It’s only a couple months now until The Mandalorian launches on Disney Plus, and to whet our appetites for morally ambiguous space fantasy action we’ve got even more details to go through.
In a lengthy report by IGN, Dave Filoni talks the challenge of directing and executive producing The Mandalorian, his first live-action work, and we also get our first look into the cockpit of the Mando’s ship, the Razor Crest.
“I was taught by George and there are a lot of things that I want to do with Star Wars, that I feel make something feel like Star Wars and very classic,” Filoni said of his experience working on The Mandalorian,his first live-action series after over a decade working on the animated end of the Star Wars universe. “But of course everything I was doing was the first time I was doing it, in a way, because it’s live-action. So while it’s a world that’s familiar to me, it was a medium that was not as familiar to me— though George had prepared me well over the years with his training. I was fortunate to have Jon, people like Greig Fraser [director of photography on The Mandalorian and Rogue One] on board to help guide me through the process and help realize what I was trying to do shooting-wise and performance-wise. So that was all a challenge, but an exciting one.”
He was brought into the process early, Filoni explained, to work with series lead Jon Favreau to discuss ideas and then, ultimately, to direct two episodes, including the pilot, which marked the first time Filoni worked on material he himself hadn’t written in a very long time.
“I really appreciate that he brought me into this process and that he values my point of view because I’ve been with Star Wars so long,” Filoni told IGN, “but I really wanted to accomplish the story that he set out to make. It was wonderful. I was very flattered that he was willing even to have me direct the pilot. So that was a great honor and responsibility.”
Interestingly, parts of the process were actually familiar to Filoni, as the filming—as Favreau has discussed in other interviews—was done using virtual reality and videogame engine technology, allowing for blocking out scenes in digital environments before putting them together on a practical set, not dissimilar to animation techniques used for similar purposes.
I would liken it in some ways to what I was doing with George on The Clone Wars, where now through digital technology you can visualize scenes and sequences earlier. In animation, we call it a previs and it was a natural fit for me in this process because it did have these digital elements, but some of it when we were shooting was really brand new technology. And that also was good for me because I didn’t have any preconceived notion about how anything should be done. I was learning the process with all the new technology… And there’s a strong animation component in the way that we visualize some of the things early on in the virtual blocking… It’s one of the reasons why Kathy [Kennedy] thought this would be a great connection for me. Not just because I knew Jon, but I had some insights into the technology.
And while Filoni didn’t dish much on the actual content side, IGN does have a quick first look at the interior of the Mando’s ship, the Razor Crest, in the form of a sharp piece of concept art.
The art shows the Mando at his one-man cockpit, which looks… well, like a Star Wars cockpit. I wonder where the bathroom is. Do these things have bathrooms? Also, IGN confirms that the cockpit will be represented on-screen by a practical set, which is always nice to have. That tactile feeling always makes Star Wars pop.
I mean, consider the fact that she is using a tuning fork as a blade and that it has a clear weak point (the hinge), which will likely be the first point of failure when the weapon is exposed to extreme Forces. Or that there is no way she doesn’t chop off a limb with one errant swing of the hinge.
And how much give is in the hinge anyways? Is it mean to be more like giant nunchucks or a three-section staff, and if it’s the latter, will her fighting with it hopefully look cooler than every Youtube video I’ve found? (Editor’s note: Cranz insists only three-section staff users look stupid and that nunchucks are always cool).
Overly complex gadgets are neat. No one you know actually wants to own a Galaxy Fold, but if you’re a regular reader of Gizmodo’s gadget coverage you probably, on some level, covet one (or at least want to check it out). There’s a pleasure in a goofy gadget like the foldy phone. A quaintness to its complexity that leaves you with a smile. For me, the Fold and Rey’s dumb sword seem akin to devices tugged out of Skymall catalogs and Sharper Images stores that gave me a love for gadgets in the first place. I’ll honestly be disappointed if that lightsaber doesn’t at least have a calculator built in.
San Diego Comic-Con is back, baby, and the cosplay is looking bigger and better than ever. Thousands of cosplayers and fans have flocked to the San Diego Convention Center to show off their tributes to amazing shows, films, comics, and video games. And we’ve got it all right here.
Take a look at io9’s video and photo collection, highlighting our favorite finds from Wednesday and Thursday. We’ve got a terrifying Tethered duo from Us, a shockingly uncanny Princess Anastasia, and a couple that apparently got devoured by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Leave a comment with your favorites, or share your own look from SDCC! Also, be sure to head to our Instagram Stories, where we’re sharing even more looks and cool finds from the con floor. Have fun!
For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.
Timothy Zahn’s return to his most famous creation, Grand Admiral Thrawn, has been one of the consistent highlights of the new canon of Star Wars under Disney. So far we’ve got to see Thrawn’s early days in the Empire and a fateful encounter between him and Anakin Skywalker, and io9 can now give you an exclusive look inside the third entry in this new Thrawn series.
Set before the climactic events over Lothal in the finale of the animated series Star Wars: Rebels, the third entry in Zahn and Del Rey’s Thrawn saga, Thrawn: Treason, hits shelves this month. The book finds the Grand Admiral at odds—not just with fellow Imperials, as he finds his TIE Defender project stalled in favor of a certain battlestation project courtesy of Rogue One’s Director Krennic, but his loyalty to both the Empire and his own people, the Chiss, when a dire threat to his homeworld brings Thrawn crashing back into an encounter with the Chiss Ascendancy.
That dire threat is brought to Thrawn’s attention by the return of a familiar face, as you’ll see: Thrawn’s former protege, Commander Eli Vanto, returning for the first time since the original book in the series, Thrawn, released in 2017! Back at the end of that book, Eli had found himself on a mission on Thrawn’s behalf, sent into the Unknown Regions to serve as an Imperial attache to the mysterious Chiss Ascendancy itself.
Ahead of Thrawn: Treason’s early release at San Diego Comic-Con this week, check out our exclusive excerpt below—in both text and in Marc Thompson’s narration from the Thrawn: Treason audiobook—to see what Eli’s been up to in his time among the Chiss, including rubbing shoulders with another face fans of Zahn’s Star Wars expanded universe material will remember…
It had all started out well enough, Lieutenant Eli Vanto thought as he paged through yet another data listing filled with delicate Chiss script. Thrawn had told him that the Chiss Ascendancy had vital need of his talents and abilities, and that he’d arranged for Eli to be quietly released from his current duty aboard the Chimaera. Eli had accepted the new assignment and left Imperial space, arriving at the rendezvous point Thrawn had sent him to full of hope and expectation, with the excitement of the unknown tingling through him.
I am Admiral Ar’alani of the Chiss Defense Fleet, the blue-skinned woman had greeted him from the bridge of her ship. Are you he?
I am he, Eli had confirmed, making sure to fill his voice with the mix of confidence and respect that had served him well during his years in the Imperial fleet. I am Eli Vanto. I bring greetings to you from Mitth’raw’nuruodo. He believes I can be of some use to the Chiss Ascendancy.
Welcome, Eli Vanto, she’d replied. Let us learn together if he was correct.
That had been over a year ago. In retrospect, Eli thought a little sourly, he should have realized from Ar’alani’s neutral words and tone that she wasn’t impressed.
His first act aboard the Steadfast was to receive demotion from Imperial commander to Chiss Defense Fleet lieutenant. No real surprise there—different militaries would hardly have equivalent rank systems. His second act was to be dropped into an intensive course in Cheunh, the main Chiss language. Again, no surprise—though many aboard spoke the Sy Bisti trade language Eli was fluent in, it was certainly unreasonable to expect everyone to bend to the needs of a single crew member. Especially a newcomer and an alien.
But in and through all of that, Eli had expected to be put onto some kind of leadership or command track. Instead, he’d been dumped down here in the analysis department, sifting data, looking for patterns, and making predictions.
It was something he was very good at. Even Thrawn, with all his tactical and strategic genius, had recognized Eli’s superiority at such things, and had utilized his skills to their fullest. In retrospect, it wasn’t all that surprising that he’d passed that information on to Ar’alani.
The problem was that as far as Eli could tell, none of the data he’d been tasked to analyze meant anything at all.
They weren’t listings of ship movements or cargo or smuggling manifests. They weren’t groups of personnel, or alien troops, or alien operations. They weren’t even anything internal to the Steadfast, patterns of power usage or data flow or something else designed to spot flaws in ship’s functions or to predict imminent system failures.
To be honest, the whole thing felt like busywork. Eli had always hated busywork.
Still, Ar’alani struck him as a subtle sort of person. Maybe this was a test of his patience, or his willingness to enthusiastically obey even orders that seemed to make no sense. He’d certainly gone through a lot of such scenarios with Thrawn.
And really, it wasn’t like the tour had been all routine. There’d been a seriously nasty skirmish with the Grysks and some of their allies near the Imperial edge of the Unknown Regions, which had made for a very interesting couple of days. After the excitement subsided, he’d hoped things might pick up a little.
To his disappointment, they hadn’t. In fact, in many ways they’d actually slowed down.
Which wasn’t to say the Steadfast wasn’t in danger. On the contrary, it was in about as much danger right now as it had ever been.
The intercom at his station gave a little three-tone warble. “Lieutenant Ivant, report to the bridge immediately,” First Officer Khresh’s voice came over the speaker.
“Acknowledged,” Eli called back, mentally rolling his eyes. The vast majority of Chiss names were composed of multiple syllables in three distinct parts, the first of which identified the person’s family, the second of which was the given name, and the third of which reflected some social factor Eli hadn’t yet figured out. Since using multisyllable titles all the time could seriously bog down conversations—and worse, timely military orders—the normal convention was to use core names for everything except in the most formal situations.
But there were a few exceptions to the norm. Admiral Ar’alani herself, for one, apparently had only a two-part name and no core name at all. The ship’s navigators, the young Chiss girls gifted with Third Sight who used their ability to guide the Steadfast through hyperspace, also followed that pattern. Eli also hadn’t figured out why they got the same naming convention as senior flag officers.
Early on, Ar’alani had explained to her officers and crew that Eli was another such exception, and that he should be addressed as Lieutenant Vanto or Lieutenant Eli’van’to. But for most of them the explanation didn’t seem to have taken. Someone had taken Ar’alani’s conversion of Eli Vanto into a standard three-part Chiss name, then created a core name out of the middle of it, and the name had stuck.
At first, Eli had wondered if it was a subtle insult, either to him or to the admiral who’d brought this alien into their midst. But Ar’alani hadn’t taken offense at the flouting of her order, at least not in public, and eventually Eli decided to treat it as their way of accepting him as one of their own.
And it could have been worse. If he’d been unwise enough to tell them his middle initial—N—the name might have become Invant, which was way too close to Infant for comfort.
He was halfway to the bridge, passing the standard green- and blue-rimmed compartment doors, when the double-red-rimmed door to the navigation ready room a dozen meters in front of him slid open. One of the navigators stepped out into the corridor and turned toward the bridge.
Normally, seeing the back of a navigator’s head wouldn’t have given Eli a clue as to who she was. All of the Steadfast’s navigators were girls, nearly all of them between the ages of seven and fourteen, when Third Sight was at its strongest. On top of that, they tended to keep to themselves, and in all his time aboard he’d only met three of the five.
Vah’nya was the exception to all the rules. She was twenty-two years old, and unlike the children who shared her job she felt perfectly comfortable mixing with the rest of the adults aboard. Eli had seen and talked with her on a number of occasions, and had found her congenial company.
“Navigator Vah’nya,” he called.
She turned to face him, a small smile touching her lips as she saw who it was. “Hello, Lieutenant Eli,” she said. “What brings you to this part of the ship?”
“I’ve been ordered to the bridge,” he said, eyeing her closely. Not just good company, but also highly intriguing. Though her Third Sight was slowly fading, as it did with all navigators, even at twenty-two she still had greater skill than all but one or two of the younger girls.
He’d looked into it a bit, and as far as he could tell no one knew why her ability had lasted this long. But then, with the whole Chiss navigation system a deep, black secret, it wasn’t surprising that it hadn’t been very well studied.
On top of all of Vah’nya’s other interesting qualities, she was the only person aboard he’d been able to persuade to call him by his real name. That alone would have earned her high marks in his book.
“Ah,” she said. “So you were not merely coming to see me?”
“No, not at all,” Eli said, feeling his face warming. He wasn’t entirely sure of the protocol regarding fraternization among the officers and crew, and he had no intention of learning about it the hard way.
“Too sad,” Vah’nya said, in a tone that could have been mild sarcasm or complete sincerity. “Did Junior Commander Velbb say what it was about?” she added as the two of them continued forward.
“Actually, it wasn’t Commander Velbb,” Eli told her. “The order came from Senior Captain Khresh.”
“Really?” she said, frowning. “That is unusual.”
“I know.” Eli gestured to her. “What about you? Are you coming on watch?”
“Yes,” she said. “Though I feel I’m unlikely to be needed.”
Eli wrinkled his nose. She had that right. Barely three hours after the Steadfast arrived in this system, Ar’alani had ordered a hard shutdown of the entire ship, a stage below even dark stealth mode, cutting unnecessary power use and all emissions, including active sensors. She’d given the ship one final burst from the drive, and from that moment on they’d been drifting, dark and silent, through the loose asteroid belt three hundred million kilometers from the system’s sun.
That had been nearly a week ago. Eli had checked the ship’s position, and studied the passive sensor reports, and he still had no idea what they were doing here. His best guess was that they were still following the ship they’d been tracking ever since leaving the Unknown Regions and that Ar’alani was afraid of spooking it.
As well she might. They were a long way from Chiss space and the various vague threats arrayed against them. This was a system deep within the Galactic Empire.
And the threats here were anything but vague.
Thrawn: Treason is out later this month, with fans attending SDCC getting the chance to pick up an exclusive early edition featuring new cover art from Two Dots, starting from Wednesday, July 17. But that’s not all—io9 is excited to reveal a look at the brand new poster by Darren Tan, for fans who pick up a copy of the Barnes & Noble edition of the book when it releases soon, featuring not just Eli, but Chiss Admiral Ar’alani!
Thrawn: Treason hits shelves on July 23.
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You might call them Droidekas or you might call them destroyer droids, but whatever you call them, these rolling death machines were recently added into Star Wars Battlefront II. Since being added fans have seemingly fallen in love with the new droids, posting clips of how deadly they are, how buggy they can be, how useful they are in objective game modes and also how they are too big for some doors.
First seen in action in the prequel film Star Wars: Episode I, these droids are extremely dangerous due to how fast they can fire their dual blasters and their powerful shields. The droids have since popped up in many different movies, cartoons, comics and video games, including the older Battlefront games.
On June 26, Dice added the long requested Droidekas into the game. Originally when fans asked about these droids, Dice wasn’t sure they would ever be added into the game. Back in February of this year, developers at Dice explained that they weren’t coming and that part of the reason was due to how hard the droids would be to animate. They also feared balance issues, with some players pointing out that in the older Battlefront games the Droidekas could be a little overpowered.
But even before this, the hype over destroyer droids was building due to an image that seemed to show a Droideka in the background. Dice eventually confirmed that this was a Droideka, but it was unfinished and wasn’t supposed to be used in that screenshot. Now, nearly a year later, the rolling death machines are finally in the game. And fans are having a blast with the droid.
Other players have begun using the droids to rush objectives and activate them before the enemy team can react or stop them.
Because the Droidekas roll so fast and have portable shields, they can be hard to stop, especially for less experienced players or those not prepared for a pack of destroyer droids to roll into their base right as the round starts. Odds are, after some time this strat will become less viable as people get better at shooting the fast droids rolling past them.
Another player was able to use the relatively short size of the new droid to their advantage to hide behind a rock and hold a base by themselves. These strategies and moments are causing some players to worry that the droids might be a little unbalanced. But the Droidekas are far from perfect and deadly machines.
Because they move so fast and control differently than any other droid or soldier in the game, players are launching themselves off ledges and directly into large groups of enemy troopers.
If you’re reading this, you can now go to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Though the Star Wars-themed section of Disneyland in Anaheim, California has been open for a few weeks, up until today, you needed a reservation to enter—and those reservations sold out in two hours two months ago. From now on, though, that’s no longer the case. You can just go…with the purchase of a Disneyland ticket of course.
However, it is a tiny bit more complicated than that, at least for a while longer. To try and ease the expected crowds at arguably the most highly anticipated theme park expansion ever, Disneyland is employing a virtual queue system until the park deems it no longer needed. Which could be two days or, more likely, two years.
Here’s how it works. Before you go, download the Disneyland app on your phone. (There is an analog way to do this but digital is far easier.) Once you arrive at the park (it won’t let you move ahead in the process until you are physically in the park), you open the app and click on the big banner for Galaxy’s Edge. Under “current land status,” it’ll either say that it’s open, which means you can just walk in, or “Access by Boarding Group Only.”
If the access is by boarding group only, you simply click on the button in the app to join a boarding group, which basically assigns you a number. Everyone else in your party will have to do this too, either individually or you can link their tickets in the app. Once you are in a group, you are free to do whatever else you want at Disneyland. Meanwhile, you can keep checking the app to see what boarding groups are currently being let into Galaxy’s Edge, or wait for a push notification telling you when you are allowed to “board.” At that point, you’ll have up to two hours to finish whatever else you are doing. You don’t have to enter the area at that exact time. (It’s unclear if a registered guest would be denied entry if they missed their time by more than a few hours. But, to be fair, if you went through this trouble, would you miss it?)
Finally, once you are in Galaxy’s Edge, there’s no longer a time limit. You can stay for however long as you like. Disney is just hoping that, after a few hours, people will naturally exit, thereby opening space for later boarding groups. That’s bound to happen, since frankly there just isn’t a ton do there if you aren’t shopping or eating.
Also, it’s important to note there is a chance you could go to Disneyland and not get into Galaxy’s Edge. One would guess that, especially for the first few weeks, boarding groups will fill up fast and, virtually, it may seem done for the day. Or you could arrive in the morning and not get a boarding group that allows you in until later in the evening. But Disney Parks are always in motion. Even if that happens, if you keep checking the app, there’s a chance the crowds could dissipate, people could skip their reservations, and the process could speed up considerably or more boarding groups could be added. It’s impossible to know for sure. The best thing to do is to check the app on the way to the park, or wherever you are, to see how the wait is looking. You just wouldn’t be able to join a boarding group until you are physically there.
As for the two more limited, in-demand experiences/stores at Galaxy’s Edge—Oga’s Cantina (food/drinks) and Savi’s Workshop (where you build lightsabers)—that’s a little different. Beginning at 7:00 a.m. each day, guests can make same-day reservations at both locations. If you get one, you don’t need a boarding group, the reservation will serve as that. You will, however, need a valid credit card to make the reservation and it’s non-refundable. (If you cancel the cantina, it charges $10 per guest. At Savi’s, if you cancel, you’re charged full $199.99 for the saber). These are certain to sell out very quickly each morning so here are the direct links with specifics: Savi’s Workshop and Oga’s Cantina.
Is this all a little bit confusing? Yes. But it’s much better than spending hundreds of dollars to go to Disneyland and then hanging out in line all day. At least with the app you know where you stand, virtually, and can do other things in the parks while you wait. Plus, because the virtual queue will be ever-changing, one day it might take a long time to get in and another day it could take no time at all. It all depends on how long people stay, how many people enter, and how many people are at the park. But there’s also absolutely no guarantee you are going to get in.
Also of note, though you can buy Star Wars-themed outfits inside Galaxy’s Edge, you can’t wear those outfits there. Nowhere in Disneyland are guests allowed to cosplay and this post has some more info on that. Err on the side of caution if you aren’t sure. The park doesn’t want kids to get confused between guests and castmembers.
Disney has created a video to visually take you through the entire Galaxy’s Edge entry process, which you can watch below.
I’ll see you on Batuu. Check out some of our previous coverage below.
This article was slightly edited to clarify the reservations costs.
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He only appeared for one second in The Empire Strikes Back, but Willrow Hood became a Star Wars icon. Not for any reason in particular, however. Just because he looked kind of funny running across Cloud City with what Star Wars fans have long since settled on is an “ice cream maker.”
Well, io9 can exclusively reveal that’s no ice cream maker. In fact, it’s a safe.
A camtono, actually. The word briefly made it out into the world at Star Wars Celebration earlier this year when, in an extended clip from The Mandalorian that never made it online, Werner Herzog’s character shows the titular bounty hunter a piece of beskar—an ancient, valuable, Mandalorian alloy—and tells him he’ll give him a camtono of it when he completes the mission.
We don’t know what the mission is yet and we don’t know the name of Herzog’s character. What we do know, thanks to a source close to the production, is that a camtono is like a safe or a lock box, Herzog’s character has one full of beskar, and it’s the same item Willrow Hood is running around with in The Empire Strikes Back.
A Star Wars safe makes so much more sense than an ice cream maker, doesn’t it? Ice cream is great. But if you’re trying to escape your home from an imminent Imperial take over, what do you grab? The thing that makes ice cream, or the secure container that holds your valuables? [Editor’s Note: io9 writer’s opinions on this vary. -Jill P.]
How, or if, The Mandalorian makes this connection between Hood’s camtono and Herzog’s camtono, we do not know. Are they the same one? Doubtful. But we do know they’re the same general thing, so you can now cross that long-running Star Wars mystery off your list. We’ve reached out to Lucasfilm for comment and will update if we hear back.
The Mandalorian will debut on Disney+ November 12.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated the item was a “kamtono.” In fact, “camtono” is the correct spelling. We regret the error.
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At E3 this past week we saw a good amount of gameplay from the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the new game from Apex Legends developers Respawn Entertainment. The game looks good and I’m excited to see characters like Saw Gerrera appear. But it has the problem that so many other Star Wars games featuring lightsabers have: Its lightsaber feel really weak. And it isn’t alone in having pathetic laser swords.
If you think about lightsabers in the movies, especially the original films, they are not used very often and usually when they appear they are shown as powerful weapons or tools.
Think back to the first time in Star WarsA New Hope that we see someone use a lightsaber in combat. Obi-Wan Kenobi uses it to cut a dude’s arm clean off their body. With one quick slice, Kenobi was able to remove an arm with little effort. In Empire Strikes Back, the sequel to New Hope, the lightsaber is given more screen time and used to cut and slice.
Early on, Han Solo uses a lightsaber to cut open a Tauntaun and does so easily. Later on, Vader cuts Luke’s hand off with one quick move. Even in the prequels, lightsabers are dangerous and powerful. Anakin decapitates Dooku using lightsabers, Obi-Wan cuts Darth Maul in half using a laser sword and Mace Windu removes Jango Fett’s head in Attack Of The Clones.
Even in the Disney era of Star Wars films, we see people get cut up with lightsabers. Specifically Last Jedi has some nasty lightsaber kills.
But in video games, this is rarely the case. Ignoring droids, who get sliced up in all Star Wars media because nobody cares about robots, Star Wars games rarely let you truly shred people up using a lightsaber.
Force Unleashed was this advertised as an amazing power fantasy. You were a super powerful force user who could basically do anything and kill entire armies of enemies. But your lightsaber was still fundamentally a glowing baseball bat. It hurt people, sure, but it never cut folks clean in half or severed limbs or heads. And it seems Fallen Order will also follow this same path.
In the gameplay of Fallen Order, we see the lightsaber leave glowing marks on enemies and the main character even stabs a few. But limbs and heads never going flying off. In an interview with IGN,a senior designer on the game, Justin Perez, explained that players would be able to cut up robots and cut off the limbs of big alien creatures. But humans seem off the table.
This is an interesting problem in these games and a problem the films rarely faced that much. In the films, Luke never slices up Stormtroopers. In fact, when lightsabers come out, they are never used for that purpose. Luke is never facing off against a dozen troopers and gutting them with his blade. Even the prequels relied on droids or weird alien creatures as their enemies, with a few exceptions. In a way this makes sense. Jedi probably shouldn’t be gleefully or frequently seen dismembering folks. It also helps keep the films from appearing too violent to parents. When a lightsaber is used against humans in the films it’s usually in a very important scene or moment and it’s then that we get to see how deadly these sabers can be.
But it seems developers don’t or can’t avoid having players face off against dozens of nameless rebels or troopers constantly. So developers of games like Fallen Order or Battlefront II are faced with an issue the movies mostly sidestepped: Using lightsabers on human and human-like beings.
The results are usually disappointing. Lightsabers are supposed to be these powerful weapons, swords made out of pure energy. They hum like a deadly electrical generator or exposed wire. They can rip through metal and steel. But in games, I rarely feel like I’m wielding a powerful Jedi or Sith weapon. Instead, it feels like a pipe that is really hot and glows.
Some games have tried to have dismemberment, such as Star Wars Jedi Knight and Jedi Academy. But without cheats or mods, dismemberment was a bit rare in these games. Still, it could happen.
It’s not just the lack of limbs flying off that disappoints me. These are laser swords and yet it can take multiple hits in many games to kill enemies. Of course, this issue is more a problem with trying to balance gameplay. If a player could one hit kill most things, the game would be too easy. But I think if a game was built around the idea of a powerful lightsaber, it could work.
Maybe a player has to hide it during most levels because they are trying to stay undercover? Maybe the more you use it to kill people, the more dark side points you gain? There has to be some way to make these iconic and powerful weapons feel more impressive than glowing sticks that hum.
Another aspect of this situation is that Disney, Lucasfilm and previously 20th Century Fox, have all probably pushed back on lightsabers being shown as powerful weapons, capable of slicing and dicing enemies. Hopefully, these restrictions will be lessened in the future so we can finally wield the deadly laser swords we see in the films. If we are allowed to see people get chopped up in the films, why not in games?
Or at least a cheat code we can enter if we want to do some chopping.
Today, Star Wars games are usually very serious and dedicated to authenticity. Nearly all Star Wars game released these days are also canon, connecting to other comics, movies, books, and TV shows. Which is cool, I love modern Star Wars. But I can’t help but miss the days when we got games that were less focused on being the next big chapter in the Star Wars universe and instead were more focused on being fun and weird. Games like Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith released in 2005 for Xbox and PS2.
Revenge Of The Sith is the kind of game we don’t get anymore. Based on a movie and heavily inspired by the popular God Of War PS2 games, Sith is a relic of a different era. Back when every big movie had a tie-in video game released for consoles. While many of these games were bad, a few would be worth playing, like Revenge of The Sith. It might just be a clone of God Of War and other character action games, but it turns out reskinning Kratos and Greece with Jedis and Star Wars is a good way to make something entertaining.
If you’ve seen the original film this game is based on, then you still won’t know everything that happens. Sith takes the basic plot of the film and cuts bits that aren’t interesting or easy to turn into the gameplay and adds entirely new ideas, enemies and scenes.
For example, the game spends a lot more time with Anakin, now known as Darth Vader, while he kills Jedi in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. It even has a cutscene showing Vader killing Jocasta Nu, the old librarian lady from the Prequel films and then other Jedi attacking him. You also end up facing off against a master Jedi trainer and his apprentice. These additions are nice and help show just how much of a fight it was to kill all those pesky Jedi.
However, some of the changes are a tad more silly. In the early levels of the game, you encounter some giant super battle droids that feel like a “videogame enemy” and not a droid that would have shown up in the films. They have giant claws and basically hug enemies to do damage.
Another new addition are the Clone Assassins. These are Clone troopers that use small blades attached to their arms to fight people. They have some backstory and lore, but really only exist to diversify the Clones and make them more interesting to fight against. They feel like they were created by a 14-year-old boy who was like “And then, the Clones have swords!!”
The thing is, I don’t mind these odd additions and the changes made to the story. In fact, I love Revenge Of The Sith and all of its non-canon enemies, moments and ideas.
As much as I do enjoy the current Star Wars universe and how everything is canon and feels connected, I do miss the stranger detours and spin-offs we used to get in Star Wars games. There is a sense of playfulness found in Revenge Of The Sith that isn’t really found in modern Star Wars games. Sure, Jedi: Fallen Order looks great and might end up being a really cool game. But I highly doubt it will include a weird alternate ending, like Revenge Of The Sith.
That ending, by the way, is a perfect example of how playful the game is with Star Wars lore.
In the alternate ending, which is unlocked after beating the game, players take control of Darth Vader on Mustafar during the fight against Obi-Wan Kenobi. But unlike in the films, Kenobi’s high ground means nothing and Vader easily defeats him. Then he returns to Palpatine and is given a new Sith lightsaber, which he promptly uses to gut and kill The Emperor.
The Clones guarding The Emperor point their weapons at Vader and then lower them, presumably because they realized he would just kill them and Vader screams about how he controls the galaxy now.
It’s a totally non-canon ending and feels really weird and funny and I love it. Unfortunately, I don’t think we will get these types of moments in future Star Wars media. The way all new games, comics, books, and shows are focused on fitting into the canon makes it basically impossible to include stuff like this ending. Which I think is a shame.
Maybe in the future, we can get some weirder and sillier spinoff games released and marked as Legends, aka non-canon. Though I also think moving forward it would be great if EA didn’t have exclusive access to make Star Wars games. I don’t hate EA or think they are evil or anything like that, I just think more studios having more access to Star Wars is a better way to get different games in various genres and styles.
Regardless of any of that happening, going back to play Revenge Of The Sith today is a great way to see how strange and silly Star Wars games could get back in the pre-Disney era. I’m excited about the new Star Wars film and to read more Star Wars comics. But in the future, I also hope Star Wars games are allowed to be more than just shooters and mobile games and that they are permitted to fly their freak flags once more.
Everywhere you look in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, there’s something to see, something to explore, or something to do. Even though it’s not 100 percent complete, the land itself is a star. You walk in, and you instantly feel like you’ve left Disneyland in Anaheim, California and become immersed in the Star Wars universe.
Though the one ride open so far is not a home run, for me, just looking at the Millennium Falcon parked there is worth the price of admission. Easter eggs from not just the films, but the books, TV shows, and more, are scattered in every nook and cranny. All the Disneyland cast members are truly that: cast members. They’re in character as citizens of the remote planet of Batuu rather than Disneyland park employees. They greet you with “Bright Suns!” during the day or “Rising Moons!” in the evening. They may ask you to complete tasks on the sly or help you hide from the First Order if a few Stormtroopers are walking down the street. Even the bathrooms, somehow, feel like Star Wars. And let me tell you, it’s both a little weird and exceedingly fun to pee in this world.
Galaxy’s Edgefinally opens today at Disneyland (minus one out of its two rides, and only for fans who have reservations through June 23), and here’s what we thought of the highly anticipated theme park expansion.
If there wasn’t a single thing to do in Galaxy’s Edge, and it was just a glorified film set, it would still be worth recommending. It’s that gorgeous and impressive to walk around in with a completely different vibe than the more traditional theme park it’s a part of. Thankfully, though, there are a good amount of things to do, with a few of those standing above the rest.
My very favorite thing was visiting Savi’s Workshop, which is a store/building experience where you get to assemble your very own custom lightsaber. However, it’s not for everyone. It costs $200 to get in (which includes your saber and some accessories) and you can only bring one friend along to watch. It’s not like the experience at Olivander’s inThe Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios where anyone can watch a wand ceremony. Plus, only about 14 people can do it at a time, and it takes about 15 minutes total, so wait times are sure to be long. But, if you really love Star Wars and/or lightsabers specifically, the experience is downright spiritual. It was for me.
Without spoiling every single detail, you pick one of four disciplines. Based on that choice, you are presented with a unique set of pieces. You’re then taken through the fascinating tale behind this “workshop” before being guided through construction. There are even be a few little surprises along the way too. Finally, your custom hilt is placed into its blade, those blades light up, and everyone holds their fully functioning lightsaber in their hands. After the investment of time, money, and emotion, it’s a powerful moment, unlike something you’d normally experience at a theme park.
Next door to Savi’s is a store called Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities. And while all of the merchandise in Galaxy’s Edge is cool, Dok’s is the standout. Dok-Ondar (who sits at the center of the store as a very impressive animatronic character) is a collector of rare antiquities, and the store is filled with his “collection.” The room is filled top to bottom with relics from everything Star Wars: there are pieces from the movies and shows, a helmet and staff from the upcoming Disney+ series The Mandalorian, and so much more (like an Indiana Jones Ark of the Covenant, another George Lucas creation) that theme parks fans will spend hours trying to catalog everything. You could probably spend a good chunk of your day in the shop looking at the amazing items that decorate it.
That’s important, though. Everything in the top half of the store is just decoration. The bottom half is all the buyable merchandise—mostly equally cool, random Star Wars prop replicas and accessories you probably never thought you’d get to own. There’s a USB key shaped like the one Poe gives to BB-8 in The Force Awakens. Hera Syndulla’s family Kalikori from Star Wars Rebels. Jedi Holocrons, Sith Holocrons, Kyber crystals, and high-end replica lightsaber hilts from the likes of Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, Asajj Ventress, and Ahsoka Tano, just to name a few (which range in price from between $120-$200 and can be upgraded with blades of various sizes, display stands, you name it). The list goes on and on. Again, if Galaxy’s Edge was just this shop, you’d probably walk away happy. Broke, but happy.
So that’s the best of the best, but before I talk about more good things, I have to address some other things that didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Unfortunately, that has to start with Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
Smugglers Run is the only ride in Galaxy’s Edge as it opens and it will be that way for at least a few months. That said, it has a lot to live up to, and on paper, it should. It gives you a chance to do something you’ve dreamed about doing your entire life: fly the Millennium Falcon. And yet, maybe you won’t.
Six people ride Smugglers Run at the same time: two pilots, two gunners, and two engineers, all assigned at random by the cast member who organizes the party of six (you can trade positions if you want, though).The gunners push buttons to fire and engineers press things when prompted to fix the ship. Why do they need to fix the ship you ask? Because of the pilots. One pilot controls the vertical movement of the Falcon; the other, the horizontal. Two different people controlling two different movements is like two people trying to control opposite sides of a puppet. If those people aren’t comfortable communicating with each other, the Falcon is going to crash. A lot. And while crashing into stuff can be fun and leads to some funny scenarios, being so dependent on others for your enjoyment of the ride, especially if they’re not in your party, can be incredibly frustrating. Especially if you waited hours to ride, which is very likely.
After personally riding Smugglers Run three times, performing each job once, I learned a lot. The Engineer is the easiest job and, maybe, the best, because you can just sit back, hit a few buttons, and enjoy the ride for the most part. Gunner is a little more subjective because you can select “manual” for a more intricate experience or “automatic” for a more laid back one. Then there’s the Pilot, which is absolutely key. It can be incredibly cool to pull that lever back and jump to lightspeed, or to expertly maneuver through a tight space, but it will take practice and the teamwork of everyone in the ride to do it well.
If you can, go in with six people you know. The more random the group, unless you have some experts, it’s likely to be a bumpy ride. Oddly though, on our three rides, we found if you had a particularly bad flight and ruined your hyperdrive, you got a longer ride. Once you escaped the planet in question, if you do well, you just fly home quickly. But if that hyperdrive has been damaged, there’s a whole other sequence flying through an asteroid field.
That variety has its blessings and curses. Once a group of us got the hang of it, the whole thing instantly got more interesting. Maybe not more fun, but there was a unique, heightened sense of stakes. It also seemed the more people you talked to about the ride, the more every person had their own unique story. It’s almost as if you can never experience the same exact ride twice—and for someone who visits Disneyland a lot, that’s a bonus.
The fact of the matter is, though, Smugglers Run feels like more of an arcade game than a theme park ride. Maybe it’s the most elaborate, expensive, and impressive arcade game ever, but that’s not likely what most people attending are signing up for. The immersion throughout the ride is absolutely incredible but, ultimately, even as a super-crazy Millennium Falcon fan, I got a bigger adrenaline rush seeing the Falcon outside than flying it.
The non-ride nature of Smugglers Run leads into to my other big gripe with Galaxy’s Edge. With only Smugglers Run open, the park feels oddly incomplete. A massive section, maybe even as much as half, of the land, is dedicated to a second ride, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which won’t be open for a few months. From everything we’ve heard, it’s going to be impressive. Most impressive. Without it, though, Galaxy’s Edge winds up feeling half empty instead of half full. Sure, literally everything else is open, but the size and layout of the land make it very clear it was designed to function with two rides, instead of one. Check out the map below, which has blue marks for things you can do, and guess which side Rise of the Resistance is going to be on.
You can almost perfectly draw a line down the middle there between Rise of the Resistance’s half of the park and the busier other half. Basically, until that opens, a massive, beautiful section of the park serves as little more than an entrance way with a few photo ops. Undue pressure is then assigned to Smugglers Run to anchor the whole place in a way it was never meant to. It’s currently the heart of Galaxy’s Edge when it was clearly meant to share that duty.
Why Disney opened the park without Rise has yet to be fully confirmed but most believe it’s simply because the company promised fans the land would be open this summer at Disneyland. Since everything else was done, and demand was so high, the company knew it could get the ball rolling without its biggest attraction, only to get another bump when that opens later this year.
What this boils down to is, once you pay to get into Disneyland, wait to get into Galaxy’s Edge and ride Smugglers Run, everything else physically in the themed land costs extra money. The only other thing you can do that’s free is play with the land’s app integration (which I, unfortunately, did not have time to do during our admission-free press day). Again, everything we’ve heard about that experience is promising, but who knows if a family of four will feel that way once they get off the ride and are trying to save money?
What about the rest?
So we’ve hit the “incredible,” we’ve hit the “bad,” and now it’s time for everything else. That means all of the amazing things you can buy, drink, and eat in Galaxy’s Edge—stuff that is excellent and cool but maybe just not as excellent and cool as the cream of the crop. This, for example, describes Oga’s Cantina. Finally, there’s a real-life Star Wars cantina you can visit, with booze if you want, its own unique Star Wars DJ, and more. Everything inside is quirky and interesting, but it’s also very small and bound to get cramped.
Snacking in the park is also quite well done. You can grab a quick blue (or green) milk, which is a rather tasty spin on a frozen fruit smoothie. Kat Saka’s Kettle is a stand with a unique blend of sweet and savory popcorn that is very good. And Ronto Roasters, in which a smelter droid roasts meat on a podracing engine, offers really quick, delicious sandwiches.
The merch stands outside of Dok-Ondar’s are also pretty exciting. You can buy handcrafted toys, Star Wars stuffed animals, trinkets to commemorate your trip to Black Spire Outpost, and even pick up some First Order, Resistance, or Jedi clothing. There’s also the Droid Depot where, for $100, you can custom build your very own radio-controlled droid or pick up a slew of other excellent droid-themed merchandise. Plus, all of these places are also filled with Easter eggs. One favorite so far is that the remains of Rogue One’s K-2SO seem to have made their way to the Droid Depot.
After one full trip to Galaxy’s Edge, I left with much more to explore. As previously mentioned, I didn’t even open the Star Wars Data Pad on the Play Disney App, which acts as a whole additional series of games and side quests guests can do while in the park. I still haven’t tried the majority of the food from Docking Bay 7 or drinks from Oga’s. Then, again, there’s the knowledge that this is a land missing its biggest piece: Rise of the Resistance. It’s hard to say, or even imagine, just how much that second ride will change the flow and feel of the park.
Ultimately though, while the Falcon ride is different than expected and you wish it felt more complete, Galaxy’s Edge is unbelievable. It’s Star Wars, for real, engaging all of your five senses for the first time ever. You get to stand under an actual Millennium Falcon. You get to build your very own lightsaber. You get to have a drink at a cantina. It’s truly a wonder.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is now open at Disneyland in Anaheim, though if you don’t have a reservation, you can’t go until June 24. It opens August 29 at Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Rise of the Resistance is coming later this year. Admission is included with the price of a theme park ticket which currently fluctuates between $104-$149 for a one-day pass, depending on what date you go.
The opening of this article was briefly edited after first publication.
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