Star Wars Outlaws is the Star Wars game I’ve always wanted

Brad Norton

A full hour of hands-on time with Star Wars Outlaws flew by in the blink of an eye. What became abundantly clear, however, is it’s shaping up to be the Star Wars game I’ve always dreamed of. Huge open worlds to explore across a vast galaxy, attention to the minutia hardcore Star Wars nerds will adore, dozens of unique NPCs to befriend or betray, a criminal underworld to leverage under the looming threat of the Empire — it’s all here and thus far, it’s ticking all the right boxes.

A lifelong Star Wars fan, Outlaws has obviously been on my radar since its reveal last year, even before that as Ubisoft first mentioned its plans for a Star Wars game back in 2021. A bold undertaking setting itself apart from other recent titles like the Jedi series, Outlaws declared itself an open-world epic. Now, after an hour of hands-on time split across three distinct chunks of the game, I can say without question this dev team is chock full of lifelong Star Wars fans looking to do the franchise proud. Their evident passion shines through every corner of the galaxy.

Sitting down with the demo over Summer Game Fest, we were presented with three distinct missions broken into 20-minute blocks. One showed protagonist Kay Vess escaping a ship that crash-landed on a nearby planet. Another involved stealing an artifact of value for one of the game’s many factions. The last had us fleeing the Empire’s grasp, flying out into deep space, engaging in a few dogfights, all before seamlessly landing and exploring one of the game’s many ‘’hubs’, a bustling city overflowing with that trademark Lucasfilm charm.

Across these three missions, I experienced a great deal of what Outlaws has to offer, yet even a full hour was barely enough to scratch the surface. This is no ordinary walk in the park, far from a bog standard checklist-style open-world formula. Ubisoft is pushing the envelope with an array of intertwining gameplay systems to create a dazzling experience that not only meshes with the greater Star Wars universe for nostalgia’s sake but brings new ideas to the canon with wondrous results.

Star Wars Outlaws gameplay
Three distinct missions gave us three completely different looks at mission structure in Star Wars Outlaws.

Underworld underling to a legendary scoundrel

Kay Vess is our protagonist in Star Wars Outlaws, and as I quickly learned through my interview with Narrative Director Navid Khavari and Game Director Mathias Karlson, she’s central to every single component of the game. While the overarching narrative is one thing, seeing her rise from a relative nobody to a prominent gunslinger for hire shows how the devs have woven gameplay mechanics into the lore and it left me truly impressed.

It’s not just a matter of having a bog standard protagonist and saying ‘That’ll do,’ rather, it sounds and feels as though the entire experience was built up around Kay Vess.

Who do you want to place your trust in? Where do you want to dedicate your effort as the galaxy struggles under the weight of the Empire? How do you want to shape relationships with those you encounter on your travels? It’s all well and good on paper, but having explicit control over how things unfold in turn gives our protagonist levels of depth we rarely see in the series.

In theory, you could be a complete jerk to every single NPC, earning yourself a dreadful reputation with the game’s core factions. Or you could strive to be a golden child, acting on their every wish, fulfilling all their obligations with a smile on your face. Perhaps you’re somewhere in-between, favored by a few, uneasy with many. How you choose to play and what you choose to do out in the open world directly impacts your standing with said factions. Get on the bad side of one group at the wrong moment in time, your life is bound to be more difficult.

Star Wars Outlaws gameplay
Stepping into the shoes of Kay Vess, we get to see the Galaxy with a fresh set of eyes.

Kay Vess is able to portray all sides of any given scenario, letting the player imprint their identity to some degree, while not serving as a completely hollow lead. She is very much her own person with her own personality, don’t get me wrong. But through moment-to-moment decisions leading up to much larger choices, you’re influencing her path at every turn.

As a result, it’s unlikely two Outlaws playthroughs will unfold in exactly the same way. Although it is still a linear experience, with defined routes and endpoints for certain stories, how you get from Point A to Point B is entirely for you to decide.

The smoothest hunk of junk in the galaxy

Utilizing the power of new-gen hardware, one smaller detail that still amazed me during the Outlaws demo was the lack of visible loading screens. Given the sheer scope of the game, never once being booted from the action or having the game pause to load in the next section truly made a difference.

Beginning a mission imprisoned by the Empire’s forces, you’re then engaging in an all-out firefight. Using Kay’s trusty blaster, you can chip away at armored Storm Troopers who obviously aren’t known for their aim. You can even trigger a Dead Eye-style ability, painting targets one by one before unleashing hell. Overwhelmed by the endless waves of clones, you jump into your Trailblazer ship and barge your way out of the Empire’s grasp but not without some hardship.

You’re then swarmed by Tie Fighters as enemies surround you out in space. Dogfights ensue as you launch volleys of rockets and blaster rounds their way in a matter of seconds. To get them off your heels, there’s a radar you can interact with to call off the hunt. From there, you’re free to venture forth to the nearest planet for a safe landing.

Star Wars Outlaws gameplay
Transitioning from on-foot gunplay to in-flight dogfighting, landing on a planet, and heading off to play some Sabbac, all without a single loading screen, is sensational.

Upon stepping out and breathing some fresh air, you’re greeted with dozens of things to see and do. Traders to negotiate with, experts at various disciplines to learn new skills from, Sabbac tables to gamble your credits away, arcade machines to mess around with, NPCs to listen to — some conversations perhaps more valuable than others if secrets are waiting to be discovered — and of course, your main quest can be progressed through here as well, watching the next cutscene as Kay’s adventure continues.

If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Yet it all happened in the span of 20 minutes without a single loading screen in sight. From the epic battles on foot and in space, to effortlessly docking on a nearby planet, to pushing the story along, there was never a single break in the action to hinder immersion.

While it’s worth noting that planet-hopping in particular, could be a bit slower on console, as we were playing on some beefy PC rigs, the fact there’s not a single interruption in this vast open world is nonetheless commendable. Once you’re in the galaxy, you’re in for as long as you so please, and boy, it sure is a wonderful galaxy.

A galaxy at your fingertips

Coming away from three bite-sized chunks of Outlaws, I left with a feeling of hope. While the core of what’s here is nothing revolutionary and may not set the gaming industry alight per se, what’s on offer is a genuinely captivating Star Wars experience unlike any other.

Just having the freedom to venture off the beaten path — perhaps exploring a side of Tattooine we’ve not seen before — is liberating and oh-so enriching as a lifelong fan of the franchise. In a sense, it feels like the dream Star Wars game I’ve always envisioned.

Being able to go anywhere at any point on your speederbike or in the skies with your ship, taking your time to connect with the weird and whacky cast of misfits at the local cantina, challenging them to a game of Sabbac while you’re at it and hoping things don’t take a violent turn, siding with factions while betraying others — it’s all brilliantly housed under the one roof and through every minute of hands-on time, it’s abundantly clear those bringing the experience to life, above all else, care deeply about Star Wars.

Sure, gunplay was a little rough around the edges in this early build, the map menu could use some work, and there’s no doubt plenty more polish to be added. It’s far from perfect. But at its core, it’s already well on its way to achieving the key goal of being an excellent Star Wars experience.

I had a smile on my face through most of the session and can’t wait to spend dozens of hours exploring every nook and cranny Outlaws has to offer. Should Ubisoft stick the landing, there’s no doubt this has the potential to be one of the very best Star Wars games ever made. August 30 can’t come soon enough.

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About The Author

Brad Norton is the Australian Managing Editor at Dexerto. He graduated from Swinburne University with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and has been working full-time in the field for the past six years at the likes of Gamurs Group and now Dexerto. He loves all things single-player gaming (with Uncharted a personal favorite) but has a history on the competitive side having previously run Oceanic esports org Mindfreak. You can contact Brad at brad.norton@dexerto.com

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