Ubisoft Massive unveiled its long-awaited open-world Star Wars game during the Xbox Games Showcase and further outlined the experience the following day during Ubisoft’s Forward presentation. Set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Star Wars Outlaws follows protagonist Kay Vess, voiced by actress Humberly González, and her companions, Nix, a cute creature belonging to the Merqaal species, and a cloaked droid named ND-5, as they embark on a grand heist. Massive describes its third-person adventure as an “original scoundrel story” featuring vast environments, seamless land-to-space travel, and a dynamic Wanted system that requires the player to evade capture.
One of Outlaws’ most promising features is a faction reputation system, which shapes the world in small ways based on dialogue choices and other decisions like choosing a subtle or aggressive approach in specific missions. During an official gameplay walkthrough, Kay and Nix steal an illicit item from the Pyke Syndicate on behalf of a newly-met broker. While the pair successfully stealths through part of the mission, violence eventually erupts after the Pykes catch them, and despite escaping the group, Kay’s reputation with the syndicate suffers. When she finally returns to the broker, an Imperial agent interrupts Kay’s business, presenting the player with a choice: bribe or do not bribe.
“One of the key things we wanted to do was to allow players to go into the fantasy of being a scoundrel, and part of that fantasy is being able to talk, to have a voice and roleplay,” says creative director Julian Gerighty. “Dialogue choices like that give you the agency to craft your decisions in different circumstances.”
Kay Vess chooses not to bribe the officer in the demo, resulting in the Empire creating a wanted alert and chasing her. Like in Grand Theft Auto, players can remove this status by evading the Empire for long enough. Vess and company flee to orbit on The Trailblazer, the game’s player-controlled ship, and avoid a large dogfight by entering hyperspace. After successfully escaping, a quest completion alert flashes across the screen, featuring Star Wars’ retro typeface.
“When dealing with syndicates, you're going to have choices, which will affect your reputation with them. [In the gameplay walkthrough], we saw that your reputation took a ding because you were recognized while infiltrating and stealing something from the Pykes,” Gerighty continues. “Your decisions will influence your reputation based on how you want to play the game. [...] Good reputation leads to more access, access to the faction territories, better store prices, and exclusive missions and contracts. But if you get on [the faction’s] bad side, they're going to send people after you.”
While there aren’t branching narrative threads in Star Wars Outlaws – just one authored storyline – Gerighty tells us players’ reputations with each faction at the end of the game are unique to their choices. The player interactions Outlaws is promising seem to offer an exciting amount of systemic depth, and the game’s planetary exploration paints an impressive picture compared to Ubisoft’s typical open-world formula.
I’m excited to learn more about which planets we can explore, how dense they are, and how the reputation and Wanted systems influence player choice. Alas, we have a while to wait before we can find out how it works for ourselves sometime in 2024.