Feature Article

Star Wars Outlaws Developers On Creating The Most Ambitious Star Wars Game Yet

GameSpot may receive revenue from affiliate and advertising partnerships for sharing this content and from purchases through links.

Stealth missions, crafting, fast-paced decision making, and exhilarating space dogfights are all included in Ubisoft’s upcoming Star Wars game.

Star Wars Outlaws has a few things working against it. For starters, it’s a Star Wars game, and as such comes with extraordinary pressures to deliver. Additionally, there is already a lot of Star Wars content out there—including critically acclaimed video games. And last but certainly not least, Star Wars: Outlaws is an ambitious, open-world adventure, in which “open-world” extends beyond the confines of planets, and it’s no secret Ubisoft has been criticized for how bloated or repetitive its open-world games can be. However, after getting my first look at Outlaws’ gameplay, I find myself echoing Han Solo’s most famous sentiment: Never tell me the odds.

While the time I spent with Star Wars Outlaws was brief—I saw about 15 minutes of gameplay—and hands-off, I left feeling like I understood the direction the game was going in and excited for what’s to come. With strategic stealth sections, speeder shoot-outs, seamless surface-to-space travel, an emphasis on making quick decisions (and facing their consequences), and an incredibly charismatic leading lady, Star Wars Outlaws shows a lot of promise.

Following the demo, I had the opportunity to sit down with game director Mathias Karlson and narrative director Navid Khavari to learn a bit more about Kay Vess, the game’s setting, and how Star Wars: Outlaws is changing not only what a Star Wars game can be, but the shape of the galaxy as a whole. While the team couldn’t answer a few of my more burning questions, such as if the game will have co-op at launch, the insight they provided has me excited for what’s to come, and to truly get to know Kay Vess.

Why set this story between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi? What about that period of time gives you the ability to tell the story that you couldn't tell at any other point in time?

Khavari: As we were working on this game, we got excited about this "Scoundrel fantasy." And that was something that Lucasfilm Games and Massive were also absolutely drawn to. And when you think of scoundrels and what era this could fit in between, well, in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, there's this civil war consuming the galaxy. And what happens when you have a civil war consuming the galaxy? Well, criminal organizations and syndicates, they find a space to rise up. This [era sees] them thriving and seeking all kinds of opportunities--them at their strongest, to a certain extent. To enter into the underworld within that window felt like a perfect starting point for someone like Kay and for the Player.

[And] from a narrative perspective, we generally all know that era, we understand that era, but we haven't seen it necessarily from this underworld perspective [..] I think that was also an exciting challenge for us.

In the footage I saw, it seems like Kay will have several decisions she has to make throughout the game--like to bribe or not bribe an Imperial Officer, for example. Do the decisions that you make throughout the game create a replayable, branching narrative?

Karlson: Action and consequence is pervasive in the experience. The decisions you make and actions you take are going to have an impact on your relationship with the different factions, creating threats and opportunities. There will be an ebb and flow there, depending on the choices you make. [They also impact] the endpoint.

Khavari: Yeah, it's in that moment-to-moment decision making where the narrative is going to react to what you're doing. But also, we wanted to make sure this was a full journey for Kay from beginning to end. We wanted those anchor points--those emotional beats in the story--so it's guaranteed you're going to have that. But moment-to-moment, the story's going to adapt.

I noticed there was a crafting bench on Kay's ship. How much is crafting, or survival elements, going to factor into Outlaws?

Karlson: Early on, we said Kay and Nix, they've known each other for years, but quickly the adventure takes you into places and situations that are new to Kay and Nix and at the same time, it's new for you. So of course, on that journey and in both the core narrative campaign experience and in the side adventures that you go on your own accord, growing in various ways is a core part [of the game]. You upgrade your ship, your speeder, your abilities…

Khavari: [You will] also see her grow into her kit and blaster, adding new modules and elements to that. So watching that growth across the campaign and gameplay, it feels like you're with her doing it at the same time. I think that's what's awesome is to get that feeling that I'm actually becoming a full-fledged scoundrel.

It's confirmed that classic planets and characters will make cameos, but I also noticed in the trailer you saw the classic Star Wars swipe transition and the music is actually very reminiscent of the original trilogy. What are some other qualities from the original trilogy that you wanted to bring to Star Wars: Outlaws?

Karlson: I mean, I think you're touching on something that's super key in our take on this, which is to create a truly cinematic gaming experience.

Khavari: Tone was a big aspect of this. We wanted to capture that matinee action feel, but with a high emotional stake. It's something we talked about constantly as a team, "How can we be authentic to the era, but bring something new?" I think the score is a perfect example. Our composer looked at the themes [created by Star Wars theme composer] John Williams, obviously, but also he looked at [music] from a place of character--from where Kay's coming from. I still remember hearing it for the first time. It was just like, "That's Kay." And everything just gets elevated suddenly, you know?

Speaking of, why Kay Vess? I want to hear a bit more about her character.

Khavari: The beauty of having a character like Kay Vess is this is her first step into the underworld and we're experiencing that alongside of her. She is also a cunning thief, that is her trade. That's where she came from. And her and Nix together have sort of been fighting every single day to survive. One of the things we always talked about as a team is, we put ourselves in the mind of Kay and how she acts. She's not perfect, she hasn't figured everything out yet, and that feels great. That feels natural and fresh in what we're trying to do. And so, being able to go into that journey with her--to watch her navigate the underworld and have that sort of experience where you're learning it alongside her--it feels great. I think that the team is super excited about that.

There have been people who have compared her to Han Solo. What do you think sets her and Nix apart from Han and Chewy?

Khavari: I think the main thing is, honestly, she hasn't figured it all out yet. We kept going back to that. When you see Han and Chewy, they're unbelievable characters, but you can tell it's not their first rodeo. With Kay, her direction hasn't been set yet. She hasn't made her mark on the galaxy. She doesn't know all these syndicates and criminal organizations. And as a character, her having that sort of self-deprecating, "I'm still figuring it out" attitude feels really refreshing, to be honest. That's a joy to write for.

It makes her, I think, feel more relatable too.

Khavari: Yeah, exactly. And that was something we talked about in the writer's room a lot, like, how do we make Kay feel like someone you'd want to hang out with [..] Kay is also a bit of a loner. She's someone who has grown up having to do everything herself, having to survive herself. And Nix is almost like this chink in her armor. It's her only family. It's her support system. And I think what's great is it translates from story to gameplay as well. In a lot of ways Nix is this extension of Kay, giving her the ability to do things that she would never be able to do herself.

Having seen gameplay, I am blown away by how ambitious Star Wars Outlaws is. Do you think 2024 is a realistic timeline? Have there been any obstacles because of how ambitious it is?

Karlson: The core ambition has always been to create the most full-spectrum [and] seamless as possible experience that we can. When you think, truly open-world Star Wars, that includes space, down to the planet surface, all the way into a city, sitting down at the bar in the cantina. The pride we have in being able to show that today is significant, I would say. I think right now we're just super focused on hands down delivering that the best possible.

The above interview has been edited for readability and brevity.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com


Jessica Cogswell

Jess Cogswell is an editor at GameSpot and an avid fan of coffee, anime, RPGs, and repurchasing games she already owns on Switch. Prior to GameSpot, Jess has worked for Uppercut, UPROXX, and Paste Magazine.

Back To Top