Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is at its best when it veers from the films

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a nostalgic adventure, riffing not just on the movies that inspired it, but the Lego Star Wars series itself. The game wavers between cinematic accuracy — with levels pulled right out of the movies — and fun twists on more minor Star Wars set pieces. But the game is ultimately at its best when it doesn’t worry too much about emulating the films perfectly and focuses instead on showing fans something new.

In The Skywalker Saga, each numbered Star Wars episode is only five linear levels long, and each level is just a bite-size piece of the movie’s overall story. The rest of each episode consists of open-world adventuring where players fly through space or roam around the planets solving puzzles, riding vehicles, visiting iconic locations, and getting the lowdown on the area’s wider lore.

In many cases, this can lead to some pretty fun Lego vignettes. Walking through Luke, Owen, and Beru’s house on Tatooine — complete with the iconic droid maintenance room — really hits that nostalgic mark. Walking outside their home and unlocking bonus upgrade points by chasing around a Womp Rat feels like a fun and natural extension of that meaningful space.

But these large levels are too often used to shuffle the story forward just as it occurs in the movies. I’ll fly down to Ahch-To just to follow Luke from The Last Jedi around for a bit, and then leave. Instead of launching exciting levels, some mission objectives will just continue the story, showing a movie scene rebuilt with Lego bricks. Much of the game’s dialogue is even taken verbatim from the films — even if there are some comical Lego background goofs.

Famous Star Wars heroes and villains stand on a rock for Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Image: TT Games/WB Games/Disney/Lucasfilm Games

While I watch the movies to engage in the lore and the science fantasy aesthetic, the game offers me a chance to actually play around in this world. And it’s here where the scope of Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga really works. I love that TT Games built every meaningful Star Wars planet that appears in the movies and that I can explore all of them, sure. But do I need another Death Star trench run? Is this really pod racing? I know the Gungans’ side of the battle against the droid army is important, but is it a fun level to play? The answer to all of these questions is no, and Lego Star Wars is at its best when it meaningfully departs from the cinematic source material.

I have the most fun with The Skywalker Saga when it finds the fun in the unsung scenarios of the films and offers me the chance to explore areas that the numbered saga never did. I loved defending the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope, where I puzzled the hunk of junk back together between waves of Stormtroopers. I had a blast playing a much more expanded battle of Endor with Wicket and Chewie, since the film mostly focuses on the Shield Generator sequence. Even Rise of Skywalker, the series’ worst film by a parsec, gets a great level in the puzzle/fight hybrid between Rey and Kylo throughout the destroyed Death Star on Kef Bir.

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga’s level selections feel inconsistent. TT Games often ventures off the beaten path to showcase a new angle of a Star Wars event we all know, but it also crumbles under the pressure of perfecting some of the most iconic moments in cinema history. The game works well enough as a Star Wars simulator, but it works even better as an exploration of things yet unseen. When I think back on The Skywalker Saga’s grand journey, I know I’ll remember the weird puzzle-filled adventure through the Geonosis droid factory more than I will the iconic battle against Count Dooku himself.