The new VR experience Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is bringing fans one step closer to the ultimate dream - having lightsaber battles in your own home with classic villains from the galaxy far, far away. The new smartphone-powered augmented reality experience from Lenovo Mirage that allows you to play three games - lightsaber battles, holochess, and strategic combat - is being called an “authentic and surprisingly intense” experience, which is not surprising considering the detail that went into making Jedi Challenges feel as realistic as possible.
For $199, included in the box are a headset, lightsaber controller (Originally Anakin’s lightsaber, which was passed down to Luke, and is now Rey’s), and tracking beacon. You download the official smartphone app, put your phone in the headset and turn on the tracking beacon, once you’re set up you grab your lightsaber and are ready to check out the three experiences. The first one, lightsaber battles, allows you to fight against Star Wars villains starting with Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, the Seventh Sister, and the Grand Inquisitor. The second one, strategic combat, makes you the commander as you control and place forces of the Rebellion, Republic or Resistance in a tower-defense clash with the Empire, Separatists or First Order on a 3D playfield. The last experience is holochess, the Jedi Challenges‘ version of dejarik seen in A New Hope, where you play monster chess against the AI.
The game is a lot to wrap your head around, but StarWars.com features an interview with Mike Goslin, VP, Advanced Development at Disney, about how they created such a ground-breaking experience for fans, coming up with the best way to make lightsaber fighting realistic and more. Here is what he said about the challenges they faced with creating believable lightsaber dueling (pool noodles were heavily involved in the process):
“We started off thinking less about platforms and [more about] how could we deliver the best lightsaber experience. We very quickly came to augmented reality as the best way to do lightsabers.
“We knew it was going to be really compelling to have a life-size character right up in your personal space. That’s really intense and dramatic. We knew we could do that. But we didn’t know we could actually do sword fighting, because it’s a really specific thing. And without making contact, does it even feel right? So we spent a lot of time, I’m embarrassed to say, out in the quad here with pool noodles, working out ‘What are you going to want to feel like when you’re dueling?’ We spent a lot of time making the A.I. good, but not too good. We found out pretty early on if you get everything to line up — if you have a little bit of a haptic feedback in your hilt, and the visual is telling you that you’ve contacted something, and the character that you’re battling reacts appropriately, and the audio supports that — you start to buy into it.”
Lightsaber battles aren’t the only aspect of the game; Goslin reveals that they wanted to make the experience accessible to all Star Wars fans - including those who may not want to engage in lightsaber combat. Here is what he said about including the other aspects of the game, like holochess and strategic combat:
“We wanted to make this for all Star Wars fans. What I’m most excited about in the future is, man, there’s almost no limit to what you can do with this kind of technology. And it’s going to allow us all to live those moments that we’ve dreamed about from our favorite films and stories. We can live them out ourselves in our own homes. I think that’s just a fantastic way to tell stories and create experiences that people haven’t been able to do before.”
For Star Wars fans, Jedi Challenges is the closest your going to get being able to have real lightsaber duels with characters from the franchise so far. This game may provide just a taste of the immersive expereinces that Disney and Lucasfilm has in store for everyone, when the Star Wars theme park Galaxy's Edge opens at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California in 2019.
Screen Rant will keep you updated on all Star Wars: Jedi Challenges news. The game is available to order now.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019