Lego Star Wars isn’t known for sophisticated combat, a lost opportunity considering its source material. Not that that’s stopped the games from being seriously fun, but developer TT Games has taken the opportunity to elevate the combat in Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga to new heights.
We’ve been playing the new game - and, for the record, it’s a delight - and the real highlight is the new and improved combat system. Trailers for Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga hinted at significant changes, but we weren’t prepared for how much it changed the game.
A New Hope for an old game
Our demo was limited to Episode IV, which I was more than happy with - the first licensed Lego game I played was Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy so diving into this revamped version of A New Hope hit me with all of the feels.
At first, only Leia and Captain Antilles were playable, but as with previous entries, you unlock more characters and classes as you explore, including Jedi, scavengers, scoundrels, bounty hunters, villains, dark side, astromech droids, and protocol droids.
The first major change that filters into combat is the new skill tree. These abilities and upgrades aren’t character specific. Instead, it applies to either all your unlocked characters or by class. For instance, I unlocked speedy sprint which gave all my hero class characters the power to sprint 10% faster. To progress through your skill tree you’ll need to find yourself some Kyber bricks by filling up the sections in your True Jedi stud collection bar - which sits at the top of the screen, teasing how close you are to a new upgrade. You can also find them hidden around levels, receive them as quest rewards, and inside Kyber comets, which you find can bust open as you traverse the galaxy.
If you’re familiar with the Lego games an obvious change is the new interface. To the right of the screen now lives a combo meter, as well as an objective tracker, and health is no longer represented as hearts beneath the character icon, but rather a health bar above the characters’ head - the same goes for enemies, too.
These health bars are a nod to the new combat focus, giving you and your co-op partners more information on how a fight’s going from moment to moment. Important information to have because changes to how each class fights means you now have more involved encounters with your enemies.
Blaster-wielding characters, for example, require more skill than ever before. The new over-the-shoulder perspective and ability to aim down sights to target specific body parts and knock off pieces of enemy armor is a breath of fresh air. In the older games combat was basically a lot of button bashing until the enemy fell down. The new cover system adds another tactical element to blaster battles, though I found it a little clunky to begin with.
Of course, the most important weapon to get right is the lightsaber. The Jedi’s weapon has always felt lacking in past Lego games, you’d stroll through battles swinging it left and right but it didn’t feel particularly directed. Now, thanks to the new combo system and different attack types it feels vastly superior to its predecessors.
Plus, with the variety of move sets across different character classes, there’s a lot more potential in chaining attacks, and you can counter attacks to sustain your combos, and block or deflect incoming fire. There are just so many more options in combat from moment to moment.
Even droids have been given a boost. They’ll no longer be targetted by enemies, which makes them great for causing mischief in the middle of a battle - you can use protocol terminals, for instance, to remotely manipulate controls in ships.
Dumb stormtroopers, no more
Stormtroopers have never been the sharpest tool in the space shed. Weakminded, easily distracted, and a terrible shot, they pose no more of a threat than a begrudging parent at a laser tag birthday party.
However, the Empire’s rank and file have had some schooling in Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. Now, they will act tactically in fights and actually anticipate player actions in a more intelligent way. Sadly, this means spamming ground stab is no longer a viable strategy.
We didn’t face any bosses in our time with The Skywalker Saga, but from the footage we’ve seen, this will be another area of massive change. Boss battles are more involved than in the older games, and the addition of new timing and focus cues in lightsaber battles makes for more complex combat. The boss health meter also features white shield markers to indicate incoming waves of enemy infantry.
The ultimate Lego Star Wars
Even without the complete combat overhaul in The Skywalker Saga, this is a properly exciting Lego game. It lets you dive into the films in any order - which is a savvy move considering there are multiple ways to watch the Star Wars movies, and there are lots of routes through each level, letting you direct how you want to play, from playing it safe or going in all guns blazing.
There are multiple hub areas of towns and settlements where you can free play, which are populated with a huge variety of characters and mountable creatures and vehicles. Riding a Gonk across Tatooine for one of the free play side quests in the demo was a dream come true, and that was just one of many optional NPC interactions I could have explored.
Crucially, the game has not lost what has always made Lego games so distinctly charming. Cutscenes and game features are still laced with slapstick and nonsense, whether you choose to listen to the dialogue voice-overs or classic Lego mumble mode, but never at the expense of the authenticity of the Star Wars franchise. The attention to detail in the game is at an all-time high, and altogether feels like the natural conclusion to a wonderful 17 years of Lego Star Wars… for now, at least.
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga releases on April 5 2022, and will be available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Microsoft Windows, and Nintendo Switch. I can’t wait to see how the whole game comes together and make my way through the entire series - and perhaps I can finally enjoy The Rise of Skywalker in some context.