Star Wars Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge (VR) Review

Star Wars Tales From the Galaxy's Edge (VR) Review
| Nov 30, 2020
ILMxLab has borrowed some of Disney’s magic to create Star Wars Tales of the Galaxy’s Edge for their latest VR game, bringing the fabled franchise closer to a lucid dream for hardcore fans.

It loses some of the deeper story elements and Force-driven gameplay from Vader Immortal, but makes up for it by becoming a game-focused experience. Though many mechanics are awfully derivative from past VR games before, Star Wars Tales From the Galaxy‘s Edge creatively incorporates these in its universe without taking anything too seriously. It’s also held back by its exclusivity over the less powerful Oculus Quest hardware with dated visuals which can detract from what should be a gorgeous world throughout. But the result is a more focused, campier successor to Vader Immortal which brings a slice of Disneyland’s iconic theme park home.

Star Wars Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge is essentially the next major VR release from ILMxLab, known widely for their first three episodic games based on the franchise. Where Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series finally put a lightsaber and force abilities in the hands of users, Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge moves away from what was already done. Instead, players are quickly thrown into a first person shooter with a surprisingly wide degree of exploration. It’s tied together with a lighter story that’s a stark opposite of the dark lore-driven Vader Immortal series. The change of pace feels much more immersive as ILMxLab has doubled-down on RPG elements. Its direct link to the Galaxy’s Edge theme park brings in some fun ways to interact with an equally authentic environment. From building a droid to meeting C-3P0 and drinking at a cantina, Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge definitely feels like a theme park ride with enough video game distinction.

The story is a bit lighter and campier than Vader Immortal this time around, with players skipping much of the sacred Original Trilogy for a modern adventure. Dropping into the sequel trilogy between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker felt a tad bit too jarring while the game leaves little to no connections with canon lore. This is because the plot is centered as a few adventures around Disneyland’s park which is stuck in time. For maximum RPG vibes, Tales of the Galaxy’s Edge puts players in the body of another unnamed, silent smuggler. They’re quickly trapped in their own workplace as a cell of the Guavian Death Gang attack, starting a rabbit hole of shooting and looting. Without too many spoilers, an action-packed prologue sends players down to the planet of Disneyland Battuu, and race to salvage crashed cargo. The first act does a great job of capturing a hype interactive feeling of theme parks, down to characters speaking on screens as players walk down a tacky ship filled with Star Wars artifacts from movies ago. ILMxLab, directly connected to Lucasfilms, have the benefit of using real-life props to create their own authentic set pieces. It feels closer to remind players they’re in Star Wars, compared to the temple-driven location for Darth Vader’s castle. The scenes make Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge more cinematic as the moments unfold before VR eyes.

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Star Wars Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge – ILMxLab

The biggest scene is visiting a bar which is actually one of the random buildings in Disney’s real life park. It’s a cool connection to know that players do get to see a recreation of Disneyland from up high. But this watering hole is also the main hub which ties Tales of the Galaxy’s Edge together. Apart from getting new missions, the cantina features a few interactive things including a life-sized boombox, holographic darts and pretending to be wasted with a supersized space vodka. ILMxLab has done a great job in cutting and pasting this establishment, and using the power of VR to turn up the fantasy. Like the other locations in Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge, the cantina can be revisited with fast travel – a much welcome feature that wasn’t seen in Vader Immortal. Instead of playing through an entire experience to be at a favourite set, fast travel adds to replayability and lets users soak in more of some cool level design without being pushed on a tight schedule by an angry sith lord. But the cantina, along with another version of the Droid Depot are directly inspired by the real thing. A great level of detail was taken to craft some pretty impressive sets. The depot is also a gameified location, giving players a reason to visit Mubo for buying gloves, healing sprays, sentry droids or grenades.

It’s when players become isolated that the special Temple of Darkness level starts to become a suspenseful mystery. Seeing dead Jedi corpses were enough for me to keep my lightsaber activated as I followed some sinister echoes down the crumbled ruins. ILMxLab’s experience comes into play with giving players an absolutely cool level which steals the show.

Clement Goh, VR Editor and Reviewer

Each scene is livened up by some pretty likeable characters. Their interactions are personal enough for users to mutter a response when they can’t hear. A blend of self-aware humor with sprinkles of Star Wars jargon make each character fit with every situation. ILMxLab must be pretty big fans of Saturday Night Live, as they managed to bring in Maya Rudolph for Vader Immortal and now Bobby Moynihan as bar owner Seezleslak. Surprisingly, the natural SNL charms work in tandem with Batuu’s most jaded residents like Seezleslak, who has a ton of stories to share from the counter. In-game dialogue connects to some funny past encounters with some classic Star Wars characters, carried by Moynihan’s energy in the role. While Seezleslak adds a comforting voice, he’s contrasted by the deadly leader of the Guavian Death Gang constantly trying to kill players across the entire game. Her rare, but unsettling vibes are turned to the max by Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order and Modern Warfare alumni Debra Wilson. In running away from the pirates, Tara becomes a looming presence throughout as she hunts for the mysterious cargo. Because Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge is fully interactive, it’s incredibly cool to meet iconic characters in full size with their voice actors. Anthony Daniels guides players as C-3P0 across the second half of the adventure with some passive aggressive banters with R2D2. I admitted to being so surprised at their roles going past a mere cameo, as you also travel with them on occasional missions (and petting R2 more times than I should have).

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Star Wars Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge – ILMxLab

One of the highlights of Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge include the “Temple of Darkness” short VR experience included. This is unlocked by collecting raw materials as players explore Battuu and mixing them in a drink by Seezleslak. But once players start downing the space vodka, Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge goes full-force into Jedi territory. Players become a young padawan in an incredibly short, but engrossing first chapter set in the new High Republic timeline. Taking direct mechanics from Vader Immortal, players get to wield a lightsaber and fight enemies with force powers. As much as I wanted to see a new lightsaber dojo, it’s clear that ILMxLab has moved on from their first game’s unique activities. The underlying purpose comes from adding some kind of fresh lore, which centers on an ancient Jedi temple not too far from Disneyland Black Spire Outpost. But in a stark opposite from Vader Immortal, players get to meet, train and not hug Master Yoda. Frank Oz makes a welcome return to the role, which does more than enough to pull players deeper into his instructions and wisdom along the story. It’s when players become isolated that the special Temple of Darkness level starts to become a suspenseful mystery. Seeing dead Jedi corpses were enough for me to keep my lightsaber activated as I followed some sinister echoes down the crumbled ruins. ILMxLab’s experience comes into play with giving players an absolutely cool level which steals the show. Strangely enough, the Temple of Darkness level is the only story in a game that should have a variety of them. But its roadmap suggests there are two more tales on the way as expansions come along. This is one of the parts which left me feeling shortchanged as I expected much of the plot to happen in different places with other characters. But Temple of Darkness marks an incredibly promising step for ILMxLab should they make a true Jedi-based sequel someday.

It’s important to acknowledge Vader Immortal as a stepping-off point for future Star Wars games in VR. ILMxLab has taken off their training wheels and expanded Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge as a multi-platforming adventure which take away the long queues and all-day admission bands. There were a surprisingly large amount of gunfights which glue the whole game together. Here on Battu, players are using whatever weapons they can pick up to survive. Apart from a few NPCs, almost everything on the planet from space gangsters and small aliens want to kill you. There’s more than enough action in the game’s four outdoor-based levels to call this “Time Crisis meets Star Wars“. But in a non-linear experience, players are walking across canyons as they’re constantly jumped by pirates. I especially enjoyed this change in gameplay style, as I was constantly ducking behind rocks to hide from blaster fire or scanning my horizons with a gun in hand. A major improvement comes with receiving dialogue through world-building instead of being locked in a cutscene. This keeps the momentum of Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge going without players feeling like too much of a passive observer. The combat feels less unique from other VR games – a cost that comes from exchanging lightsabers for blasters. This is where ILMxLab fell into a trap of delivering some pretty generic shooting without many distinctions. There is a large influence felt from Half Life Alyx as enemies communicate in warped voices. The same inventory mechanic lets players store small items on their wrists for later use. All of the efforts to turn Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge into a game have created some noticeable clichés that can set in some VR fatigue.

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Star Wars Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge – ILMxLab

Players can now die in Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge, adding more reason to use the environment and weapons for every advantage. Its Normal difficulty is surprisingly challenging for a shooter, as enemies can take you out in seconds if you’re not being careful. This adds a deep level of concentration that Vader Immortal lacked for its invincible players. But ILMxLab has added a varying level of enemy types which require some strategy to take out. Larger flying droids can kamikaze players before exploding while Guavian gangsters with shotguns can be tedious to dodge and take out. It’s nice to see three varying levels of difficulty to shake up each replay, while the easiest difficulty is still enough to take players through an enjoyable romp without much respawning. Without a lightsaber dojo, ILMxLab still manages to keep Star Wars fans and players hooked into Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge after its story is done. If the five-hour experience wasn’t enough, an intricate level design lets players revisit the same levels and explore alternative trails. This is where curious players will be rewarded for going off the well-worn path and find collectibles. A slew of side quests add to the immersion of exploring every nook and cranny of Batuu, making Vader’s castle from the last game seem like a much smaller hike. I was impressed by how much details ILMxLab have put into keeping the game alive until the next expansion, including replayable gunfights when players venture back into the wilds.

It’s important to acknowledge Vader Immortal as a stepping-off point for future Star Wars games in VR. ILMxLab has taken off their training wheels and expanded Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge as a multi-platforming adventure which take away the long queues and all-day admission bands.

Clement Goh, VR Editor and Reviewer

Spicing up the gunfights are a collection of rifles, pistols and shotguns which can be picked up from enemies. These can be dual wielded or handled individually for more accuracy. It’s a tried and true formula from VR shooters that work to build Star Wars action. Guns also run out of ammo, forcing players to keep searching for weapon caches hidden in maps. Players can also overprepare and keep some extra blasters in their left and right holsters, but lose some mobility for aim and reloading. These moments can leave players vulnerable to enemies, who can actively flank players or send attack droid after you. But players are also given an ability to find training droids, which can be tossed in the air and protect players during more intense blaster battles. It’s nice to see some variety in these power-ups, which include different perks like shields, explosives or a volley of lasers. You can also repair them on the fly or stow them away for use again.

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Star Wars Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge – ILMxLab

Speaking of repairs, players are given a variety of minigames which involve hacking through doors and caches. In a step up from Vader Immortal, the new game includes an upgraded multitool that can unscrew things, blowtorch seams and repair droids. They’re also opportunities for players to experience some of the magical activities from the real Disneyland park. For fans looking to visit someday, it’s cool to get a taste through the minigames which are just as engaging. A personal favourite included a mix of each one, requiring me to slice open a panel before shocking a few power nodes and turning a dial lock (just to open a door). This leans hard into the mechanically-driven universe Star Wars is built on, making Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge an even more special VR experience. A new navigational tool includes a jetpack, which can open up bonus paths in levels and access areas formerly out of reach. Eagle-eyed players can also spot some collectibles up high and boost to collect them. Interestingly, a second upgrade boosts the height and unlocks a third floor of paths in levels for players to try out.

Despite ILMxLab taking bigger steps for Star Wars in VR, they’ve also taken a few steps back with some technical issues. Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge isn’t immune to some of the limitations that come from a mobile-based Oculus Quest headset. It’s a questionable decision to only release this on the platform, while it holds other more powerful PC or PSVR systems back from delivering a more polished experience. This is apparent over some muddy textures over what should be a gorgeously-rendered rocky Battu. Characters and enemies look dated with flat details over them as the Quest headset struggles to sacrifice visuals for performance. The game frequently suffered from drops in frame rate, going under the standard 75Hz when more enemies and scripted moments appeared on screen. I’ve also suffered from a CPU overload, causing the game to freeze entirely when I traveled to a new level. Other trust issues need to be patched out, including a being stuck in a void of black from a delayed loading screen. This comes from using the original Quest headset, while new Quest 2 users might face less of these hardware issues. But it definitely took away from an experience which was surprisingly much more polished in Vader Immortal. Unsurprisingly, it’s not the prettiest or best performing VR game to date. One of my biggest tech issues came from the Quest battery life being too short for a game of this magnitude. The base game clocks in at a respectable five hours. But the Quest’s charge only covers two and a half hours of play; something which worked for each of Vader Immortal‘s short 30-minute episodes. When things were picking up in Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge, a low battery shutdown could pull players out of the experience without a long charging cable.

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Star Wars Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge – ILMxLab

But it’s worth noting that ILMxLab has taken on an expansion-based path for content. This means the studio has pulled a few punches in substance and delivered on stories which feel flat compared to Vader Immortal. A big magic from the former game gave players a direct influence in serious canon. But Galaxy’s Edge, like many theme park attractions, feels more of a “get in, get out” exchange. By saving unique nuggets of activities for expansion, the experience leans towards memorable gameplay and a forgettable chapter in Star Wars. Stretching the gap between ILMxLab’s successful Vader Immortal series and Galaxy’s Edge are how stories are told. Believe it or not, I preferred the more linear, cinematic-driven approach of the former. Its gameplay was connected by a series of moments which fulfilled every fan’s wish. Actions like jumping into Hyperspace, fighting Stormtroopers and force-grabbing a saber could only happen from driving the plot forward. But Galaxy’s Edge loses opportunities to check off more wish-fulfilling movie moments and falls into the trap of generic VR shooters (more on that below). Instead, players spend most of their time roaming the outskirts of Battuu in a rail shooter. It’s tied with a few pretty cool dialogue exchanges through visiting new sets and hologram calls, but that’s as risky as Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge gets.

Players not getting to visit Disneyland for the popular theme park are in for a real treat. ILMxLab has made a bold move in creating a VR sequel based off Black Spire Outpost and have faithfully recreated much of the planet with its fun adventures. The story isn’t a high-stakes Star Wars mission, but does enough to offer an enjoyable ride if all logic is thrown out the window. Going back into the iconic universe without expectations is the best way to be surprised by some engaging gameplay, witty dialogue and easter eggs which give fans a real privilege of knowing. It’s a longer game, but relies too much on future expansions. Players might not remember the base game’s disappointing climax, but have plenty to look forward to as Star Wars Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge grows with more stories to experience.

Final Thoughts

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Star Wars Tales From the Galaxy's Edge (VR) Review 10
Developer: ILMxLab Publisher: Disney Electronic Content Played On: Oculus Quest Platform(s): Oculus Quest ESRB Rating: E10 (Everyone 10+) MSRP: $29.99 CAD Release Date: 19/11/2020

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