A true open-world Star Wars game has been a long time coming, but Ubisoft Massive finally seems set to deliver. Star Wars Outlaws sees players take on the role of charming scoundrel Kay Vess as she navigates the criminal underworld in the year between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and attempts “one of the biggest heists the Outer Rim has ever seen,” according to StarWars.com.
A gameplay demo released during this week’s Ubisoft Forward conference gave fans a taste of what they can expect from Kay’s adventure. The walkthrough showed Kay employing stealth tactics to steal something from a rival gang before all hell broke loose. Kay can use her trusty blaster to take down the bad guys, including with a Focus mode that allows her to target multiple enemies at once. The latter mechanic comes in particularly handy while she’s making a quick escape on speeder bike.
We also got a look at the game’s branching dialogue options as well as an impressive almost-seamless transition between Kay’s adventures on land and her travels through space on her ship, the Trailblazer. In the demo, Kay rushes to the cockpit after triggering a “Wanted” state during a run-in with an Imperial officer (think how Wanted levels work in the Grand Theft Auto series). She takes off and players are given control of the ship as it zooms out of a planet’s atmosphere and into space, where Imperial fighters are waiting for her. A space combat sequence ensues before Kay finally makes the jump to hyperspace and her next location.
You can watch the full demo below:
Setting the game during the Original Trilogy gives Outlaws the chance to visit some of the most iconic locations and characters in the movies. For example, the game’s cinematic trailer (which you can scroll down to watch below) features a shot of Han Solo frozen in carbonite, suggesting the game could explore his journey to Jabba’s Palace.
But the most interesting bit of Return of the Jedi-related lore thus far isn’t from the movie at all, but the book that takes place directly after the Original Trilogy. A press release on StarWars.com confirms that Kay will visit the “humid jungles of Akiva” during her adventure, which should set off alarm bells in the heads of fans of the Star Wars books. After all, Akiva is the main setting of the 2015 novel Aftermath by Chuck Wendig, the first major post-Return of the Jedi story released by Disney and that was meant to bridge the gap between the Original Trilogy and The Force Awakens.
In the book, a group of misfits and freedom fighters are caught up in the power vacuum left in the wake of the Battle of Endor. Chaos ensues on the Outer Rim planet of Akiva, where a secret Imperial summit is being held to figure out the future of the Empire after the deaths of Palpatine and Darth Vader. As our unlikely heroes, including Temmin “Snap” Wexley from the Sequel Trilogy, work to foil Imperial planning on Akiva, we get a good look at the power struggles within the Empire’s own ranks as they try to choose a successor to the Emperor.
It’s also in Aftermath series that Star Wars begins to plant the seeds of the First Order, the fascist war machine that will eventually rise from the ashes of the Imperial Remnant during the Sequel movies. The story of how and why the Empire retreated to the Unknown Regions and reorganized as the First Order begins in Aftermath, and more specifically on Akiva, which frees itself from the Empire in the book and becomes the first Outer Rim planet to join the fledgling New Republic.
Of course, Outlaws will explore Akiva at a slightly different point in its history, a little over a year before the events of Aftermath, a time when the planet is still under the grip of the Empire and the Rebellion has yet to plan its attack on the second Death Star. It makes sense to set Outlaws during this time period, as the gap between Empire and Jedi remains relatively untapped by Disney, especially when it comes to video games.
“When we were starting off the discussions with Lucasfilm, it was very clear that the one year period between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, that’s where the Rebels aren’t part of the picture,” Massive Entertainment creative director Julian Gerighty explained in an interview with IGN. “The Empire’s taking more and more control, but the syndicates, they’re taking more power, they’re exploiting all of these weaknesses. So it really is a moment where the underworld is thriving and there’s no better situation for an established or a rookie scoundrel to cut their teeth than this particular moment.”
It’ll be very interesting to see if and how Kay fits into the larger galactic events of this moment in the timeline. Is she on a mission to steal Han Solo back? Or will the aforementioned heist involve her helping the Bothans steal the plans to the second Death Star? Is the prize somehow something even more valuable? We can’t wait to find out.
Star Wars Outlaws will hit PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC in 2024.