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Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Doesn’t Need An Upgrade System

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is massive, and easily the biggest Lego game ever made. It seeks to deliver a comprehensive retelling of nine films and largely succeeds, turning the space opera epics into a collection of tongue-in-cheek levels and open world areas that are a joy to explore. I’m hours into my playthrough and show no signs of slowing down.

With this ambitious scope comes a thorough expansion of its core mechanics. While you’re still busy collecting studs and tracking down hidden minikits, TT Games has implemented a myriad of new systems that hope to make the game far more nuanced, adding layers to gameplay and encouraging experimentation. Combat is deeper, upgrades are available in order to flesh out specific character archetypes, while exploration across massive open world environments is interspersed with the level design we all know and love.

On the surface this is an amazing idea, and the new gameplay engine allows it to look beautiful regardless of the platform you’re playing on. But despite how much I’m enjoying myself, I can’t help but feel that The Skywalker Saga is overstretching itself into territory that feels entirely unnecessary. It is filled with elements that I frequently forget exist because they have such a negligible impact on the experience and seem to only exist so I have something to spend my increasingly large number of studs and bricks on. Otherwise, progress feels derivative, like I’m hoovering up collectibles in service of my own satisfaction instead of actually building towards something. Who knows, maybe I am and don’t know it yet.

Having completed over half of the films now I’ve reached a point where I’m earning millions of studs in minutes and wiping out the majority of my enemies in a couple of hits. My roster of characters is outfitted to solve any and all available puzzles with ease, meaning there is little reason to keep firing my currency into upgrades or navigating the awful user interface to purchase new characters. It’s oddly finicky, and I’m not sure what the purpose is beyond seeing the percentage completion stat climb higher and higher as I keep moving forward. Past games unlocked secret stages or optional puzzle rooms, but there doesn’t seem to be anything of the sort in Skywalker Saga because it has such an intense focus on being a seamless open world. Which it isn’t, the whole thing is rather fragmented in its presentation.

Each character type has a tree of upgrades which serve to increase damage or the speed of certain abilities, maybe even adding an extra ability or two to your repertoire to make combat easier. The thing is, combat is a breeze no matter how you play. I’ve pushed through every boss encounter thus far without ever dodging or using the counter system. If anything my enemies are dead long before I even need to, which begs the question of why I need upgrades that will only make an affair that is laughably easy that much easier. It’s weird, and feels like TT Games was encouraged to implement such systems regardless of whether they had a valid place or not. General upgrades are the only ones that feel useful, such as the speed of building or collection of distant studs, while it’s also a relief to earn the ability to skip puzzles instead of wasting precious seconds on the solution. If you’re given us an option to skip puzzles I have to wonder why they were ever included in the first place though.

Lego Star Wars has always been a collectathon, and that identity is alive and well in Skywalker Saga. Yet so many of the upgrades, items, and other things you’re encouraged to seek out don’t have a substantial enough impact on the experience to feel worthwhile. I’m worried that once I finish all the story missions I won’t be willing to explore the galaxy because I know the endgame that awaits me is far from satisfactory. It could be that I’m wishing for the Lego games of old as the formula moves on without me, or that this game is outfitted with bloat; it would be much better leaving it behind in whatever comes next.

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