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Star Wars Outlaws Could Finally Be The Scoundrel Sim You've Been Dreaming Of

When it comes to letting you embrace the murkier side of Mos Eisley, Star Wars games don’t have the best track record. Where 2018’s Battlefront 2 promised to place you at the heart of an Imperial-focused story, it took all of four missions for protagonist Iden Versio to defect to the Rebellion. Now, as Disney delivers increasingly saccharine visions of a galaxy far, far away (Andor aside), Ubisoft is submerging players in the depths of the Outer Rim’s seedy underbelly in Star Wars Outlaws.

Announced in 2021, this slice of star-hopping space opera sidelines righteous Jedi and scowling Sith in favor of a less preachy protagonist. Shifting the focus away from the well-trod Imperial and Rebel conflict, Outlaws zooms in on Star Wars’ criminal underworld, placing you in the dusty boots of hardened outlaw Kay Vess—someone less concerned with the fate of the galaxy, and more about her next payday.

“We always knew we wanted to create an original scoundrel story,” Narrative Director Navid Khavari told Kotaku. “There was something exciting about looking at [this universe] from the perspective of a scoundrel like Kay, who has no experience with the Empire, Jedi, Rebellion or the Sith.”

Scum and villainy

As Kay attempts one of the biggest heists the galaxy has ever seen, Outlaws promises a rogue’s gallery of the meanest criminals to ever frequent a cantina. It’s a certain flavor of the wider Star Wars fiction that video games rarely explore, with the first trailer calming any fears that Kay may secretly be a do-goody girl scout. From her screwing over a snarling Aqualish in a game of Sabbac, to incurring the wrath of the Empire by refusing to bribe an officer, it’s not just the filmic post-processing effects that lend Ubisoft’s depiction of Star Wars a welcome shade of gray.

“This is a character who is just trying to get by—stealing, outwitting and conning folks,” said Khavari. “I would love for folks playing the game to really get a sense of what it might feel like to step into the underworld.”

Still, this isn’t the first game trailer that’s had gamers all hot and bothered about playing a scoundrel. Outlaws feels strangely reminiscent of the playable Star Wars fantasy that got away—Star Wars 1313. Originally announced in 2013, LucasArts’ bounty-hunter outing explored the dingy depths of Coruscant, before being canceled following Disney’s purchase of Star Wars. Naturally, Greedo-loving gamers have been pining for the lost project ever since.

Outlaws looks to carry over the rough-and-ready firefights of that ill-fated E3 demo, suggesting that Massive is using its experience with The Division to deliver a morally murky, Rogue One-esque take on Star Wars. As Kay sneaks and shoots her way across a contraband-stuffed hangar, a Hollywood grain coats the screen, with our scrappy hero sprinting, swinging, and eventually speeder-biking her way across ominous dusty landscapes. It’s refreshing, and represents a glimpse of Star Wars that’s a world away from the glistening-white freighter corridors that so often define it.

So what is the reason for all the betrayals, corruption and villainy clogging up the digital atmosphere? Outlaws’ seedy setting.

Outlaws follows the Battle of Hoth at a time when The Empire is ruling the galaxy with an iron fist,” said Khavari. Working closely with Lucasfilm to find the setting, he explains that the two companies eventually settled on the time period most rife with intergalactic dirtbaggery—the year between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

“The rebels are on the back foot, and while everyone is caught up and somewhat distracted by the ongoing civil unrest, there’s a vacuum that creates the perfect opportunity for the underworld to rise and gain power out of sight of Imperial rule,” he added.

A galaxy of possibilities

For all its 1313 aspirations, Outlaws chronologically aligns more closely with the janky N64 gem Shadow of the Empire. Still, Ubisoft’s 2024 single-player adventure doesn’t exist in a vacuum: Respawn’s Jedi Fallen Order and Jedi Survivor have raised the bar for Star Wars games. Yet Ubisoft Massive is leaning into its expertise in order to create a new kind of story—an intergalactic, open-world jaunt.

“Focusing on the open-world game aspect allowed us to build out a deeply immersive Star Wars journey,” said Khavari. “We wanted to create a scoundrel who has never experienced anything like this before. She hasn’t figured it all out yet, and doesn’t have all the right answers all the time. I hope players will see a bit of themselves in Kay.”

Without Jedi abilities to rely on, Kay needs loyal companions to get her out of tough scrapes. Throughout her adventure, you will be accompanied by the four-legged alien cutie Nix and the chatty, trench-coated commando droid ND-5. Yet try as I might to focus on Star Wars’ playable future, its heist-focused nature can’t help but conjure up memories of another long-lost Star Wars game, the Jade Raymond and Amy Hennig-helmed Project Ragtag, which was purported to be an Uncharted-like heist adventure.

The question is, what can players expect from Outlaws’ core gameplay loop? Khavari explained that it will be split into three different types of experiences: “The first of these is dense cities bustling with activity and lively cantinas where you might find criminal syndicates and corrupt Imperials mingling together. Second is our vast, mysterious, and stunning open environments…whether on foot or Kay’s speeder. And finally, space, which players can explore on Kay’s ship.”

For Khavari and the team, the freedom to travel the universe as you see fit was essential for delivering the true Star Wars outlaw experience.

“One of the core parts of the scoundrel fantasy is having your own ship and that essentially being your home,” said Khavari. “Outlaws are travelling constantly and need to be on the move all the time—that’s no different for Kay. You’ll be able to go from on foot, to speeder, to your ship and easily jump between planets.”

Seedy shenanigans

From hopping into your battered ship—The Trailblazer—to steering it through the atmosphere, the transitions between boots on the ground exploration and gravity-defying dogfights look refreshingly smooth. (Almost like what many players hoped for from Bethesda’s Starfield.)

As well as traveling to the well-trod sands of Tatooine, the humid jungles of Avika, and the treacherous mountains of Kijimi, Ubisoft Massive has created its own bespoke hive of scum and villainy—the arid, windswept moon of Toshara.

“We want to allow fans to indulge in some intergalactic tourism. But we’re also really excited for them to experience new characters and planets in this iconic era as well,” Khavari said.

“Space represents a super lucrative yet very risky experience for any outlaw … If you go off the beaten path, your willingness to explore will bring surprises as well. So you can go from taking on a contract to steal an Imperial shipment, but then get distracted on your speeder and head off into the Toshara savannah in search of an artifact, and the game will reward your curiosity.”

Arguably the most interesting aspect of Outlaws, however, is how the fledgling outlaw Kay interacts with the criminal underworld:

“Players can use quests with each of the syndicates to manage Kay’s reputation, which will impact the jobs they offer and the impact they’ll have on throughout the story. Each player will have a different profile with each of the syndicates based on how they’ve interacted with them over the course of her journey.”

Kay Vess is all too happy to pit these warring syndicates against each other, with players taking on quests from the likes of Jabba the Hutt. The question is, will you become another of Jabba’s reliable foot soldiers? Or screw him over for a fistful of credits?

And Khavari hints that Jabba won’t be the only recognizable face here. “We can’t wait for players to explore the world of Outlaws and discover any references to the wider Star Wars galaxy for themselves,” he said.

Here’s hoping that Ubisoft Massive can redeem Boba Fett after that god-awful Disney Plus show. (No pressure…)

Based on what we’ve seen so far, Outlaws boasts some incredibly striking visuals, freed from prior-generation shackles. “What you saw in our gameplay walkthrough shown at our announcement was real-time in-engine footage, and we’re confident we’ll deliver a quality level that our players and fans expect.”

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