will want the voices. And then people are like, we want the mumble.” The response could lead to some changes in the final game: “We’re going to go back to the team and see what we can do because we didn’t have that in the plan originally.”

You may have noticed that there are nine stories in “LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga,” but only eight movies (at least until “The Rise of Skywalker” concludes the 42-year story on December 20). So what do the developers know that we don’t?

“Nothing!” McLoughlin insisted with a laugh. “And that’s not a line, it’s the truth.” Instead, the team at Traveller’s Tales are working on “The Phantom Menace” through “The Last Jedi,” and by the time those episodes are done, “Lucas[film] will be sharing those kinds of things.” “It’s kind of good because I don’t want it ruined for myself,” he told us.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of LEGO’s licensing partnership with “Star Wars,” and 14 years since the first “LEGO Star Wars” video game was released. Kids who were playing it back in 2005 might have kids of their own now, and McLoughlin sees “The Skywalker Saga” as a story that spans generations. “We want to make a game that people can play with their kids and kind of experience ‘Star Wars’ like they may have experienced it like 10 to 15 years ago,” he said.

“LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga” may not be an HD remake, but it certainly looks gorgeous. More importantly, it appears to have captured the effortless humor and satisfying gameplay that make the “LEGO” games such fun escapes from reality. Naturally, you won’t get your hands on it until after “The Rise of Skywalker” has had its theatrical run; you can play it on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch next year.

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