VR, check. Blasters, check. Lightsabers, check. Yoda, check. Kowakian Monkey-Lizards, check. Any questions?
Reviewed by Liam Noble Shearer
A Long Time Ago, in a Game rather Quick to Play
The last time we checked in with ILMxLAB, they had just put out Vader Immortal, the award-winning Star Wars VR experience. At that time, Creative Director Mark Miller was pretty honest about what the title hoped to achieve: ILMxLAB wanted to "tell a new and unique story about one of the most infamous villains in the galaxy." As a result, and although it was a dazzling bit of fun, Vader Immortal was basically a cinematic Star Wars movie on rails.
Galaxy's Edge may be the third VR compatible Star Wars title released this year, but let's get one thing straight: with Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge, ILMxLAB were going for something completely different. This time around, you're not in an X-Wing or taking on Darth Vader one-on-one. Instead, Galaxy's Edge is aiming for something a lot more like an open-world FPS. So, how does it shape up?
Back to Batuu
Hopping in the shoes of an unnamed droid technical, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge sees you exploring Batuu's Black Spire Outpost, battling pirates and blasting your way through to campaign completion.
The entire game takes place in and around Batuu, the planet invented for the Disney World Galaxy's Edge attraction. In fact, fans of the the attraction may even notice a few familiar places and faces, like Mubo's Droid Repair Shop. But that's the extent of the connection, really. Instead, the rest of Batuu is fleshed out a lot more. While the areas you'll see in the theme park are visible in the game, this is mainly through the windows of Seezelslak's Cantina - so don't expect to be getting a VR walkthrough of everything the attraction has to offer.
That being said, reports have revealed the Disney World imagineers are currently hard at work implementing Seezelslak's Cantina IRL, as well as a few other key locations in the game, to help the whole experience feel consistent in canon.
However, don't assume that Batuu is some super-expensive open-world straight out of the box. There's enough to keep you occupied, sure. But whereas Vader Immortal was a narratively driven episodic experience, Galaxy's Edge aspires to be more of an open-world "hub." The intention is for Batuu to become an expansive living and breathing world. The downside: that's only after you pay for all the future DLC. The amount of space the base game takes place in, as well as the number of activities there are for you to do, will leave you underwhelmed.
While the world is exceptionally well designed and looks stunning, I would be lying if I said it looks much like the Star Wars. Batuu is basically a sometimes-kinda-sandy, sometime-kinda-dirty generic sci-fi rock planet. If it weren't for the droids everywhere, I might assume I'm playing Halo in VR.
A New Kind of Grind
Galaxy's Edge implements narrative elements and gameplay elements fantastically. Given that it's the developers second time around producing a AAA-quality Star Wars VR title, the virtual reality execution is absolutely flawless, intuitive and exceptionally comfortable.
While I've seen ILMxLAB get a lot of stick for the fact that the difficulty stays basically uniform the whole way through, I actually found it to be rather refreshing to feel the effects of my own improvement so profoundly. The enemies don't really seem to get all that weaker, but you'll certainly feel yourself getting much more skilled.
Instead of unlocking new weapons, it's all about scavenging what you can from your opponents or weapons crates. This means you never get too attached to any equipment, which helps motivate you to keep things fresh the whole way through. There's also the combat droids that, being a droid repair-man, you can use in battle. There's a nice mix of enemies - some ground-based and some flying - but not a lot of variation in the ways you fight them. Upon reflection, ultimately none of them stand out as particularly interesting.
The commitment to producing something other than the cinema-on-rails-style Vader Immortal-type experience means that the game sometimes feels a bit stubborn in its reluctance to offer much help. This comes at the cost of puzzles feelings insanely confusing for the first five minutes... and then every single time after being frustrated at how samey and easy they become.
But it's all held back by the fact that the game last only a little over a couple of hours. In fact, it's pretty clear the developers are shamefully aware of just how quickly it can be completed, given that there's no character upgrade system, weapon upgrade system or even equipment unlock system. The whole experience offers only one unlockable power, the jetpack, which is frankly also underwhelming.
Your jetpack gets a bit better about half-way through and... that's about it.
"I find the lack of substance... disturbing."
The Temple of Darkness DLC which comes with Galaxy's Edge, although not the main subject of this review, goes to show you the kind of gameplay variation and implementation we can expect the Galaxy's Edge is fleshed out. It takes place thousands of years before the events of the main campaign and it also features Frank Oz as Jedi Master Yoda. You'll even get to wield a lightsaber and force powers during the "interactive short story." Sadly, it only lasts a measly 15 minutes.
Temple of Darkness feels a lot more like a taste of what is to come rather than a concrete example of it. In fact, the same could be said for the entirety of Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge...
When it gets going, it's pretty phenomenal. But that's probably the most painful part - it's hard to see a single encouraging element that isn't totally devastated by the fact that the game plays like a glorified demo.
The world is bound to expand extensively with the multiple sets of DLC already pegged to launch over the next few years. Let's face it: Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge is a taste of what is to come. Do yourself a favour - wait for a few of those first before you make the plunge.
Galaxy's Edge puts a unique spin on the Star Wars VR experiences we've seen so far. ILMxLAB have really found their footing when it comes to making VR gameplay feel intuitive and, most of all, fun. But in my opinion, $25 seems way too much for what amounts to basically 4 hours of play.
Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge is out today, November 19th, on the Oculus Store for Quest and Quest 2.