While the Disney theme parks have spent much of 2020 shuttered, the mythology and lore of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the 14-acre Star Wars-themed land at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, has been aggressively expanding through books (including a forthcoming “Art of” book), exclusive merchandise agreements with Target, and, now, a highly immersive VR game coming to Oculus platforms later this year that promises to take you beyond the petrified forest of Black Spire Outpost.
Developed by ILMxLAB (the same team behind the fun Vader Immortal VR games), Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge sees you, the player, inhabiting the role of a droid repair technician who crash lands on the backwater planet of Batuu after an unexpected pirate attack. Per the official announcement: “In typical Star Wars fashion, you’ll quickly get swept up into a grand adventure on the outskirts of Black Spire Outpost.” Because of course you will.
The team behind the new game has recruited a couple of Star Wars veterans to provide voice roles, as well. Bobby Moynihan, who played the first openly gay Star Wars character in animated series Star Wars Resistance, will appear in Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge as Seezelslak, “a bartender with a penchant for storytelling who is central to the story.” He’s a little kooky,” Moynihan said in the official statement. “Maybe being alone and not having a lot of customers has affected him…” If you watch the behind-the-scenes footage, it appears that Moynihan recorded much of his performance alone, during quarantine, so maybe the coronavirus crazies made their way into his character. His character design is based on a creature from Solo: A Star Wars Story, which is fitting because Solo actually features a quick reference to Galaxy’s Edge that I only picked up on the last time I watched it.
Joining Moynihan in the game is Debra Wilson from Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order as Tara Rashin, “a determined Quarren pirate who leads a cell of Guavian Death Gang operatives on Batuu.” The Guavian Death Gang, you’ll recall, is the group from Star Wars: The Force Awakens who boards Han Solo’s cargo ship looking for revenge and has an incredibly anticlimactic face-off against rival gang Kanjiklub. Her character design is also super cool, and it’s nice to see this interesting slice of the mythology further expanded upon.
And that is really what Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge and all of these peripheral releases is all about: enriching the experience of visiting the highly detailed land.
One of the problems that has plagued Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge since it opened is its lack of familiar characters and experiences that people absolutely crave if they’re visiting a Star Wars-themed land, like, say, getting their photo taken with Darth Vader. Sure, there’s an attraction based on the Millennium Falcon, but instead of it being hosted by Han Solo, the attraction is led by a weird alien named Hondo Onaka. And instead of a recognizable storyline for the attraction, it’s based on a plot point from Solo: A Star Wars Story, a movie hardly anybody actually watched. (It is, by a fairly dramatic margin, the least successful Star Wars entry of the Disney era.)
What made this sensation, this emotional detachment, worse is that a round of ruthless budget cuts struck the project right before opening, which omitted a number of key components like the live entertainment (a stage sits, unused, in the land, as well as the catwalks overhead that were to be home to stunt shows and walkaround characters) and the promised droids, bounty hunters, and alien characters that were originally supposed to populate the environment. Now, it’s just a big open space with a couple of rides and a handful of expensive retail experiences (good luck getting into the cantina, the unchallenged highlight of the entire land). Everything that could connect you to Galaxy’s Edge was gone.
And while Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge maintains the restrictive “in between the events of The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker” setting (at one point one of the Galaxy’s Edge lands was going to be original trilogy-themed and the other sequel trilogy-themed), it’s a way to reverse engineer a familiarity with the theme park experience without having to invest in the infrastructure of the land itself (new attractions, revised theming, additional cast members and character interactions). All of these initiatives – the books, the merchandise displayed prominently at your local Target that is perhaps thousands of miles away from the nearest Disney theme park, the VR experience – create a sense that you already know Galaxy’s Edge, well before your first visit. You’re aware of the characters and cultures, the design and the lore. It might make you a lot less disappointed when you find out you can’t take your photo with Darth Vader.