Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is almost perfect. Almost.
At long last, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge has arrived at California's Disneyland and Florida's Walt Disney World. The new area takes up 14 acres at the theme park as it attempts to completely immerse visitors in the world of Star Was on a new planet called Batuu. But does it deliver on the hype?? The answer is: Yes--but there are some caveats.
GameSpot had the chance to visit Galaxy's Edge and experience everything the new Star Wars land had to offer two days before it officially opened during a press preview event. From the new Millennium Falcon ride to a variety of eateries and shops, there's plenty to keep you occupied if you managed to grab a reservation to its first month of operation.
Still, given how packed Disneyland is likely to be for the next couple of years, you might be wondering if it's worth making the trip to Anaheim--or Orlando, after August 21--to experience the park for yourself. Let's take a look at what Galaxy's Edge has to offer before you book your travel.
How immersive is it?
That's the big question I had when walking into Black Spire Outpost for the first time. Anyone who's visited Disneyland knows that music is piped in throughout the park and regardless of where you are, chances are you can see a different land with another theme, which can break the illusion that you're visiting another world. However, Galaxy's Edge designers took great care in making sure no other piece of Disneyland can be seen or heard from within Galaxy's Edge. Using walls, rocks, trees, and other scenery elements, the land is completely secluded from the outside world. It also has a unique musical score, which helps with the feeling that you're living your own Star Wars story--an idea we heard from multiple people involved in the creation of Galaxy's Edge.
How do you live your own story?
This is where Galaxy's Edge is unlike pretty much anything else I can think of, when it comes to theme park experiences, as not even the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Pandora: The World of Avatar goes to the same lengths. And it all starts with the land's setting.
The planet Batuu is in the middle of a civil war, in many ways. The First Order has arrived to take control of Black Spire Outpost--which is massive--while a Resistance camp in the forest is full of rebels that are covertly trying to defeat the bad guys. Whose side you’re on is up to you, but both First Order troops and rebels will interact with you throughout the land, to varying degrees.
For example, during the grand opening celebration, rebel spies were teaching guests secret handshakes and phrases to help identify other rebels, while Stormtroopers were walking around and questioning people.
There are also plenty of story elements that come into play thanks to the Play Disney Parks smartphone app. In the app, you can access a datapad user interface that allows you to hack various things within Galaxy's Edge, like droids, vehicles, and signage. I hacked the Millennium Falcon and was shocked when it seemingly opened an exhaust port, and the massive spacecraft started making noises.
The app also tracks the progress you make on the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride, which we'll get into detail about below. Following your time on the ride, you receive a score based on your team's performance. That score is translated into credits, which then impact your reputation in the land. It's possible characters within Black Spire Outpost will approach you or interact with you to discuss your performance.
It was noted during the media preview that bartenders in Oga's Cantina might even make reference to you crashing the Millennium Falcon, if you weren't so great at piloting it, or completing your mission if you were.
One bartender I spoke to revealed that the various booths in the Cantina could also connect to the app and a series of lights on the walls tip off cast members about the reputation you've built on Batuu so far.
Just how deep this will go, especially with so many people populating the land, remains to be seen. If you try hard enough, though, it sounds like you can have a unique experience each time you visit.
So let's talk about the ride.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is the only ride attraction open at the Galaxy's Edge launch. It's also, honestly, the only real downside of the land. It's a fun-enough ride, but it's a motion simulator with screens in the various windows. It's sort of an advanced version of Star Tours--a Disneyland staple--with buttons to press.
Don't get me wrong, flying in the Millennium Falcon is a dream. The execution of this particular ride, though, misses the mark a bit. Each Falcon cabin seats six riders, and each rider is given a job--two pilots, two gunners, and two engineers. If you're a pilot, get ready for an exciting ride--though it makes the design of the Falcon seem kind of silly. One pilot controls vertical steering and hyperspace, while the other controls horizontal. That means you'd better be communicating with your co-pilot or you're going to crash into many, many things. Don't worry, though. Crashing doesn't end the ride. Instead, the cabin will shake violently while the engineers have to spring into action.
For gunners, there are two options. The automatic controls mean you push a single button to fire weapons at whatever is in the Falcon's way. It's good for an introduction, but too simplistic for those that will want a challenge. The manual controls offer more variety and give gunners more buttons to press, but it's still not like the operation of the Falcon's guns as seen in Star Wars movies.
The engineers' role in the mission is probably the least exciting. You're essentially playing Simon. When the ship takes a hit, a button or switch will light up, and you'll hit or toggle it. It's pretty simple, and if you spend the entire ride simply mashing all of the buttons, you'll be just fine. It should be noted, though, that while this job gives you the least to do, it also gives you the most opportunity to watch what's happening on-screen.
That all said, there is a lot of excitement in the lead-up to the ride. The queue is exciting to walk through and spot Easter eggs in and manages to include some different angles of the massive Millennium Falcon that sits in front of it. And the waiting room to enter the ride itself is where you'll find an animatronic of Hondo Ohnaka, a Weequay alien character who first appeared on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Now, Hondo runs a shipping company that has borrowed the Falcon to get supplies and the animatronic is so incredibly lifelike you'll have to look twice or more to determine whether or not it's someone in a costume.
After you meet Hondo, you get a chance to hang out in the lounge section of the Falcon. You can sit at the Dejarik board (where R2-D2 faced off against Chewbacca) or wander around and see what else you can find stashed in the area.
Smugglers Run will remain the only ride in Galaxy's Edge for a few months. However, it will eventually be joined by what sounds like Disney's most impressive ride to date. Rise of the Resistance is seemingly a massive dark ride, which will take guests on an adventure that includes imprisonment by the First Order, a battle between the two sides, and some of the biggest set pieces in any theme park in the world.
While I can't wait for that ride to open, it not being available at the launch of Galaxy's Edge seems like a missed opportunity. That's especially the case when it comes to the Resistance camp in the forest, which is also where the entrance to Rise of the Resistance is. Without the ride, there's little else to do in the camp besides checking out the full-size X-wing and A-wing replicas on display. That's exciting for photo purposes but other than that, the rebel camp doesn't feel like a must-see at this point.
The food is good, though.
Chances are you're not just going to Galaxy's Edge for the rides. Given that it's an immersive experience, there's so much more to take into account--like the food. Thankfully, the Disneyland Resort chefs have created a menu of food that seems normal on the surface but is just alien enough to make it feel at home in a Star Wars story.
For instance, the land's version of fried chicken is fried Endorian Yip-Tip. It's a breaded and fried piece of meat in a rectangular shape that comes with a mashed potato that also features carrots and peas. It's a simple-enough meal. However, an interesting tweak has been made. The mashed potatoes are dairy free, with the milk being swapped out for olive oil.
There are also a couple of plant-based items, which Disneyland Resort executive chef Jason Martin told GameSpot is a move made in response to visitor feedback. "We listen to what our guests are saying. And they're looking for, once again, plant-based, [which] is big now," he explained. "And it's just good for the environment, so we're looking towards that. That's why you have two plant-based items on this menu."
One of those items is the Felucian Garden Spread, which includes herb hummus, pita, a tomato-cucumber relish, and plant-based Kefta "meatballs." These meatballs were downright delicious, and it was hard to believe it was all plant-based protein.
There are also a few theme park staples that have been given a Star Wars spin. Smoked Kaadu Ribs, which are quite tasty, are very sticky pork ribs and come with a blueberry corn muffin. The meat is incredibly tender and falls right off the bone, while the muffin adds a fun texture to the meal.
If you head to Ronto Roasters, which is a food stand where meats are cooked using a podracer engine--it looks as cool as it sounds--you can snag a Ronto Wrap, which is essentially a space hotdog. It's a grilled sausage wrapped in pita. What sets it apart though is a tangy slaw it’s topped with, which adds a crunch and some good flavor to what would otherwise be a pretty pedestrian dish.
There's also no end to the snacks, breakfasts, and several other menu items for you to try during a visit to Galaxy's Edge. If you leave the land hungry, clearly you've done something wrong.
Now let's talk about the drinks.
This is where adult Star Wars fans are likely going to be excited. Yes, you can purchase alcoholic cocktails at the Cantina in Galaxy's Edge. What's more, there are even breakfast cocktails--for those that want coffee with a little rum or a Bloody Rancor, which is the Oga's Cantina version of a Bloody Mary.
During normal daytime hours, though, there are eight different themed cocktails, along with a selection of beer and wine available exclusively within Galaxy's Edge. During the opening celebration, the Yub Nub--a rum concoction--was the only drink available to sample. It was was a sweet treat that made me want to try them all at least once.
There are also plenty of non-alcoholic options. There's even blue and green milk, as seen in the movies. Interestingly, both are non-dairy. Instead of traditional milk, they're made with a blend of rice and coconut milks, with other flavors added. The blue milk, which I enjoyed in its frozen form, has a light tropical taste and, thanks to the lack of dairy, it’s both creamy and light. Green milk swaps out the tropical taste for a floral one.
For those looking for a more familiar drink, there are also Coca-Cola products for sale, though they certainly look different than those normally found on Earth. In Galaxy's Edge, they've been given unique bottles shaped to look like decommissioned thermal detonators. It's a nice touch.
And finally, the merch.
You didn't think you could go to a Star Wars land and not spend all of your money, did you? Of course, there are all kinds of new stuff to buy--and all of it is in-world, so don't expect to buy Star Wars-branded items.
There's a wide range of souvenirs, with prices that start at $9 and go up to $25,000. So if you're on a budget but want a keepsake, you should be able to find something reasonably priced. That said, there are so many options for those looking to spend more.
For $100, you can build a remote-controlled droid. Currently, R-series (like R2-D2) and BB-series (like BB-8) units are available for purchase. There are also tons of pre-built droids, which start at under $10 and go up in price depending on size and features. Many of the droids can also be augmented with personality chips and customizable parts.
In Savi's Workshop, you get the opportunity to build your own custom lightsaber using a variety of parts, though constructing the heavy-duty plastic weapon will set you back $200. If you prefer a metal lightsaber replica, though, you can pick those up on Dok-Ondar's Den of Antiquities--a shop that is stuffed full of Easter eggs. These lightsabers range in price but are cheaper than those built in Savi's Workshop, where you're paying a premium for the experience.
Beyond things like droids and lightsabers, there's a never-ending supply of toys, games, clothing, and other items to buy--including plenty of touristy items to commemorate a trip to Batuu, from coffee cups to keychains.
Let's wrap it up.
It's hard to look at Galaxy's Edge as anything other than a massive achievement. The land is so big and filled with so many things to interact with that it isn't hard to see yourself as visiting a distant planet in a galaxy far, far away. I could easily lose hours just exploring the various corners of the 14-acre land, looking for hidden Easter eggs and ways to dive even deeper into the story of Batuu. Throw all of the dining and shopping experiences on top of that, and it's a recipe for a thrilling time at Disneyland.
Still, it's not perfect. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is exciting at first, but doesn't seem like something that will retain its excitement the more you ride it--especially if you're put in any role other than that of pilot. That said, it's a fun motion simulator, and I would be shocked if the creative team behind the ride didn't have plans for alternate missions, much like the various trips you can take on Star Tours.
Even if Smugglers Run isn't Disney's best, though, the land itself is beyond impressive. Sure, it's filled with things for you to waste money on--this is a theme park, after all--but it's also possible to simply exist in the world of Batuu and experience whatever story you find yourself in the middle of.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is unlike any other theme park attraction you're going to find. It's so big and filled with interactive elements and beautiful architecture that it will be hard to rival. That said, raising the bar of theme park entertainment this much only means things are going to get better in the future. So I'm expecting big things from the Marvel land currently under construction at Disney California Adventure.
Until we can check that out, enjoy your trip to Batuu. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is open now at Disneyland and the Walt Disney World Resort.