LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga finds the light side of fandom

In one of the many goofy cutscenes in LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, a grizzled Luke Skywalker sidles up to the makeshift bar on his Ahch-To hideaway, a befuddled Rey in tow. A quartet of Thala-sirens – portly, walrus-like things with a cluster of udders – are hooked up to a milking machine. The Porg bartender draws a pint of their green milk and slides it over to Luke, who downs it with lusty enthusiasm. I remember when Luke’s green milk habit in The Last Jedi would cause a portion of the Star Wars fandom to have a conniption fit. You won’t hear them complaining now.

LEGO Star Wars is so loving in its treatment of the franchise that it sucks the air right out of the cynical and the unimpressed. The Skywalker Saga is the sixth title of its kind from TT Games, and the first to encompass all three Skywalker trilogies (The Mandalorian, Solo, and Rogue One all feature as DLC). And time and again, it takes moments that have triggered hours of circular arguments between enraged Star Wars devotees and transforms them into a bit of offhand slapstick. It’s all covered: Obi-Wan Kenobi and General Grievous’ confrontation (“Hello, there!” segues into a dance-off), Stormtroopers and their terrible aim, and the many, many body-doubles of Padmé Amidala.

It’s exactly what Star Wars needs, especially at a time when the franchise’s every move is treated as the symptom of some unseen internal crisis. For whatever brief unity there was when The Mandalorian emerged, it seemed to fall apart when The Book of Boba Fett premiered to a mixed critical reaction. The fans took up arms against each other again without hesitation. That’s always been the problem with Star Wars: these films have formed a foundational part of several generations’ worth of childhoods, so there’s always been a tendency for the fandom to act too defensively, or to treat every stumble or deviation from the norm as something of a personal attack.

But the real pleasure of being a Star Wars fan doesn’t lie in the arguments over whether Rey was too capable for her own good, but in the possibility of a world so rich that it’s possible to develop a fixation on a character who’s only on screen for 30 seconds. And The Skywalker Saga, with its 380 character models, caters to that obsession beautifully: finally, you can play as Klaud, Yaddle, or Willrow Hood (the guy on Bespin running around with an ice cream maker).

There needs to be that space for pure joy in Star Wars, where fan service doesn’t have to feel as forced and portentous as Palpatine’s unlikely return in The Rise of Skywalker. That’s really where the true potential of cross-medium storytelling lies – in the opportunity to add depth to an existing world, as opposed to hacking bits off like it’s a juicy chunk of bantha rump.

Respawn found success with Jedi: Fallen Order, which delivered original characters and storylines set in a post-Order 66 world, but I’ve always been more intrigued by the potential of games like Star Wars Battlefront II or Marvel’s Avengers. Both had shaky launches and, arguably, never really found their feet, but the way they encouraged a sort of liberated, cross-pollinating approach to their respective franchises – play however you like, with whichever character you like – always reflected my favourite parts of any fandom. I’m talking about the cosplayers, the droid builders, the artists, and fan fiction writers, the people who took something they love and stamped their identity and creativity on it. The Skywalker Saga builds on that idea, with a semi-open-world structure that encourages you to explore and test out different character combinations. And, really, how can watching Kylo Ren fanboy all over Darth Vader not bring a smile to your face?

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