‘Star Wars Outlaws’ Is A “Very Relatable, Accessible Fantasy” Inspired By ‘Seven Samurai’, World War II Films & More – Interview

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Before the Star Wars franchise whisked generations of viewers away to a galaxy far, far, away, Joseph Campbell’s work of comparative mythology, ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, left a deep impact on creator George Lucas. The exploration of the mythological structure of the hero’s journey found in world myths proved to be a direct driving force behind the beloved space saga, and the Force has only continued to grow over the years.

Geek Preview: Star Wars Outlaws

But there was a smorgasbord of other fictional influences that resulted in its birth, too, leaving behind a pool of diverse content ideas to tap into. Some of them are more familiar to some than others, running the gamut from 1936 superhero serial film Flash Gordon and famed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s samurai flicks to Richard Wagner’s opera ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’.

In crafting the first open-world Star Wars adventure, Massive Entertainment went trawling through the archives and revisited a couple of these inspirations for Star Wars Outlaws. Set between The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V, 1980) and Return of the Jedi (Episode VI, 1983), the upcoming game looks to break the mould with a female protagonist and a scoundrel jaunt through the seedy underbelly, where lightsabers and Force-imbued attacks are both absent from the equation. 

To honour these parts of the franchise’s identity and fully flesh out the world, narrative director Navid Khavari delved deep into development history and went back to where it all began. 

“This era is so tied to the original films that we kind of wanted to do our homework and go, ‘What were the influences that George Lucas himself had when he was building Star Wars?,” he says in an interview with Geek Culture, a day ahead of Ubisoft Forward in Los Angeles, California. 

“There were Kurosawa and spaghetti westerns, but also World World II films like The Longest Day that inspired his dogfights.

“We talked a lot about the cinematic feel – not necessarily that this is a movie, but that you want to feel like you’re entering into a cinematic space. The pacing that comes with that, the tension that comes from Yojimbo or Seven Samurai, and balancing that with a character like Kay, who’s willing to roll the dice at any moment and slide into the gunslinger fantasy – it was absolutely an influence,” adds Khavari. 

Indeed, Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961) has left an indelible mark on the beloved sci-fi franchise. The Cantina brawl scene in Episode IV: A New Hope took inspiration from it, while Luke, Han Solo, Obi-Wan, and Chewbacca’s iconic hiding-under-the-floor trick was a direct lift from its 1962 sequel Sanjuro. Going further, Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964), the first in its iconic Dollars trilogy and an unofficial Yojimbo remake, also introduced The Man with No Name, the character influence for the protagonist of The Mandalorian

The filmic focus, however, didn’t stop there as Star Wars Outlaws takes the liberty to incorporate some camera techniques into the mix, creating effects that enhance the overall cinematic experience. 

“Since the game is a complete audiovisual experience, we actually extended [the influence] to simulating different camera lenses,” game director Mathias Karlson tacks on. “We have different focal lengths [and] the anamorphic lens simulation, so we can get the right type of bokeh and film grain.” 

It’s a lot of material to work with, and that’s not even counting the rich lore that Star Wars encompasses. The franchise has moved beyond the silver screen to include animated series, comic books, novels, video games, and more, and the sheer breadth of content can make it difficult to establish a starting point. After all, how do you narrow down the possibilities, when the galaxy’s the limit? 

The lifeline for the team came in the form of Lucasfilm Games, who highlighted that the underworld was thriving during a time between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, when the Empire was at its height. Describing the films as “a great tonal blueprint to the era,” Khavari shares how this piece of the puzzle opened the doorway to developing a scoundrel fantasy come true. 

“There’s a saying that goes around, but you think you know Star Wars, but you don’t really know Star Wars when you see the amount of content out there,” he laughs. “But once we landed on the character of Kay Vess, a rookie scoundrel who’s not a Sith, not a Jedi, not a Rebel, couldn’t care less about what’s happening in that battle – you start to think from the perspective of who Kay is going to be. What’s it like to meet a character like Jabba the Hutt? It was a little bit like the world’s your oyster, but it was an opportunity we were hungry for.”

As such, Star Wars Outlaws is rooted in a more grounded intergalactic experience (as grounded as Star Wars can be, at least) unlike other game entries like Knights of the Old Republic or the more recent Star Wars Jedi duology. Shootouts are par for the course, featuring Kay gunning enemies down with her trusty blaster and firing at environmental hazards like explosive barrels to deal an area attack.

The rapscallion can also command her reliable mergaal companion, Nix, to join the fight by having him attack, distract, or steal from hostile forces. Again, there will only be good ol’ gunslinging and no lightsaber stunts or Force abilities, with adrenaline rush serving as a love letter to spaghetti western movies – in this mode, players are able to tag as many enemies as they can within a time frame, who will then be shot once it ends. 

The feature is one of the many accessibility tools that the team has worked into the upcoming adventure. For instance, dogfighting, a franchise staple, is a lot more manageable here, boasting beginner-friendly controls and generous enemy lock-ons. It’s a design by choice, as Karlson highlights the importance of approachable gameplay, which encourages player agenda as a core experience. 

Geek Preview: Star Wars Outlaws (4)

“We think this is a very relatable, accessible fantasy; you’re playing as a human being who isn’t a finished character, who hasn’t seen the entire galaxy. This world is filled with these different syndicates, and you’re going to find yourself in situations where you have to make choices. There’s no right or wrong… it’s an ebb and flow, it’s fluid.”

Along the way, fans can expect to encounter familiar locales and faces from all across the galaxy. Apart from Jabba, the Crimson Dawn, the crime syndicate led by Dryen Vos, and formerly, Darth Maul, will come into play, while Kijimi, a location in 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker, is included in Star Wars Outlaws. Fan-favourite planet Tatooine returns, with Akiva set to step outside its novel-only origins. 

Star Wars Outlaws Preview (5)

More notably, the Ashiga Clan is a brand-new addition to Star Wars canon. With a large presence on Kijimi, it serves as an operational base for the Melitto species – first introduced in The Force Awakens (2015) with Sarco Plank. This weaving of fresh and old elements should prove interesting, and the team has naturally snuck in plenty of easter eggs within the world. Karlson, in particular, is excited for players to discover one of his favourite nods. 

“All I can say is, at some point you’ll find yourself in a certain vent. Remember to look left,” he teases with a glint in his eye. Khavari chuckles, “That’s a good one!” 

Star Wars Outlaws hits PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on 30 August