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July 2024

Star Wars Outlaws

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Release Date: Aug. 30, 2024


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PS5/XSX/PC Preview - 'Star Wars Outlaws'

by Adam Pavlacka on June 10, 2024 @ 10:00 p.m. PDT

In Star Wars Outlaws, fans play as Kay Vess, who is attempting to pull off one of the greatest heists the Outer Rim has ever seen.

Set between the events of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Star Wars Outlaws promises to explore a time when the Galactic Republic was in upheaval. The rebels had struck a blow to the Empire with the destruction of the Death Star, but in return, the Empire routed the rebels at the Battle of Hoth before turning in Han Solo to Jabba and Luke Skywalker losing his fight to Darth Vader. The conflict has left local power vacuums as the Empire looks to shore up its hold on the galaxy, and that's the perfect setting for a certain type of outlaw to make a big score.

Exploring this segment of Star Wars lore is a smart choice for Massive, as it means they can operate in a familiar world, but they're not necessarily tied down to the known characters. When you're playing around with the likes of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, you have decades of character development and stories to respect. When you create someone new, the sky's the limit.

For this year's UbiForward, Massive showed off three separate areas in Star Wars Outlaws: False Flag, The Wreck, and The Relic. Each one gave us a chance to see how Kay Vess and Nix operate.

False Flag tasks Kay with destroying data stored on an Imperial space station. Right after starting the level, it's clear that stealth is second nature to Kay. You're given the option of using Nix to attack a stormtrooper, distract the guard, or set up a trap. If Nix distracts the guard, you can sneak up behind them and take them out quietly. When there is more than one guard, you and Nix can work together, with Nix pulling a facehugger-inspired move to keep one busy, while you take out the other.

Hacking into Imperial computers is done with a Mastermind- style mini game. Kay has to guess the correct code in a certain number of tries. Each guess identifies the symbols you correctly entered, so getting the right answer is a bit of luck and a bit of process of elimination.

If stealth isn't an option, Kay is handy with a blaster. She can swap between normal plasma shots and ion shots, with the latter being used to weaken and disable enemy shields. Making good use of cover is key for surviving a firefight. Unless you're playing on easy difficulty, it's a good bet that the stormtroopers in Outlaws have better aim than their movie brethren.

Taking out enemies with the blaster charges up one of Kay's special moves. Once the blaster meter is full, you can slow down time, target multiple enemies, and then let off a series of rapid blaster shots. It's not quite as flashy as Basim's chain assassination in Assassin's Creed Mirage, but it may be just as effective.

Escaping from a space station means a dogfight and your ship, the Trailblazer, can hold its own. You have a pursuit mode to increase speed and a targeting computer that conveniently shows you how far you need to lead your shots to land a hit. If missiles are more your thing, they seem to do a solid job of tracking their target once you get a lock. This particular dogfight occurred near a debris field, which means there is plenty of large space junk to avoid ... or explore. One bit that I noticed but didn't investigate was an alert that popped up about a "treasure location" in the Wreck Cluster. It seems that Massive wants to ensure that you have a reason to revisit game areas outside of story missions.

Approaching the planet Mirogana, we are given three different landing locations. Presumably you unlock various locations through the story and can then revisit them at your convenience. Choosing a landing location kicks off a satisfying flight through the clouds as you descend to your destination. From a technical standpoint, this was likely done to mask the loading of the new area into memory. From a game standpoint, it's decidedly more immersive than simply fading to black and appearing on the planet. That said, here's hoping the landing sequence doesn't become too repetitive when we're hours into the game.

While exploring Mirogana City, it was clear how much environmental work has gone into the game. While the Imperial space station at the beginning of the mission was clean and sterile, the city had both color and grime. The architecture was also a mashup of various styles, with Imperial and civilian areas. We didn't get a chance to play, though Sabacc was mentioned, and a gambling den is one of the areas in the city. If it appears as a playable mini game, that will be a plus.

Aurebesh was seen on a number of signs and posters throughout the city, and while I'm not fluent, the handful of words I did translate seemed to be appropriately used. For example, screens inside the gambling parlor displayed the words "VIP Lounge." I do wonder how much additional story information (or potential E aster egg information) has been left in plain sight by the developers, just converted to Aurebesh. This is something that dedicated Star Wars fans are likely to dive into as soon as they get their hands on Outlaws.

The Wreck is a fairly literal name for the corresponding mission. It has Kay and Nix exploring the crashed remains of a massive High Republic cruiser in search of a nav computer. The mission evokes the feeling of Rey exploring the interior of the crashed Star Destroyer at the beginning of The Force Awakens, but you're playing it instead of watching it.

Whereas the False Flag demo mission focused on stealth, shooting, and dogfighting, The Wreck focuses on traversal. Exploring the ship involves swinging on a grapple, climbing broken walls, and solving basic puzzles to move forward. For example, early on, there is a door that's stuck. Kay can't force it open, but if you use Nix to highlight a component in the wall, you can use ion shots to briefly power it up and open the door. Looking around at the environment, there were no obvious path markers in the textures (no "yellow paint," as it were), but button prompts did appear when Kay was near a ledge or grapple point. It is likely that this is a UI feature that can be turned off for players who prefer to adventure without hints, but it is useful for those who prefer a little guidance.

After getting to the bridge of the crashed ship, some competitors appeared. This was another chance to explore Kay's combat abilities. Nix rigged up a trap on a barrel, which provided an explosive surprise as one of the attackers walked past it.

Using Kay's melee skills and Nix's abilities, various feature names popped up on screen, such as "Fast-Talk" and "Treasure Hunter" with a lock icon next to the name. These are likely upgrades that can be unlocked by performing the required actions.

With the initial group of assailants taken care of, Kay is ambushed again, so she overloads the ship's reactor as a distraction. You have to escape the exploding ship in a sequence that feels like it would be at home in a modern- day Tomb Raider game. Just when it looks like you're cornered, ND-5 comes to the rescue. At this point Kay doesn't know who he is, which likely means that The Wreck is an early mission in Outlaws. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Kay quickly hops on her speeder bike, which you use to complete your escape.

The final demo mission was The Relic, which has Kay infiltrating a Crimson Dawn hideout to steal a priceless artifact. You'll want to try to keep your involvement quiet if you want to preserve your reputation with the Crimson Dawn.

Doing a bit of reconnaissance to find the ideal entry point was required, as the front door was impenetrable. Once inside, stealth was the focus. This is where Nix's recon ability helps out. He can raise his feelers to detect nearby enemies and tag them for Kay. Kay's stun shot also comes in handy, as it can drop any normal enemy instantly. Just remember that it has a cooldown, so it needs to be used strategically. You can't just spam stun shots.

Once you steal the artifact (or earlier, if you're discovered), Crimson Dawn forces appear to stop you. It's another shootout and another opportunity to charge up and use Kay's special ability. While getting into a shootout did seem inevitable, it does make me wonder if there is an ideal stealth path through this level that would allow you to complete it without firing a single shot, or if the combat really is required.

Having spent less than an hour with Star Wars Outlaws, it's safe to say that the game is still high on my anticipated list. Many of the basic gameplay elements are looking good, and the overall look of the universe is spot-on. There weren't any Jedi visible (as there really shouldn't be during this time), and the game environments would have been right at home in one of the movies or more recent Star Wars TV shows.

The big questions for me revolve around the reputation system and the dialogue. The reputation system could end up having a large impact on gameplay, or it could end up being superficial. It would be amazing if Kay's reputation has a material effect on gameplay, opening up and/or closing the paths and available missions depending on your choices. Such a system would encourage multiple playthroughs. The dialogue is my biggest question mark, as what we saw in the demo didn't always land. That said, the demo levels were also small slices of the game, so it's quite possible that everything meshes better when provided with the full context.

On the positive side, I am absolutely invested in learning more about Kay and Nix and Star Wars Outlaws in its entirety. Many of the mainstream Star Wars stories focus on the characters made famous by the movies, so it's a breath of fresh air to explore new characters and stories. There's a wealth of possibilities out there, and Outlaws is eagerly embracing them.

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