Star Wars Outlaws preview: set to deliver a scoundrel fantasy that’s a space scavenger’s dream

Star Wars Outlaws preview: set to deliver a scoundrel fantasy that’s a space scavenger’s dream

Star Wars Outlaws feels like Uncharted in a galaxy far far away. At Summer Game Fest 2024, I saw behind the curtain of Ubisoft’s upcoming single-player action-adventure game set in the famous universe and, while some of it feels eerily similar to the adventures of Nathan Drake, I came away excited to play and discover more.

I had a chance to experience three missions that covered a few different scenarios, settings, and quests that Kay and Nix will go on in their joint adventure. From exploring an ancient wreck to sneaking into a guarded stronghold to try and steal a well-protected artifact, there’s plenty to do and a lot of variation on offer here. 

Two outlaws

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Kay is a scoundrel through and through. This is immediately obvious from the slices of the game that I played and sets things up for an exciting and bombastic – yet still very grounded and relatable – interplanetary adventure. 

That groundedness is a particular strength – it’s refreshing to play a character in the Star Wars universe who just seems like a ‘regular’ person and not someone wielding a lightsaber or using the force at every turn.

She gives off strong Han Solo vibes, most apparent in her tool set. Her blaster is multi-faceted enabling her to deploy it in different ways to suit different needs. She can cycle through a traditional laser blaster to deal damage, an Ion ammo type that can disable enemy shields, and a stun shot to take down enemies quietly – though the latter comes with a lengthy cool down so has to be used sparingly.

Additionally, Kay has a distinct but eminently useful hacking tool that’s a joy to use and presents its own challenges. To use it you have to input a hack or twist the device in time with a light and beep that comes from the item you’re hacking. This makes for a fun mini-challenge within the game – especially when some locks are multi-faceted. It’s also a device that exudes the scoundrel aspect – it has a self-invented, ‘unofficial’ quality that maybe only those on the wrong side of the law would need.

Partnering with her is Nix, an endearing sidekick who does more than offer simple companionship or an ear for banter. Nix is genuinely useful in action, be it sneaking about or full-on combat. In the former, you can send Nix out to pick up loot and reveal environmental secrets for puzzles; in the latter, he can distract enemies, collect dropped guns for you to use, and reveal enemies with a Division-like pulse skill. The combination of actions you can carry out with Nix gives extra layers to the gameplay and makes for fun combinations and approaches to quests and action.

He also reacts accordingly to movement, pulling his cute little ears (or at least they look like ears) closer to his head to mimic Kay’s crouch. 

As a result, it really feels like Kay and Nix combine to be the main character, rather than Kay as the main character happening to have a sidekick. It’s fun and adds a bit of depth to actual gameplay too, as well as offering companionship.

 It’s a scavenger’s life and a scoundrel’s world

A screenshot of a snowy planet in Star Wars Outlaws.

(Image credit: Ubisoft.)

The places and world that Kay and Nix are finding their scoundrel-y way through is spot on in terms of recreating the Star Wars aesthetic. It’s authentic to the style of the movies and makes for exceptional places and locations. While there’s an emphasis on the underworld of the universe that Kay and Nix operate in, a whole heap of worldbuilding is going on elsewhere too. 

Across the three missions I played, there was a range of different places with their own character: populated towns with shops and traders, a wintry setting with snow blowing through the air, clinical imperial ships, and crumbling space ruins. Keeping true to the breadth of landscapes and environments that have always featured in the Star Wars universe means the variety of places is engaging – but each is also filled with fun ways to get around and interesting locations to discover.

Scattered across the levels I played were examples of those more secret areas, and some of the tricky places to access too. I discovered one of the former locations – in this case, a hidden treasure location – just by happening to overhear a conversation. A local imperial cop was standing outside of a locked door telling a resident that he’d got them off a wanted list but couldn’t do anymore. I stopped and had a look around the back of the building and, lo and behold, found a hidden treasure located within. More nuanced and subtle discovery such as this is a nice touch.

Some things are more sophisticated, however. We saw and engaged in a glyph-based puzzle that acted as a password or login for an imperial computer. It’s a minigame that requires you to get the right symbols in the right order – in the right amount of time. It’s a nice little minigame and the added pressure of a timer raises the stakes, but in this particular one at least, you could just brute force it a bit by going for a quickfire selection repeatedly to whittle down the options.

There is a plethora of bits and pieces scattered across areas for Kay or Nix to find and pick up, from resources to lore. While none of it is that hard to locate, it felt on brand for Kay and Nix as scoundrels and scavengers, hoovering up every last bit of useful stuff they can find – sometimes seemingly related to upgrades or recipes that each material can go toward.

 Channeling Drake

The protagonist stealthily exploring in Star Wars Outlaws.

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

 

As well as having a relatively ‘regular’ protagonist, the similarities to other more earthly action adventures like Uncharted and Tomb Raider manifest in the way Kay and Nix explore the world of Outlaws and go on quests.

In one particular mission, this similarity was extremely strong. I was searching a long-abandoned wreck for specific parts for Kay’s ship, going deeper and deeper into the bowels of the metal beast. It was full of small environmental puzzles and jumping across old machine parts, grates, and platforms, but finished with a sprinting escape while it fell apart around Kay.

While Kay is a normal person, she has the athleticism to enable some fun traversal by rapidly climbing and jumping nimbly across the world with relative ease, while her grappling hook is particularly slick and satisfying. She also has some slick moves in and out of cover, including a well-executed and cool-looking slide.

Exploring a sandy planet in Star Wars Outlaws.

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

This excellence in movement extends to Kay’s ship. The game really captures the style of a Star Wars dogfight, for example. You can pursue ships and feel like you’re on their tail, chasing them down. Once hot on their heels you can unleash calculated, leading shots targeted according to their trajectory and pace.

Then, the transition from being a space dogfight to landing on a planet, coming to a standstill, and then jumping on your speedster is sublime. It’s smooth and quick and could set up some seamless exploration of the promised open world, instead of losing the immersion to loading screens like some other recent space adventures.

The one downside of my preview was that I didn’t see much of the open world. The glimpses of the game world I got from the missions have left me intrigued, but the ability to just ride out on my speedster and discover things for myself, organically and naturally at my own pace is something I’m now extra keen to experience.

There’s also something that feels quite safe about applying some familiar gameplay mechanics from the likes of Uncharted and Tomb Raider to the sci-fi setting of Star Wars – but it looks to be a super fit, and with a relatable, grounded protagonist, I’m all in for it.

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