Star Wars Outlaws is an adventure with a scoundrel and her companion

We explored three different parts of Star Wars Outlaws and while we played as lead character Kay Vess, we were never alone.

Ubisoft
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Star Wars video games have covered the stories of Jedi Masters, Sith Lords, brave space pilots, and the high-stakes battle for freedom of the galaxy for decades. It has rarely told the story of a street-level scoundrel. A lot of games have told stories about characters like Luke Skywalker, but one almost never sees one about a character cut from the mold of Han Solo. At first glance, Star Wars Outlaws, from Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment, looked to fill that void. After trying it out for the first time at this year's Ubisoft Forward, there's good reason to remain optimistic. We're cautiously optimistic, but optimistic nonetheless.

Kay Vess is a down-on-her-luck bounty hunter. The only one she can depend on to look after her is herself. Okay, that's not entirely true. She also has her alien companion Nix. Nix is a lonely merqaal, but one who has forged a lifelong bond with Kay. Nix is omnipresent throughout Star Wars Outlaws, but to compare him to BD-1 from the Star Wars Jedi series would be to oversimplify his role in this game. Nix was a far more active participant in the gameplay sections that I got to check out.

Kay Vess using her grappling hook in Star Wars Outlaws

Source: Ubisoft

The first scenario saw Kay breaking into an underworld stronghold in search of a stolen artifact from Crimson Dawn. She's not doing this for any altruistic reason, but rather because she was hired by a rival criminal faction to pick it up. This is where Outlaws showed off a bulk of its stealth gameplay with Kay hiding inside vents, taking cover behind objects, and sneaking up behind enemies to take them out. The option to go in guns blazing is certainly there, which is where Kay demonstrates her blaster with multiple settings. The standard setting can take out most enemies with the exception of some armored foes, but there's also an ion setting. The latter setting can help disrupt shields and can also debilitate droid targets.

Kay also fights alongside Nix and I do mean they fight together. Nix is an invaluable tool and it would be unsurprising if players opted to use him in every encounter. When directed, Nix can run a distraction to allow Kay to sneak by undetected. Nix can go straight for the face, causing modest damage, but more importantly, it gives Kay an opening to fire off her blaster. While it's no fun to have a merqaal clawing your face off, that isn't even the deadliest that Nix can get. If an enemy has a grenade or thermal detonator equipped, Kay can send Nix over to activate it. In both stealth situations and heavy firefights, this is incredibly handy, because an explosive going off on an enemy's belt is an almost assured instant kill. If there are environmental hazards, Nix can run over and trigger them. In most cases, there were explosive canisters and fuse boxes, which Nix could booby-trap from a distance. Again, this works just as well whether the player decides to go stealth or go in loud.

Other sections available from the game included a run-down ship from the High Republic era that Kay is hopeful of scavenging. This demonstrates Outlaws' 3D platforming sections, which feel standard. Kay has a grappling hook that she can use to swing across certain sections, but she can also leap from place to place, grabbing onto climbable surfaces along the way. Some areas required an electrical jolt to get moving, so Kay's ion blaster setting was used to fire at certain targets, which would activate lifts and doors.

Kay Vess firing at Stormtroopers to escape an Imperial space station in Star Wars Outlaws

Source: Ubisoft

Kay is handy with more than just a blaster. She can pick locks with her slicing tool, which triggers a rhythm-based mini-game. This is something that can take some getting used to, because there were instances where I started to just mash the button out of frustration. Less frustrating is the hacking mini-game, which requires input of certain picture combinations. This plays out similar to something like Wordle with color cues offering hints on how close the player is to the right solution.

The last section saw Kay trying to escape an Imperial space station. The hacking mini-games were present here, too, with the right solution allowing Kay to send a fake evacuation order to clear her escape route of any Stormtrooper resistance. Once she got to her vessel, it was time for some space combat. This part of our playable experience wasn't particularly deep, tasking Kay with outmaneuvering a meager pair of TIE Fighters. However, it does point to something interesting in the form of a Wanted system. If Kay runs afoul of the Empire for whatever reason, they'll give her a Wanted status, meaning Stormtroopers on land and TIE Fighters in space will pursue her on sight. There are certain beacons near Imperial routes that will allow players to hack into them and clear Kay's Wanted status, allowing her to go about her business.

Star Wars Outlaws offers the refreshing experience of being a scoundrel. That specific role-playing element is what's going to make this game appealing. That's not to say there aren't some issues that have me a little concerned. It's mainly the controls. Players will be interacting with a lot of objects and I'm certainly not used to interacting with those objects using the right thumbstick. In several instances, I tried using the X button on the Xbox controller, which would instead have Kay throw a punch. Then I would try the A button, which would make her jump. In some cases, I even used RT, but that shot her blaster. That last one should probably go without saying, so that one may be on me. Nonetheless, interacting with the right thumbstick isn't common and may throw some players for a loop.

With some reservations in mind, I still can't help but be excited about what awaits in the full Star Wars Outlaws game. Because I was held to limited vertical slice demos, I didn't have a chance to truly test the game's open-world potential. That's a major component of the game, so any questions about how that works are understandable. With that said, being a scoundrel is fun and the dynamic between Kay and Nix is beautifully wholesome. There's more to see from Star Wars Outlaws, so we'll be waiting to see what else awaits in the full package when the game releases on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S on Friday, August 30.


This preview is based on an early PC demo made for the Ubisoft Forward 2024 event. The final product is subject to change.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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