Star Wars Outlaws hands-on preview: Exciting potential, familiar concerns

Screenshot of Star Wars Outlaws.
Yeah, you're totally hidden there, Kay Vess. (Image credit: Ubisoft)

Star Wars has experienced something of a pop culture revival in the last few years and shows no signs of slowing down with a never-ending stream of new TV shows, video games, and more. Even Ubisoft is finally getting in on the fun, taking the wheel away from EA for a little bit with Star Wars Outlaw, the first open-world action-adventure Star Wars game.

It's an exciting game because it's one of the first that completely takes the focus off the Jedi so prevalent in most Star Wars stories, instead centering on the life of a scoundrel. During Summer Game Fest 2024, I was able to go hands-on with Star Wars Outlaw for a full hour, playing through an exploration-based mission, a space combat mission, and a stealth/action mission. I had a fun time, but I'm left with some lingering concerns regarding Ubisoft's open-world design.

What is Star Wars Outlaws?

Star Wars Outlaws: Official Gameplay Showcase | Ubisoft Forward - YouTube Star Wars Outlaws: Official Gameplay Showcase | Ubisoft Forward - YouTube
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Star Wars Outlaws is a first from Ubisoft, a brand-new Star Wars video games franchise that is (for once) not published by Electronic Arts. Star Wars Outlaws follows scoundrel Kay Vess and her animal companion Nix on a journey across multiple infamous planets like Tatooine. Set before the events of Return of the Jedi, Kay Vess is set to attempt a major heist in the Outer Rim.

Unlike other Star Wars games, it's a decidedly low-stakes mission that doesn't feature the Jedi. Instead, Star Wars Outlaws follows the galaxy's criminal underworld, with Vess developing relationships with various crime syndicates during her journey. It's also apparently a true open-world Star Wars game, even more so than Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.

That means we can expect Ubisoft to flex its open-world prowess with expansive and detailed environments, letting us explore the Star Wars universe in an all-new way. Star Wars Outlaws is expected to release on Aug. 30, 2024, for Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, and PlayStation 5, and is now available to preorder. If you want to learn more, you can check out our in-depth Star Wars Outlaws FAQ.

Finally, a Star Wars game not about Jedi

There are definitely no Jedi to be found here, just one scoundrel and a whole lot of guns. (Image credit: Ubisoft)

During Ubisoft Forward at Summer Game Fest 2024, Ubisoft showed off over 10 minutes of Star Wars Outlaws gameplay. I didn't actually see that trailer, as I was too busy previewing Assassin's Creed Shadows at the time. After I was done with that, I wandered to another room and was able to play an hour of Star Wars Outlaws. I explored a fallen starship in search of a functional nav computer, flew around space and tried not to blow up, and infiltrated a syndicate hideout to recover an important artifact.

Everything I played reminded me of what I felt when I first saw Star Wars Outlaws: wow, this is an interesting perspective for a Star Wars game. I love being a Jedi as much as the next person, but it's exciting to get a full-fledged, AAA Star Wars game that avoids all the "big" Star Wars topics and instead focuses on the grounded characters simply trying to survive in a brutal universe. Specifically, Star Wars Outlaws is laden with criminal organizations battling each other for dominance at the outer edges of the galaxy.

The gameplay reflects this. Kay Vess is athletic, resourceful, and possessed of diverse skills, but she's no superhuman. Her animal companion assists her with distractions and reconnaissance, but for the most part, Vess has to rely on her intellect and gear to stay out of trouble, including her trusty blaster pistol. In this way, Star Wars Outlaws plays unlike any other Star Wars game I've experienced, but it does feel very Ubisoft.

I'm hoping that won't end up being the game's downfall.

Hoping Ubisoft can stick the landing

It's actually in this area that my nagging feeling about Star Wars Outlaws grew strongest. (Image credit: Ubisoft)

I had fun playing Star Wars Outlaws, and when the demo was finished, I was interested in playing more. Through all three missions, though, I was plagued with this vague feeling of familiarity. Where Assassin's Creed Shadows gave me hope that Ubisoft had evolved in the right direction, what I saw of Star Wars Outlaws hinted that the stale, bloated open-world design we've come to expect from Ubisoft may be rearing its ugly head once again.

I should specify that I didn't get to see much of the open world, hence why this was more of a feeling. From trailers to my gameplay demo, the world of Star Wars Outlaws looks visually stunning and incredibly detailed, with smooth transitions from location to location, but the suggestion of side activities, the bevy of visible pick-ups and crafting resources, and the very Ubisoft-esque action gameplay all prevented me from being totally sold on Star Wars Outlaws.

I have no doubt that Ubisoft is going to deliver a positively gorgeous Star Wars world that will be a joy to explore, but I'm worried that the game itself will grow tiring over time, like so many other open-world Ubisoft titles. Environment traversal, information gathering, stealth, combat — so much of Star Wars Outlaws felt like classic Ubisoft in a Star Wars skin, and I'm not positive that'll be enough to elevate the final game to greatness with how many other amazing games are being released nowadays.

The most interesting part of my gameplay demo was the starship combat, but even here I have concerns about how Ubisoft will fill these areas. (Image credit: Ubisoft)

If anything, I think it's telling that after an hour of gameplay, I'm struggling to think of much more to say about this game. Want me to talk about exploring the world? It's a lot of climbing and clambering, with simple puzzles and nonexciting loot everywhere. Want me to talk about the combat? Takedowns feel stale and lifeless, and blasters lack punch. Want me to talk about stealth? Well, Vess may not have "eagle vision," but Nix sure does, which basically amounts to the same thing.

I'm willing to remain cautiously optimistic about Star Wars Outlaws, because this world is spectacular and I enjoyed some memorable moments successfully sneaking past enemies, taking advantage of Vess' various skills to accomplish my goals, blasting enemies away in my starship, and taking advantage of environmental hazards to come out on top. Star Wars Outlaws made me feel like a true scoundrel at times, and those moments made me hungry for more.

In order for Star Wars Outlaws to become one of the best Xbox games of the year, though, Ubisoft will have to prove that this isn't just another formulaic, cookie-cutter open world that doesn't properly reward you for exploring it. It'll have to prove that this game is dynamic and flexible, giving players the freedom to be the Star Wars scoundrel they want to be. Becoming a notorious criminal in the Outer Rim sounds amazing; just don't shove me in a gameplay box and make me chase after endless map icons.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.

  • TheSharpe
    All of that would be acceptable if the full game experience was not priced at 130$.

    49$ for a subpar reskinned Ubisoft experience, okay because it's Star Wars, but what you described isn't worth what they are asking.