Opinion

Star Wars Outlaws’ Open World Has Me Worried

A galaxy of possibilities.

A character on a futuristic motorcycle overlooks a sprawling desert landscape with rocky formations ...
Ubisoft

Outlaws is a momentous occasion in Star Wars video games, the first true open world title the series has ever seen. Getting to explore and roam one of the richest universes ever seen in entertainment is an enticing prospect, and by all regards, an open world Star Wars game should be a homerun. But that’s exactly what has me worried about Star Wars Outlaws: two months out from release, I still don’t have a great idea of how the open world really works. So much of what we’ve seen of Outlaws focuses on the story or singular gameplay elements, and I desperately hope its exploration elements don’t fall into the pit of open world tropes.

To be clear, we’ve seen a lot of gameplay for Star Wars Outlaws, but there’s only one real video that dives into the mechanics of the open world, that being the gameplay presentation at Ubisoft Forward earlier in June. In that presentation we got to see space battles, Kay’s relationship with crime syndicates, minigames like Sabacc, stealth gameplay, and more.

It was an interesting look at the game, but again, I still don’t understand how the open world is pieced together, or how it all plays out across the narrative. Outlaws’ protagonist, Kay Vess, can obviously visit multiple planets that each function as its own “open world,” but how big are those areas? How will the crime syndicates affect each planet, if at all? Can you visit these worlds at any time regardless of what’s happening in the story? There are still so many questions surrounding Outlaws’ gameplay loop, and going hands-on with the game at Summer Game Fest only gave me even more questions.

The demo I played featured three 20-minute linear segments that each focused on a different aspect of the game; platforming, shooting, and space battles. It’s remarkable how much Outlaws feels like a sci-fi version of Uncharted, with Kay clambering up ledges and handholds to reach far-off areas. The shooting and space battles also feel great, leaning into the laser weapons of Star Wars both in visuals and mechanics, like Kay being able to switch between three different laser types on her pistol. It also deserves mention that Outlaws has utterly nailed the Star Wars aesthetic. Much like Jedi Survivor, Outlaws' visuals nail the aesthetic of the original trilogy, with chunky architecture and buttons, dozens of little weirdo aliens, and convincing sound effects.

I genuinely enjoyed what I played of Outlaws, but it felt like hopping around different pieces of a linear experience. My inherent worry is that the linear story-focused sections of the game could clash with the open-ended exploration, creating a game that feels like two disparate halves instead of one whole.

Outlaws plays a lot like a sci-fi version of Uncharted, and mixing that with an open world is an interesting idea.

Ubisoft

For me, a big part of this is tied up in Ubisoft’s reluctance to evolve its open world formula. Early games in series like Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, and Far Cry helped define what it meant to be an open world game, giving us the trademark “Ubisoft towers” to reveal the map. But that design has been the foundation of almost every Ubisoft open world since.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was where all of this became too egregious for me, an open world packed with stuff to do, arguably too much to do. The story beats of Valhalla really suffer from pacing problems as you get buried under treasures to find, world events to activate, and a convoluted leveling system that requires some grinding. I liked a lot of what Valhalla did with its environmental design, history, and narrative, but so much of the good stuff gets utterly buried by dozens of hours of open world slog.

Games like The Witcher 3, Breath of the Wild, and Elden Ring have all redefined the idea of the open world game, putting the focus squarely on the player themselves dictating the experience of exploration. These worlds are simply a joy to spend time in, and Outlaws has that potential.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a prime example of an open world game that’s too bloated, filled with far too much busy work that detracts from the pacing and narrative.

Ubisoft

I hope that Star Wars’ first true open world game can avoid those problems. Outlaws finally gives us a universe to explore, and a story that focuses on the grimy criminal underworld, free from all the tropes of the Jedi and Sith. That’s the perfect setup for a space fantasy where you forge your own legend, and I sincerely hope Outlaws has the open world chops to back it all up. I don’t want checklists of content, I want an immersive universe that rewards exploration and experimentation, one that doesn’t hold your hand the whole way.

It just feels like Ubisoft has played it too close to the vest with information, focusing a lot on Outlaw’s pure gameplay mechanics and not the universe being built around all that. Of course, I’d love nothing more than to have my worries proven completely wrong.

Star Wars Outlaws launches on August 30 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

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