Star Wars Outlaws is one of the most ambitious open-world games of 2024, and it was inspired by a single sentence

Star Wars Outlaws Big Preview: Kay and Nix set out across a desert moon world on a speeder
(Image credit: Ubisoft)

When you're handed the chance to make a new Star Wars game, there's a galaxy of possibilities to consider. So where do you even begin? How do you decide what direction to go in, or what story you want to explore in a beloved universe that's ripe for the picking? These were the exact questions developer Massive Entertainment faced when the opportunity to create the open world adventure now known to the world as Star Wars Outlaws came their way. In what was then a small incubation team at the Sweden-based studio, key creative leads began by thinking about their own personal connection to George Lucas' space opera. 

Creative director Julian Gerighty describes Star Wars as a "cultural milestone", and fondly reflects on the first time he saw A New Hope when it reached the UK in 1977. He was just four years old, but can recall the exact theater he watched it in, and still remembers the day he got the film on VHS. During my time visiting Massive's headquarters in Malmo, Sweden, I heard similar stories from other developers. While everyone's link to Star Wars is personal, Gerighty says early conversations between the team quickly made them realize they all shared a love for a particular kind of character that would shape the direction of what Star Wars Outlaws would become. 

It wasn't the Rebels, the Empire, or even the Jedi, but the scoundrel figures that spoke to the team the most. Once Massive landed on the focal point of "the Han Solo archetype" – aka "the coolest guy in the galaxy," as Gerighty puts it – the team began crafting the concept. A concept which, Gerighty explains, could be summed up in a single sentence. One that's easy to learn, easy to repeat, and helps all 600 developers working to bring Star Wars Outlaws to life move in the right direction: "Be a scoundrel in a galaxy of wonder and opportunity". 


Star Wars Outlaws: The Big Preview
This month, we're diving into our most anticipated upcoming Star Wars games. To find our coverage, visit the Star Wars Outlaws Big Preview hub.

The thief, gunslinger, and resourceful underdog 

Star Wars Outlaws' protagonist Kay Vess looks carefully out ahead from behind cover

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

As development progressed through the earliest days of the pandemic , this single sentence began to inspire an ambitious single-player open-world adventure set in the Star Wars universe. In it, we'll "be a scoundrel" through the eyes of protagonist Kay Vess, who's trying to navigate the dangers of the Outer Rim. As we delve into the seedy underworld of the various crime syndicates with the help of our best Merqaal friend Nix, Massive is striving to give us the various tricks of the trade to truly play out this role. 

In what game director Mathias Karlson describes as a "full spectrum fantasy" of the "thief, gunslinger, and resourceful underdog", we'll be outfitted with a blaster gun, be able to sneak and steal, and direct Nix to do all manner of things in and out of combat to get past enemies or gain the upper-hand – like cause distractions, plant traps, or pinch loot. Star Wars Outlaws also features RPG-like elements such as choices or dilemmas that we'll have to address in missions, a reputation system with the crime syndicates that "ebbs and flows'' depending on the actions we take, and a wanted system that will have the Imperials hunting you down if you get on their bad side. 

 Star Wars Outlaws headshot SWO_Mathias-Karlson_Game-Director
"You'll see a lot of pride in the team, being able to offer that scale.

But this fantasy also extends to the "galaxy of opportunity and wonder" and the way in which we'll be able to explore and immerse ourselves within it. With the open-world made up of five different planets and the orbital regions outside of them (Akiva, Cantonica, Kijimi, Tatooine, and Toshara), we'll have our own speeder we can use to traverse through worlds, visit cities on planets, and be able hop into our Trailblazer ship to fly through space "at will". Karlson says the team quickly realized that space had to be a part of the makeup of the open-world, since it's a key ingredient of the Star Wars experience. And again, it's a part of the ultimate scoundrel fantasy the studio set out to deliver since that one sentence cemented the team's direction. 

"You'll see a lot of pride in the team, being able to offer that scale," Karlson says. "Not just in scale [in terms of size] but I mean in experience. Literally sitting playing Sabacc – Star Wars poker – in a cantina in a little town, [then you can] walk outside, jump on your speeder, drive across a whole world, get in your ship, take off, explore space, hyperdrive to a different one, and land again. All seamlessly. It's a fantasy fulfillment we're very proud of."

From agent to outlaw 

I've yet to fully experience the open world elements of Star Wars Outlaws, so while that sense of scale remains to be seen, it's undoubtedly true that creating anything set in the Star Wars universe comes with a certain amount of pressure and expectation. Outlaws is very ambitious, but Massive is no stranger to creating open-world experiences. As well previously working on Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, the studio also delivered The Division and the Division 2. As Gerighty points out, The Division is a "completely different player fantasy".

Going from crafting a multiplayer co-op experience in The Division to a single-player story-driven adventure in Star Wars Outlaws, naturally required a change in approach, but Gerighty says it was "much easier in many ways", and it's clear the team still drew from their past experience to inform Kay's adventure. 

"I think the reason why we were super excited in taking this challenge was that it got us out of our comfort zone as well," Gerighty says. "It got us making a narrative game, and thinking about a design framework that isn't co-op focused, and that changes everything. It allows us to be much freer. So it was a genuine pleasure to do this without thinking of all of the conditions for a co-op or PvP experience. So very, very different experience, different muscles. But the team really enjoyed that exercise."

Star Wars Outlaws headshot SWO_Julian-Gerighty_Creative-Director
"We wanted Outlaws to be a tale to remember"

"The Division and The Division 2, were narrative" Gerighty continues. "But because they were co-op focused, it didn't really allow us to spend a lot of resources or time on a narrative pipeline. And we wanted to change that, we wanted this [Outlaws] to be a tale to remember – something that was very profound for people discovering Star Wars for the first time, or who have been Star Wars fans since they were very, very young." 

As for the adventure aspect, Ubisoft has a long history of delivering open-world experiences across a variety of franchises: Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, and Watch Dogs to name but a few. Interestingly, while Massive haven't led development of an Assassin's Creed game, there was one in the series the team discussed a lot, which proved to be critical in determining the scope of Star Wars Outlaws

"I love Assassin's Creed, and we spoke a lot about Assassin's Creed Odyssey when we were doing conception for this game," Gerighty says. "But what we decided very early on was that we couldn't afford to have 150 hour experience, we wanted to make something that was much more condensed, much more focused on a journey for the player, where everybody who starts it will want to be able to finish it – compelled to finish it. And that's a lesson that we apply to production as well, to make something that has all the variety, the visual variety, the gameplay variety that we needed, but in a package that as parents, we could finish." 

Fantasy fulfillment 

Star Wars Outlaws duo Kay Vess and Merqaal Nix walk across an impressive vista towards a wreck

(Image credit: Ubisoft)
The many faces of Nix

A wall display of Nix in the Massive Studio in Malmo Sweden showing the team's favorite facial expressions

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Nix is more than just a loyal companion, he's integral to how we'll be able to interact with the world and navigate through the Outer Rim as Kay. There's a lot of pride and love among the team for their little merqaal creation, with a wall in the Massive studio dedicated to showcasing some of Nix's most memorable facial expressions. 

We'll have to wait until August 30, 2024, to see if Star Wars Outlaws can deliver on this "full spectrum" scoundrel fantasy, but I've already seen some of the ways Massive is trying to bring this to life during my hands-on demo with the game. Gerighty highlights the team's efforts to capture the cinematic, matinee action of the original trilogy, which I see a short example of during an explosive shoot out with my blaster gun against a barrage of stormtroopers on an Imperial station. When I make a quick escape aboard my ship, I'm then taking on TIE fighters and flying to my next destination. Another mission also has me try to swipe a relic and put my stealthy prowess to the test. Both sections showcase some of Kay's strengths as both a gunslinger and thief. 

What's still something of a question mark from an experiential standpoint is the "galaxy of wonder and opportunity". Massive is putting the open-world forward as one of Star Wars Outlaw's biggest draws, with the promise of plenty of exploration and discovery in the Outer Rim. Not only does it present us with the chance to step into the Star Wars universe in the shoes of someone outside of the conflict between the Rebels and the Empire, but it's trying to do so in a way that allows us to go from exploring planets to space flight "seamlessly". So far, I've only been able to try out a small slice of the space flight experience and the way it transitions through the clouds, to a city nestled on a planet. 

I'm keen to see how the whole package comes together and discover whether Massive does deliver on its concept of letting us "be a scoundrel in a galaxy of wonder and opportunity". From its open-world, to the various tools Star Wars Outlaws will give us to step into the universe and immerse ourselves in the role of Kay, it's one very ambitious project. But from everything I've learned and seen during my time at the studio, I can already see a lot of potential in both the galaxy, and the scoundrel it promises to let us be.  

Star Wars Outlaws is set to release on August 30, 2024 on PC, Xbox Series X/S, and PS5. 

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.