Tales from Galaxy’s Edge and the Theme Park Footprint

I previously covered the lack of Star Wars gaming at Star Wars Celebration, and I had every intention of including Tales from Galaxy’s Edge as one of the few games that did get a panel. However, listening to the panel and hearing the initial brief from ILMxLab (the Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality arm of Lucasfilm), it was clear that this game serves a different purpose.

At the Making of ILMxLab’s Tales From The Galaxy’s Edge panel at Star Wars Celebration, Executive Producer Mark Miller spoke about his first conversations with Jose Perez III, the creator of the VR game about what Tales from Galaxy’s Edge could be:

“What if we could build an experience where you could start in a central place and through whatever, you could tell stories all across the Star Wars galaxy and all across the timeline.”

Making of ILMxLab’s Tales From The Galaxy’s Edge, Star Wars Celebration 2022

The team later came up with the “whatever”: A cantina. What better place to tell stories? A different drink, a new story to tell, and a place to visit. And it would all tie back to this dive cantina outside of Black Spires on Batuu.

The evolution of Star Wars VR has come over five years. It started with Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, a location-based VR experience available to lucky residents and visitors to Disney Springs, Downtown Disney, and Westfield London. The experience combined real-world sets that let people move around in a contained space that mirrored their VR environment.

The story was almost non-existent. A simple mission to get in and out of an Imperial facility on Mustafar with a valuable artifact. The game was more of a theme park attraction experience than pure gameplay. 

Fighting Vader in Vader Immortal final episode | credit ILMxLAB

The next step was Vader Immortal, a chaptered VR experience that had more story and still involved an “escape from Mustafar” goal. The single-player story puts the player in the body of a Force-sensitive smuggler with a connection to Mustafar whom Vader tries to use to bring back Padmé. It serves as a history lesson for Mustafar more than anything else as the player makes their way through Vader’s castle. 

Is it a coincidence that the first two major VR games were set on Mustafar? Probably not. It is one of the more well-known Star Wars planets for being the home of Darth Vader, who is always ready to be used in the games. Even though the Sith Lord does not make an appearance in Secrets of the Empire, he is still a looming threat. Tales from Vader’s Castle, the IDW comics series also follows a group of Rebels trying to escape the “haunted” castle. 

But Mustafar is also one of the more fantastical locations in the Star Wars universe. One might find it difficult to lose themselves in immersion on a planet full of lava with a ridiculous, exuberant castle.

So now we come to the value of having a VR experience: To allow players to experience more of a place that already exists. 

The environment and feel of Galaxy’s Edge in VR is even more immersive if you have visited the park and even includes a Ronto Wrap | credit ILMxLAB

This brings us to the more expansive, immersive, narrative-driven Tales from Galaxy’s Edge and the DLC Tales from Galaxy’s Edge: Last Call. The topline summary is that the player is a droid technician unnamed who finds themselves back in their hometown Black Spires on Batuu, and in conflict with the Guavian Death Gang. Along the journey, the player meets familiar and new characters. One of these new characters, Seezelslak, is the bartender/owner of the local dive and the conduit for these tales. The Azumel also serves as a meta figure in the Star Wars universe, telling Star Wars stories that you, the player, get to play out.

The ILMxLAB team also worked with the Imagineering team to make this experience an extension of Batuu that people just haven’t visited, including deciding the location of Seezelslak’s bar, which has a view of the Spires/park. So, when people who have played the game visit Galaxy’s Edge in either park, it will feel familiar. 

And the characters in the game are across multiple Star Wars media. There are game-specific characters like Seezelslak, Lens, and Ady Sun’ Zee (the latter being from The High Republic era). Dok-Ondor, who is in the Galaxy’s Edge park, also appears in the game to send the player on a mission. Mubo, who owns the Droid Depot, is not in the park but is referenced (we can thank the Utai for 8D-J8 at Ronto’s Roasters and for reprogramming DJ Rex in Oga’s Cantina).

But there are also characters from film and television: We see Yoda, C-3P0, R2-D2, Hondo, and a deep cut of Baron Attsman from The Last Jedi. One of the “tales” involves IG-88 fighting his way through a fortress to take out a crime boss right before Vader calls the droid to the Executor in The Empire Strikes Back. It is the kind of connection that might go over the heads of casual Star Wars fans, but Star Wars canon fans will appreciate it. 

Some of the characters that populate the game can be found in the park and in other media | credit Lucasfilm and ILMxLAB

By setting Galaxy’s Edge in the VR space as the gateway across the timeline, Lucasfilm is doing what the real-world Galaxy’s Edge needs: A way to bridge the gap between Star Wars eras even though it is set during the Sequel Trilogy.

Vader Immortal is one of the top-selling games. Aside from the Star Wars/Vader brand, the price point is probably more tempting at $9.99 (although this is per episode, so the total game is $30). Tales from Galaxy’s Edge, a more expansive game, is $36.99 for the whole thing, including Last Call

Last Call is reportedly the last installment in the Tales from Galaxy’s Edge, but I hope Lucasfilm invests in DLC additions.

The hardware and platform are starting to be more everpresent, with Meta Quests 2 starting price at $299 (less than an Xbox or PS5), the growth opportunity for VR Games continues to climb.

The Meta Quest store, which includes an assortment of games and apps for the company’s line of VR headsets, has more than quadrupled in revenue over the last three years, according to a Meta earnings call (PC Gamer). Total sales have passed $1 billion, and with the rising popularity of metaverse platforms and experiences, shows no signs of slowing down. 

Galaxy’s Edge is not quite the immersive destination must-visit for Star Wars fans like Universal’s Wizarding World is for Harry Potter fans, but VR presents a way for Disney to expand its reach and appeal. The opportunity for more casual Star Wars fans to experience the Galaxy’s Edge park in the rich context of Star Wars storytelling is the greatest value of Tales from Galaxy’s Edge. And it is far more effective than a tie-in novel or comic series.

There is even a chance for inspiration to work the other way. As Galaxy’s Edge expands in the future, characters and locations from the game would be a welcome surprise and Tales from Galaxy’s Edge could even become an attraction/experience in the park (and the park definitely needs more attractions).