LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga has arrived, bringing with it a wave of relief for those of us desperately in need of some much-needed joy. It might not possess the meandering, puzzle-based exploration or fantastic pacing of LEGO: The Force Awakens, but it has something else up its sleeve; ambition.
Cramming all nine films into one game means there’s a lot of paring back, but when played in order, the whole thing comes together fairly beautifully. The real game, however, is in the open-world exploration, which this time around feels vast and realised.
But what really makes The Skywalker Saga sing is its voice – the wit and weirdness inherent in any good LEGO game. I sat down with James Pugh, Story and Dialogue Writer at TT Games, to chat about what went into making this absolute cracker of a game.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Paul: How do you approach working on a game based on the entire Star Wars universe?
JAMES: With great care! We’re all huge Star Wars fans, so we were desperate to make sure we did it right. Featuring “all nine Skywalker Saga films in one game” is a pretty daunting prospect. However, there was a desire across the studio to make sure this wasn’t just a remaster of the old games and instead a completely new experience.
It took a lot of talented people to get a game like LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga off the ground, so whilst we had a team focusing on the story missions and adapting the films, we also had a group developing the planets and the open galaxy. Not to mention the bespoke game engine we were building for the game! In terms of the actual development, I have never experienced anything like it. It was a herculean effort from everyone involved and I am so proud to have been part of it.
PAUL: Which era of Star Wars was your favourite to work on from a storytelling perspective?
JAMES: Even though Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is my favourite Star Wars film, I’d probably have to say the sequels! Up until this point, we hadn’t adapted Star Wars: The Last Jedi or Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker before, so it was a chance for us to go in and parody those movies in a way no one has seen. It was certainly a challenge, but I think we got the balance spot on in the end.
For me, some of the funniest moments are in the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker levels and planets. I guess it’s because it’s the freshest. All of our jokes and gags are being told for the first time in our games, which will be a fun treat for the fans to experience.
PAUL: That’s awesome. What kind of freedoms did the team have to deviate from the source material? Is there a particularly humorous moment you can share?
JAMES: We’ve had a close relationship with Lucasfilm Games for almost twenty years, so I’m sure they weren’t surprised when we came in with all of our wild and wacky ideas! Luckily, all the best stuff made it into the game, and we continued to collaborate with them throughout the entire process. We were always mindful about keeping things authentic because, at the end of the day, this is a Star Wars game.
However, we had to put our unique spin on things. Like, for example, the Hub team are obsessed with GNK droids. Absolutely feverish for them. There’s a GNK droid beauty pageant on Pasaana and a cute little guy called “Gonkatine” who lives on Exegol. It wouldn’t be a LEGO game without that kind of stuff. I recommend that everyone goes out of their way to do any GNK droid related content they come across in the galaxy; it is all amazing.
PAUL: How do you fuse the innate playfulness of LEGO and the high-stakes world-ending plot threads of Star Wars? Do they ever contradict one another?
JAMES: Yes, they do contradict each other, but there’s humour in that juxtaposition sometimes. It wouldn’t work if we drew attention to it all the time though, but we definitely used it for comedic effect more than once. The cutscene team are experts in knowing when to ramp up the ridiculousness and when to let the moment simmer.
For this game, in particular, we really focused on the overall cinematic experience of the story mode; threading humour through the gameplay and making the epic moments feel even more cinematic in-game. It was difficult, but I think it’s ended up genuinely hilarious, whilst remaining faithfully epic. Though, the fans will be the ultimate judge of that!
PAUL: And how much open-world scope can we expect? There’s a whole galaxy in the Star Wars story, after all.
JAMES: Oh, it’s huge. Definitely the biggest open-world we’ve ever created. Pretty much every planet you’d expect to explore is there. Plus, some of them have multiple areas; Tatooine is massive because you have Mos Eisley, Mos Espa AND the Jundland Wastes. One of the big things people love about Star Wars are the locations. They are probably as iconic as some of the characters, and we all wish we could visit these worlds in person.
That’s why we had to make sure that these planets had depth, and felt alive, so people could just disappear into them for hours. Obviously, the content does a lot of that as there are so many Kyber bricks to find, but it’s also about how they are crafted. The audio team in particular have done exceptional work, and so have the art and models team. It’s crucial that everything works hand-in-hand to convince players that they are on a living planet. The dialogue is then just added sprinkles on an already delicious cake.
PAUL: Ok, James, one last question. Which characters were the most fun to write for?
JAMES: I had to pinch myself sometimes. Getting to write dialogue for characters like Darth Vader and Han Solo is the stuff of childhood dreams, but I had so much fun with the side characters. The team had a little more wiggle room with those, so we could be really ridiculous with them, in a loving way. Same with the non-named characters; GNK droids, random Ewoks, various Battle Droids.
It was a blast coming up with these odd little characters and sprinkling them into this Star Wars galaxy. I recommend people take time to explore all the planets, they will no doubt come across some really silly stuff out there.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is now available.