Hoo boy, have I been waiting a long time for this.
Open-world games are a dime a dozen these days, or ten cents to a baker if you’re an Aussie… or something. Either way, we’re not overly starved for worlds to invest
in. But sometimes these open playspaces lack a certain something
. Maybe it’s having to pick up all the stray pieces of an entirely new IP and learn all of its nuance, or maybe it’s just gawking at a set of awesome without being inspired by its main characters or overall presentation; “this’d be great if only it was set against that
franchise” kind of thing.
I’ve wanted a truly open-world Star Wars
experience since I realised open-world games were my jam as far back as Super Mario 64
(it was, fight me). And while the very recent and quite awesome Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
is a very, very open experience, it’s just not quite the droid I’ve been looking for, specifically.
Ahead of coming to Summer Game Fest
as a guest of Ubisoft
we knew it had two unannounced games set to be revealed at the event, and as a betting man, I put all my Credits on at least one of them being the open-world Star Wars game we knew had been in the works for some time. And, with Jedi Survivor now out to pasture, it just sort of made sense. My all-in bet, however, still didn’t prepare me for just how mind-blowing Star Wars Outlaws would be. Here’s a game about scoundrels and the Star Wars underworld set between the events of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
. I mean, that’s at the height of bounty hunter and Hutt and syndicate and… well, you get the idea.
Outlaws then is very much a love letter to Star Wars fans like me which the game’s developer, Ubisoft Massive, clearly also is. We meet Kay Vess
, a slightly down on her luck wannabe thief who finds herself increasingly embedded in trouble. And she likes it. The life of a rogue is definitely for her, and together with her furry sidekick, Nix
, she dreams of increasingly bigger scores and of being out from under the thumb of the oppressive Empire. Even the way Massive has visually designed Kay is a throwback to the original trilogy, right down to her very 80s (yet still in vogue) hair. Her look, demeanour and aspirations all scream 80s and I love her and Massive for that. This is the right kind of nostalgia-made-modern, and it’s in that modernity aspect that this game screams loudest.
"In our short view of the game we saw Kay attempting to stealthily extract herself and Nix from a syndicate base after having nabbed something from them...”
We actually managed to see a chunk of gameplay while at Ubisoft Forward and can say with confidence, this is definitely up there when it comes to open-world experiences. It is heavily tailored, in parts, which is par for the licence course when working with a brand like Star Wars, but that’s not to say agency has gone out the window. In our short view of the game we saw Kay attempting to stealthily extract herself and Nix from a syndicate base after having nabbed something from them. You can direct Nix to create distractions, attack people or push buttons. In this instance our demo driver had him push a button that allowed Kay to climb onto a piece of moving machinery to maintain her stealth. At a point, however, she slips up (this was deliberate to highlight that not everything always goes to plan and the game itself is actually quite dynamic), and is forced to fight her way out.
This is very much a cover-ish third-person action-adventure-shooter game, and Kay’s blaster, we learnt, is especially designed for her with a number of modes to help deal with just about any scenario. As a scoundrel, and in a game where Credits are key, she’ll be able to upgrade and add new, more helpful modes as your journey goes on, but in this brief demo we saw, at the very least, she not only handled the situation with calm and aplomb, but was capable and armed and ready for just such a fallout.
"Big jumps, sharp manoeuvres and a lot of dare showcased just how frenetic and dangerous Kay’s world is going to be...”
Making quick her escape, Kay jumped onto her speeder bike, one the devs at Massive say was actually influenced by Motocross bikes and that world of riding, and as a quick bike chase ensued, we could see how. Big jumps, sharp manoeuvres and a lot of dare showcased just how frenetic and dangerous Kay’s world is going to be. While riding I did happen to notice some similarities to Red Dead Redemption
, specifically related to Dead Eye from that game where time slowed and Kay was able to actively target enemies to knock them from their vehicles.
Once she was clear of danger, we learnt that these events too place on the wind-swept moon of Toshara which acts as the game’s central hub, but Massive was quick to point out this isn’t just an ‘open-world’ game, it’s an open-galaxy and Kay can travel to many destinations -- some franchise-known, some not. Additionally, there will also be familiar faces to fans of that era of Star Wars, as well as many new, which is an exciting prospect.
"Two things happened here: she definitely walked away with more Credits in her pocket, but an immediate “WANTED” tag was made on her forcing her to leave the moon...”
We also witnessed a portion of the dynamic nature of the game where, after presenting her employer with the goods she just lifted from the syndicate she escaped from, Kay had a choice to either bribe an Imperial higher-up, or take a slightly higher ground and refuse. Two things happened here: she definitely walked away with more Credits in her pocket, but an immediate “WANTED” tag was made on her forcing her to leave the moon. This was a great way to show that there is choice and consequence in the game (incidentally, she also now has a bad rep with the syndicate she stole from, so your standing with various factions in the game is equally dynamic and important), and it forced her to make another exit -- this time into space.
Kay has her own ship called the Trailblazer, and when you fly it, you fly it in real-time. This means you leave the planet, break the atmosphere, enter space, dog-fight (if necessary), and then go into hyperspace to jump between sectors. Seamlessly. And I can’t stress that last point enough. One minute we were on the moon or Toshara, riding a speeder and escaping the baddies and the next it looked like we’d entered the Hoth system. And it all happened without any loading screens and certainly a bunch of Force magic… or something.
Star Wars Outlaws is the real deal. At least, it is so far. Just how deep it goes and how much freedom you have, is still content we need to see, but for the moment, I’m hooked. It has a worn-in patina that just echoes the OG trilogy and the world(s) feels alive
. For me, that was almost enough, but Kay and Nix’s relationship, her own attitude and desires and then all the moving parts we saw in an admittedly limited demo just sold me on this being the ultimate Star Wars Scoundrel fantasy. And who doesn’t want that in their lives?
All that’s left now is to live in the world and make a name for myself. 2024 cannot come quick enough.