The Best Part of Star Wars Outlaws Is Something You Haven’t Seen in the Movies Before

Exclusive: We caught up with the creators of Star Wars Outlaws and had to ask them all about our favorite part of the game so far: the adorable Nix.

Star Wars Outlaws
Photo: Lucasfilm

It’s time to go but Kay and Nix are quickly surrounded by members of the Ashiga Clan as they try to make a quick escape through a courtyard. What brought them into enemy territory in the first place? A rare artifact that Kay was hired to steal from inside the clan’s base of operations on the ice planet Kijimi. But what seemed like a simple stealth mission into the base and out before anyone in Ashiga noticed has quickly landed our protagonists into a galaxy of trouble.

The masked, samurai-inspired Ashiga are a rough bunch and immediately start blasting. Kay runs for cover behind a pillar but is pinned down by laser fire on all sides. Now one of the enemies is pulling out a thermal detonator and preparing to lob it across the courtyard to lure Kay out of cover. Kay knows she has to move fast but first she needs a distraction to blind a guard closing in on her on her right. So she sends Nix, her trusty merqaal companion—who is part loving pet, skilled thief, mischievous trickster, and ferocious attacker—to do the job. With a click of the left bumper on an Xbox controller and a button press while aiming at the enemy, Nix scurries over to the immediate threat, quickly climbs up his leg, and begins scratching away at his face, buying Kay just enough time to not only blast this enemy away while he’s trying to pull Nix off him but also make a run for it.

As a scoundrel with a huge price on her head after a heist goes terribly wrong at the start of Ubisoft Massive‘s new open-world game, Star Wars Outlaws, Kay Vess must use all the tools at her disposal to survive not only the bounty hunters after her and the criminal factions she’ll face throughout the game but also the oppressive might of the evil Empire. It’s clear after playing three short sections of the game—just over an hour of gameplay—at Summer Game Fest that Nix is Outlaws‘ best and most impressive tool. He’s also cute as hell and really fun to command when in a scrape or to snatch up treasure Kay may not be able to reach herself. Like the best companions, Nix can do it all, including fetch that one dead Ashiga member’s blaster rifle for a bit more firepower.

While this particular section of the game sees Kay at odds with the Ashiga Clan, she’s a gun for hire in this galaxy full of scum and villainy, and will have to work for all the criminal factions in the game and raise her reputation with them to finally clear her bounty. An earlier section also pit Kay and Nix against Imperial stormtroopers while trying to steal some precious cargo, requiring a more stealthy approach to get past guards. Once again Nix was very handy, particularly when using his “Distract” command, which drew enemies’ attention away from Kay so that she could sneak up and knock them out quietly. Pressing up on the D-pad also allowed Nix to sense other enemies on the map so that Kay could skirt around them or plan a takedown. Essentially, you’ll want Nix by your side during tense sneaking sections in Outlaws (such as stealing the aforementioned artifact from Ashiga before all hell broke loose, which admittedly was kind of my fault).

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From a certain point of view, Kay and Nix’s partnership follows an established formula for Star Wars: the most well-known scoundrels always have a loyal companion by their side. Han Solo has Chewbacca. Lando Calrissian has L3-37. But you’ve never seen a team quite like Kay and Nix in the movies before, certainly none as adorable or that functions quite in the same way. So naturally, I had to ask the team at Ubisoft Massive all about creating Nix.

In regards to the mechanics and function of the little companion, game director Mathias Karlson describes Nix as an “extension of Kay, like an extra arm… For him to be able manipulate alarms, sabotage explosive barrels, steal things, distract, [and] tag someone temporarily felt like a really fun gameplay space for us that we wanted also then realize with a strong relationship and something we’ve never seen before.”

In fact, the loyal merqaal is a brand new Star Wars species making its debut in Outlaws. But while the little guy may look suitably alien and do things most pets can’t, his design is based on real-life animals.

“One thing was definitely our pets,” associate art director Marthe Jonkers explains while pointing to a tattoo she has of her cat on her arm. “We looked a lot at our pets, like how do they behave? What kind of quirks do they have? That was the inspiration for his movement and what we wanted out of this character.”

There’s definitely something cat-like about Nix in the way he sits on Kay’s lap and climbs up her back—which is why the back of her jacket has claw marks (ouch!)—and as any cat owner like myself knows, these pets can be mischievous and weird as hell, but there were other inspirations, too.

According to Jonkers, Nix hails from “an unnamed, mysterious jungle planet somewhere,” so her team, working alongside Lucasfilm, created a design to reflect that origin.

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“He grew up on a planet that has very harsh weather, so [Nix] needs some protection. That’s why he has those scales. And for that we looked at the pangolin, for example, as a creature with a lot of scales,” Jonkers reveals. What about the very expressive tentacles on Nix’s head that also gives him heightened senses (perfect for marking enemies on a map)? “We looked at the axolotl. We wanted to have these tentacles because one thing we really wanted was to give Nix the ability to emote, to show his emotions. [It] also adds a bit of alienness to him.”

One thing that became clear during our chat at SGF is that the team at Ubisoft Massive see Kay and Nix as one, a main character in two parts, and not just in terms of gameplay mechanics but in the storytelling.

“Nix is the heart and soul of Kay,” narrative director Navid Khavari says. “Kay is a pretty untrusting person, and the crack in her armor is Nix. She loves and adores this creature.”

We still don’t know how Kay and Nix first met, but there’s plenty more to learn about these partners in crime when the game finally hits shelves: “There’s a file on Nix where we’ve gone to great lengths to explain where he’s from and all of that, but it is a mystery,” Khavari teases.

As Kay and Nix would probably say, it’s time to steal that file.

Star Wars Outlaws is out on Aug. 30 for Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC.

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