This Friday, May 31, 2019, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge has been released on the Oculus Quest. I’m an avid fan of all things Star Wars so when I saw this title was coming to Quest, I decided it would be worth checking out. However, there are a few points of concern that need to be addressed before you spend your money on this game (and quite frankly they’re valid concerns). Despite these concerns, don’t let them deter you from giving this game a shot if you’re interested. The best way to describe this experience is that it feels like sitting in front of your computer screen holding two highly detailed storybooks with picture tabs that allow you to seamlessly flip through each page without ever losing your place, but instead of the pages being static images, they are full motion.
I was one of those people who wanted to watch A New Hope the moment I saw the title screen for it on my parents’ TV. When I was younger, Star Wars had a profound impact on me. It made me want to be smarter, kinder, stronger and braver. It gave me an appreciation for science fiction stories that shaped my imagination unlike any other medium could at such a young age. And now as an adult with children of my own who look to Star Wars as their go-to role model (it’s not Darth Vader or Kylo Ren) this game is quite special. Watching them experience new aspects of this universe that they haven’t been exposed to before is quite a delight.
In this VR title, you play as an “Outrider” from the planet Batuu who is making deliveries across the galaxy including on your home planet. While working for Black Spire Outpost’s only outpost casino, you discover that any ship entering or leaving must go through safety inspection by scanning its cargo and passengers for contraband. They’ve found traces of something called First Order technology (from The Force Awakens) in one of your shipments which have led them to confiscate it all. You must find out what this shipment was about and uncover why there’s First Order tech mixed in with it so you can figure out what parts are yours and get paid…all while dodging Imperial forces because no good deed goes unpunished.
The game starts off simply enough with you playing as two characters, each of which has their own responsibilities to carry out their side of the story. One character (a “Ranger”) works for Black Spire Outpost’s security department and looks after people coming into the outpost while another character (an “Outrider”) delivers goods throughout the galaxy. You also get to play as two droids who are buddies; one is a protocol droid named TB-2 (mechanic) and the other is an astromech droid called BB-8 (pilot).
While at first this split between missions seems like it would be disjointed or confusing, they tie together quite nicely. The cutscenes do a great job of easing you into the story and they work together to tell a cohesive narrative. That being said, this game isn’t for everyone. This is definitely a title that requires your full attention and it may be difficult to play in shorter sessions due to the length of time it’ll take you to complete. The main storyline takes roughly 4 hours to complete but there are also 5 side missions worth mentioning all of which add another 2-3 hours (I wouldn’t say these add anything substantial enough to warrant playing through them, but they’re still worth mentioning).
One aspect I like about this VR twist on the long-running franchise is that they brought back many actors from the movies including Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Billy DeeWilliams (Lando Calrissian). They also cast actors like Myrna Velasco (voice of Aayla Secura and Barriss Offee from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series), Fred Tatasciore (a sound artist who’s worked on more than 100 projects including Halo 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Overwatch) and Jerome Blake (both voice actor and puppeteer for many characters in multiple entries in the franchise such as Tusken Raiders, battle droids and battle droids with rocket launchers). While these aren’t big names on their own, this type of casting shows that they wanted to tie in authenticity by using people who’ve had a hand in helping shape this universe. It’s easy to say that it was a treat to play as both Mark Hamill’s character and Billy Dee Williams’ character given the fact that it is very clear they were determined to do this right.
One thing I didn’t like about playing most of these characters is that you are cast into the role of “a nobody”. This isn’t necessarily bad since they’re essentially portraying normal people who’ve found themselves in extraordinary circumstances, but it would have been nice if there were some more substantial roles for someone who likes being an everyman. It breaks up the monotony of being a force-user or Jedi/Sith throughout all of these Star Wars games…but again, not everyone has had access to those stories so this could make them feel excluded. Still, there’s a lot of diversity in the cast and I liked that we get to play as both men and women across many backgrounds. Otherwise, my main qualm with these characters is that they exist merely as vessels for you to take over…which makes sense from a design standpoint since they want to make it easy for people to jump into this world but also feels kinda cheap when you don’t care about them at all.
There’s been some criticism saying that players can change these character models if they’re played several times-to which I say: “so what?” It doesn’t matter if your character isn’t an exact replica of yourself or even if their personality is different from yours-they’re still going through the same story arc regardless of who is behind the visor. In fact, some of the dialogue changes depending on who you pick which shows that they were doing some subtle tweaking to make it more personal for each person playing through this experience.
The controls are pretty straightforward from a design standpoint but I’m not sure if everyone will enjoy having to use a controller as their means of interaction rather than a joystick-although this is very similar to how it feels on a console or PC when using a standard controller. There’s also an option where you’re allowed to switch between first and third-person perspectives at any time during gameplay which was definitely fun given that there isn’t too much VR content out there allowing you to do this (and it really makes the lightsaber feel like an extension of yourself). There is a multitude of quests in the imperial outpost and they all feel unique from one another so you don’t have to worry about doing something similar. The voice acting was excellent, although it tends to be a bit cheesy given the fact that there’s a lot of repetition in how you talk with certain characters. Here’s an example:
*Innkeeper says something about being taken away from your family when the empire took over their planet [or some other cliche cover story]*
Player: “I’ve heard this before” Innkeeper: “I’m sorry I just assumed…” Player: “It’s okay” Innkeeper: “Thank you for understanding.”
My main gripe is that we were never able to explore any of the interesting locations found within the outpost, but maybe that will change in future updates.
This game isn’t very long-certainly not as long as something like Skyrim or Fallout 4, though I can see people wishing there were more to do on this map since it’s so vast and lively with all the different characters running around. Otherwise, there are some side quests you can complete which involve doing things for NPCs (such as repairing a droid) to help make the story feel more personalized and we even get to influence what happens to certain people. There’s also plenty of secrets hidden throughout this world, including an easter egg where you get to use your lightsaber alongside Darth Vader…it was truly epic and exciting given how scarce opportunities like these are in VR.
The graphics are fairly good, but not quite up to snuff with something like Skyrim or Fallout 4 since there’s a noticeable lack of detail when you get up close and inspect objects (there were also some graphical errors I experienced occasionally). But for what it lacks in fidelity, there is certainly more than enough diversity to make this an interesting world to explore. The music was appropriate given the Star Wars universe-not much else to say about that.
It’s difficult for me to criticize this game because I had such a great time with it and will definitely be playing through this multiple times (the first playthrough took me around 2 hours if I didn’t do any side quests-and side quests only add minutes onto that total rather than hours). The best way I can think to describe it is that it’s like Skyrim for VR but in a Star Wars universe.
Also, the content here is very rich and there are no advertisements/purchases in sight which makes this game feel much more polished than something you’d find on any mobile phone or tablet (there’s nothing worse than paying $5-$10 for an average experience where you spend more time looking at ads directing you to their other games rather than enjoying what you paid for-I’m looking directly at you, Fallout Shelter !). It would be nice if they could add some additional quests or storylines since that’s one of the biggest complaints with VR games right now-this type of full package isn’t easy to find nowadays, so it’s definitely something I appreciate about this game.
The biggest question you probably have is whether or not this game is worth buying now that it has been out for a couple of months. And the answer to that would be yes this is one of those games where I’d say go ahead and buy it now even if you’re wary about how much content there might be since the replay value here is through the roof (I can attest to this after having already played through all story missions 3 times). If by the time you read these words they’ve patched in more quests/dungeons/weapons to make this even better… well, then my advice would still hold true because at its core this release isn’t just a good VR game but a good Star Wars adventure.