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  1. I was surprised to see that it's actually been a minute since the last LEGO video game. For a while there it seemed like there were three or four coming out every year, whether based on licensed properties or original content, and all of them sporting the same gameplay formula that has practically become a genre unto itself at this point. But with a bit of time since the last brick-based game, does LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga come off feeling like a more fresh experience? Well, yes and no. Perhaps more importantly though, fans of the LEGO game formula will still be well-satisfied with this one for dozens upon dozens of hours. Skywalker Saga covers all nine of the main Star Wars movies, and you can begin your journey with the first of any of the three trilogies (i.e. episode I, IV, or VII). The game serves as a condensed version of each of these nine episodes, with cutscenes that rapidly take you through the set-up and exposition of each scene and gameplay levels that cover all of the blaster firing, lightsaber dueling, and spaceship battles that Star Wars fans know and love. Especially for having not watched any of these movies in a long while, it was fun to run through them again, even if the game does add the usual LEGO slapstick humor—it's not all bad, but some of the predictable jokes definitely drag on for too long. Each episode includes five main missions which play as like the usual LEGO games, meaning there's some light puzzle solving as you craft objects or use characters' unique skills to help you progress as well as battles with melee attacks, blasters, or space dogfights. At its core, the LEGO formula still has a fair bit of charm. It's rather predictable and obviously skews on the easy side to accommodate young players, but even if it's rarely demanding it's still pretty fun to run around breaking apart LEGO brick objects and exploring. There are even a handful of clever, fun challenges sprinkled throughout the game—not as much as I would've liked perhaps, but it's nice that there's a bit of variety here. The combat also feels a little more engaging this time around with some variety in your attacks. This still isn't exactly an action game by any means but fighting stormtroopers is a bit less mindlessly repetitive. And like past LEGO games there is an insane amount of things to collect, not all of which is possible on your first playthrough since you'll need characters with specific abilities that might not be there during the "canonical" first playthrough. Characters are divided up into categories and each one has unique abilities—Jedi can, obviously, use lightsabers to cut through specific walls, while scavengers like Rey are able to craft items that help them traverse the environment. The main levels are already filled with plenty of things to discover, but the real bulk of the game comes from the sandbox areas between levels that are oftentimes massive and packed with side quests, optional challenges, and collectibles to grab. Finishing just the main missions might take you around fifteen hours or so, but trying to 100% complete this game could easily push it closer to eighty or ninety hours. That absolutely insane amount of content is great for hardcore collectible fans but like a lot of LEGO games it can feel like padding. Most missions and challenges are pretty basic and once you've done a few dozen of them it's a little hard to maintain the energy to keep at them. There is at least a good incentive to gather up those collectible bricks while you progress, though. They can be used to upgrade your characters (increased speed, attack power, health, etc.) which at least gives you a more substantial reason to grab them beyond just trying to reach 100% completion. Considering there are over one thousand collectible bricks in the game, it's good to have a little extra motivation to find them. The presentation in Skywalker Saga is just about everything you'd expect from a LEGO game. The animation wrings a ton of charm out of these blocky characters, and the environments have plenty of polish to them that make them feel fully realized, even when they look like a bunch of LEGO bricks. So much of the dialogue is taken straight from the movies which is a great touch, and of course it's always a treat to hear the familiar Star Wars songs in any context. While the art design is pretty solid though, the technical side of the game leaves a lot to be desired. Frame rate dips are a bit annoying but understandable on a multiplatform game. There were plenty of more severe glitches during my playthrough though, which really soured the experience. Textures sometimes failed to load fully during the opening crawl, leaving the text basically unreadable. A scene transition would fail to load so I'd be stuck staring at a wall of the previous scene, unable to progress without exiting and reloading. Visual effects would sometimes get stuck on the screen, so a blurry effect from being hit by a powerful attack would stick around until I'd finished the entire level. Most frustratingly, there were several crashes which necessitated replaying parts of levels. Beware that the game's technical polish is far from complete and there will likely (and hopefully) be some important patches down the line. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a staggeringly massive playground for Star Wars fans to run around in and collect their favorite characters and ships in familiar locales. The usual LEGO formula has a bit of an upgrade here though it's still an undeniably repetitive one, especially if you're hardcore enough to try to collect everything possible in the game. If that sort of thing does tickle your fancy you'll find a wealth of easy but entertaining gameplay here, just be wary of the technical hiccups that will pop up on occasion. Rating: 7 out of 10 Bricks
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