It feels like there’s no other brand of the planet that’s dominated transmedia like Star Wars has, especially over the course of nearly half a century. I’ve probably been drawn into this galaxy far, far away more times than I’ve had birthdays, and yet it still feels so vast and limitless. Ubisoft Massive’s promise of a full open-world is an ambitious one, and despite filling my head with all kinds of possibilities through that promise, I was still blown away by Star Wars Outlaws and everything it’s bringing to the table.
Firstly, it’s not a Jedi adventure. As far as can be inferred from the presentation, there are no lightsabers, and no sign of the Force at all. It seems as though Cal Kestis will keep his space wizard part of the galaxy on lock as Outlaws is a scoundrel tale set during the golden age of civil unrest, smuggling, and underbelly badness after the Rebel Alliance’s defeat at Hoth in Empire Strikes Back. Given its place within the canon, the small chunk of time between the fifth and six episodes in the saga, it’s an absolutely ripe moment for an outrageously cool outlaw story.
It’s a galaxy of opportunity for Kay Vess, an original character that feels like a riff on Han Solo’s rebellious character. She’s got quips, she’s confident, but she’s clearly learning the ropes of this seedy occupation meaning resilience and adaptability are core to her make-up. She’s performed by Humberly González who herself is bubbly and likeable, so I expect that to naturally bleed through and propel Kay to fan-favouritism before long.
She’s not alone on her journey either. The closest thing she has to family is Nix, her little part-dog, part-axolotl looking companion. He’s naturally adorable and all but assured to be a plush toy by this time next year, though I was overjoyed to discover he’ll have a number of functions in-game. We’d already seen him help Kay cheat at a card table, but in the field he’s able to hit buttons, and distract or attack enemies. As he’s got a sweet little face, I had to ask whether sending him out would put him in peril and, fortunately, I’m glad to report he can’t die.
Forever may our doggolotl king reign.
Although part of The Division’s identity naturally transfers over to part of the game’s combat which, at times, is a cover shooter, there’s so much possibility and fun to be had with Kay’s blaster. During a brief run through of a quest called ‘The Broker’ we see Kay grimace after probably breaking her hand punching a hired gun’s face before using Nix to lower a hanging storage box to avoid combat. Ultimately, the pair are discovered and, rather than talk things through, Kay hip fires her blaster to kick things off. It looks the part and sounds even better with the trademark blaster ping.
She then hops aboard a speeder bike, for which gameplay was inspired partly by motocross, and proceeds to get caught up in a ballistic chase sequence across a beautiful windswept savannah. After shaking the raiders, Kay delivers the package to Jaunta’s Hope, a small outpost in the Outer Rim. Smuggling is a risky game, however, and you cross an Imperial officer at the handover who’s prepared to trade clemency for a cut of your credits.
It’s at this point Outlaws offers up a choice to part with your dosh, or not. The demoist, on this occasion, took the money and ran which ultimately led to Kay’s bounty being plastered everywhere, introducing the game’s wanted system. Each of these encounters will affect your reputation with the involved parties, which is likely to have consequences down the line.
Just when it felt like Outlaws already offered plenty, Kay flees the planet in Trailblazer, her own ship. I never once expected this game might include surface-to-space travel, and yet I sat jaw agape watching her fly to her freedom. Not content to let EA Motive have all the dogfighting fun in Squadrons, Outlaws is set to feature all scales of space battle. For a rookie, Kay neatly navigates a debris field just out of orbit. Once it’s over and the TIE fighters have been reduced to shrapnel, Kay and Nix punch it into hyperdrive and hop to another part of the game’s enormous galaxy.
If every city and outpost in the game is as dense and living as the one our presentation showed, the Star Wars fandom will be eating very well. With the team already confirming that people and places fans love from the existing canon will pop their heads up, there’s so much reason to be excited for Star Wars Outlaws.
It’s just a shame that, like the galaxy it features, the game is so far, far away.
Star Wars Outlaws is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC in 2024.
The author travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Ubisoft for the purposes of this preview.