Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge gets big VR upgrade, now even closer to Disney's theme parks
Last Call, the final part of the best Star Wars game on Oculus Quest 2, feels more than ever like a doorway to the eventual overlap of home and theme park.
Scott SteinEditor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
ExpertiseVR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tabletsCredentials
Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Having missed out on visiting Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge theme park in person last year, I immersed myself in the VR game tie-in, Tales From the Galaxy's Edge on the Oculus Quest 2. The experience didn't disappoint, although the shooting-based adventure explores completely different realms to the much-hyped theme park. A new expansion, Last Call, completes the storyline and adds more, familiar characters... and makes me wish for even more.
ILMxLab's two-part game now feels like a complete world: The expansion and the previous game are interwoven, so it makes sense to just buy the entire package if you haven't already tried the game before. (It's $35 at the Oculus Store.) The level and environment design of the whole experience does feel somehow inexplicably Disney-like, with the levels hiding their size with clever layouts.
The sense of control over weapons, tools and inventory feels complex but easy to learn. New tools like a hover pack that can fly in all directions, shoulder holsters and other helpful extras are welcome improvements. Also, characters like Dok Ondar, Hondo Ohnaka and IG-88 are in the game this time, creating even more overlap between the Galaxy's Edge theme park and the VR game worlds.
There are two new multistage missions this time: one involving finding a relic for Dok Ondar, and one about the First Order's arrival on Batuu. (Also, a mini story mission where you get to play as IG-88 and experience aiming at targets with a rotating turret.) ILMxLab's sense of character presence is still impressive. Meeting characters like Dok feels like encountering a character in a theme park, or an immersive theater performance. But the game's structure is still about shooting, finding treasure and making it through missions.
Will deeper, more social worlds be next?
What I really still want is a way to explore a world casually, discover characters on my own, and even have others join in. While the Batuu cantina featuring the hulking six-eyed bartender Seezelslak has some extra experiences inside (a musical instrument you can play, for instance), much of it still feels emptier than I'd like. And the game doesn't let you wander around Black Spire Outpost, the world you visit at the in-person Galaxy's Edge parks. This is a game that builds the areas around that, like a novel expanding on a film.
The whole game is also single-player, and there are no plans to change that. According to ILMxLab's creative team, which worked on this game largely remotely during the pandemic, Tales from the Galaxy's Edge is pretty much wrapped up for now. But the next things explored in future VR and AR experiences could very well be a lot more social.
"There's a lot of great passion for social storytelling ... we've done a lot of past experiences that have had multiple people inside the same world at the same time," says Ian Bowie, one of the lead experience designers. ILMxLab previously worked on the multiplayer location-specific Star Wars, Marvel and Wreck-It-Ralph VR experiences at The Void, which had four players at once. "And we understand the power in that. That's something we're all very interested in at xLab, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more of that in our future."
"For this one, we're kind of wrapping this up, and we've got some other very cool ideas," says Jose Perez III, the game's director. "But yeah, I would love to hang out in Seezelslak's Cantina with some buddies and go off and do some adventures and stuff. Hopefully there's a future where we can build that out, too."