Wholly unexpected. That’s the answer to what is the best level in LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. A complete surprise. It’s not an epic lightsaber duel or a huge battle. In general, the levels in the game are a bit of a disappointment. They’re fun but, because of the sheer amount of them and the focus on the open world environments, they are often incredibly short, sometimes restricted to a single room. Yet a couple shine through and offer something more akin to the longer levels of the classic LEGO Star Wars games of years past. Shockingly, I found my favourite to be from The Force Awakens. It’s a film I like but the level is based on perhaps my least favourite part of it, plus we only just got a Force Awakens LEGO game a few years ago, so it’s well-trodden territory. Yet, despite these elements that could have held it back, ‘Reap What You Solo’, the level set on the Eravana, evading Rathtars, is the best in the entire saga.
The Eravana is perfectly designed and the level actually has a sense of scale, which many others lack. The corridors are appropriately labyrinthine. They turn one way and then the other, giving the idea of a huge ship full to the brim yet the game still finds that balance of being fairly easy to navigate. It’s also a welcome break from the imperial ships that dominate so much of the last six episodes. The Eravana is designed purely for this one mission and so doesn’t have to double as an open world section or a collectable capital ship. Every element is included to be utilized in the level itself, whether a tight staircase to take a new route and ambush soldiers or a large area where a sudden Rathtar chase can break out, offering Crash Bandicoot vibes, so you don’t end up walking down an extraneous corridor to find a Kyber brick you can’t collect until later. It is a level in a LEGO video game refreshingly designed to be purely that.
The LEGO games adapt the movies in their own unique, humorous way but I actually think that Reap What You Solo improves upon the section of the movie it is based on. I’ve always found the Eravana to be a missed opportunity in the film and could have been a much more fun and engaging adventure sequence. The ship is filled with thousands of containers that could hold anything, and while the film only has the Rathtars get loose, the game takes advantage of the setting and we get to see inside many of them. There are fun cameos, from Tauntauns to Banthas to Wampas, but these aren’t just easter eggs. The addition of these creatures means the level has perhaps the largest variety of enemy types in the whole game. By the time I reached the sequels I was so sick of the constant barrage of stormtroopers that suddenly being confronted by Mynocks, Rathtars, Steelpeckers, Womp Rats, and two different criminal gangs was a delight.
The LEGO games are, of course, not going to feature the most elaborate and difficult puzzles in gaming, but I thought the puzzles aboard the Eravana were much more interesting and require a bit more thought than those found in many other levels. There are puzzles to kill Rathtars (with anti-Rathtar missiles), puzzles to take out goons, and puzzles to open doors. One such puzzle opens a crate to reveal… the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark! I love this easter egg, not only because of it is referencing Indiana Jones but because it’s a deep cut Star Wars reference. The Ark itself appeared in The Clone Wars as a Ryloth cultural artifact and was then teased at being aboard the Eravana in the cross sections book for The Force Awakens which stated there was a container with the number 9906753 that Han couldn’t open, the same number that appears on the crate which stores the Ark at the end of Raiders. I love that the game pieced these two easter eggs together and confirmed that the Ark is onboard.
By far my favourite levels of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga are those that feature two teams of controllable characters that the player can switch between at any time. Yet, for me at least, a sad 26-year-old playing a children’s game designed for co-op alone, I always find myself playing as one group until I hit a wall and then go back and play with the other until I can get as far as I can, swapping only when necessary. Yet Reap What You Solo thankfully forces more active swapping so the lone gamer has to think on two planes simultaneously rather than just one. It makes for a more entertaining and rewarding experience. While I could shoot all the Kanjiklub members as Han Solo, it’s more interesting to swap to Finn on the floor below and take control of the turrets to achieve the same task. It is by far the most dynamic level and I’ve played it a few times to try out all the combinations.
And above all else, the level is just a lot of fun. That’s what a LEGO Star Wars game needs to be, and I’ve made it sound like the rest of the game isn’t, which it absolutely is, I’m enjoying my time playing, but there’s just something about the Eravana that took my enjoyment to the next level, which I certainly wasn’t expecting. Everything the game succeeds at across the nine movies comes together for one level, from the design and the gameplay to the scale, references, humour and variety.
What is your favourite level in LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.