Star Wars and virtual reality (VR) just seem like a perfect match as the past year has seen three titles from the colossal franchise. Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series arrived in 2019, then there was Star Wars Squadrons and now Oculus Quest owners have been treated to Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge. But can this new experience from ILMxLAB continue Star Wars’ successful use of immersive technology to tell its sci-fi tales?
The long-running franchise offers a wide variety of storytelling options for creators to explore, and while the previous releases went down the common route of Jedi/Sith and Rebel/Imperial narrative, with Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge you’re treated to some of the other stories going on. This is mainly due to the videogame being based on the Disney theme park attraction Galaxy’s Edge and as its currently closed at least the VR title is accessible.
In this experience Star Wars fans are heading to the planet of Batuu and its Black Spire Outpost. Playing an unnamed droid repair technician your vessel was attacked by pirates and you crash land on the surface, eventually finding yourself in the cantina of a talkative fellow called Seezelslak. The bar becomes the main hub of sorts, where you play some Repulsor Darts and listen to Seezelslak’s tales (more on that later). Then you’ve got Mubo’s Droid Repair Shop, where you can buy useful gadgets before heading out into the wilds as well as sell any junk items found.
It was Mubo’s ship that you were travelling on and because you managed to survive you need to explore Batuu and find the precious cargo the pirates were after. This wouldn’t be a proper Star Wars game without some big-name characters, so naturally, the cargo just so happens to be C-3PO and R2-D2. As an everyday joe, you’re not about to start wielding lightsabers and force powers, making Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge a first-person shooter (FPS) affair.
The main campaign runs across four areas of Batuu, from rocky, mountainous terrain to abandoned villages and a bubbling swamp. Nothing which really stands out like iconic Star Wars locations Coruscant, Dagobah and Hoth. Not to worry as most of the time you’ll be in gunfights with droids, Rodian’s and other nefarious species.
Before any of that though Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge wants to make your gameplay session as comfortable as possible, so there’s a wealth of options to tweak. Play seated or standing (the latter works better), height, locomotion and unexpectedly torso height and depth position. As a bigger player this latter option was particularly useful for grabbing the chest-mounted inventory pouch, something few other VR titles consider.
This continues through to every aspect of the videogame’s interactions. Grabbing items from the pouch is quick and effortless plus certain gadgets can be attached externally, like health re-gen to your wrists and a thermal detonator to your waist for quick mid firefight selection. None of the guns require reloading but most need to be vented when they overheat, so there’s no diving in headfirst like you’re Rambo, some thought and use of cover do need to be employed.
On that note, enemy encounters are decent enough skirmishes but there are no real epic battles. The AI does a respectable job of providing a challenge even on normal difficulty, utilising the environment to hide and flank. An awesome addition to your arsenal which can’t be understated (or underused) when dealing will multiple enemies are the little flying remote droids – the one’s Luke uses in A New Hope – providing useful cover fire and distractions.
When you’re not fighting space pirates Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge does offer some light puzzles and exploration, hiding miniature droids like BB-8 to collect. Puzzles generally involve the ‘All-Tool’ a three-part device which can cut through metal and unscrew bolts. These aren’t particularly taxing, so you’re left on your own to figure them out.
After exploring Batuu for Mubo and relaxing in the cantina you’ll want to talk with Seezelslak as he’ll unlock the first side story or ‘Tales’. Widely publicized, the Tales are what’ll give the experience its longevity as the main campaign is less than 3 hours. This one involves Master Yoda and young Jedi Padawan Ady Sun’Zee dealing with a Sith relic. It’s the only time in the game where you’ll have access to a lightsaber and force powers, so naturally, it’s a lot of fun. Alas, coming in at a mere 15 minutes that sweet Jedi power doesn’t last long.
It’s not all good news as Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge wasn’t quite as finely polished as would be expected. While getting stuck on or in the environment on more than one occasion was annoying, there were other more gameplay breaking glitches. For example, the wrist-mounted health sprays stopped attaching to the right wrist, so for a right-handed player made healing far more cumbersome in battle. Another instance occurred where both hands disappeared making progression impossible. While these were sorted with a simple restart, they really shouldn’t be occurring.
Continuing to hone its VR skills, ILMxLAB has created a rather mixed experience with Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge. What it lacks in that initial wow factor and excitement that Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series had it makes up for by offering a more open adventure with a nice mixture of action, light puzzling as well as great voice acting and animation. Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge’s real trump card could well be all the additional content currently inaccessible in the menus, keeping players coming back for more tales in 2021. For now, though, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge is a pleasant enough escape for a few hours.