If you’re like me, you spent last Friday night at a Selena tribute concert in Orlando, Florida. But what do you do when you arrive 90 minutes early and need to kill time? The obvious answer: blast Stormtroopers in the new Star Wars virtual-reality simulator, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire!
That promo video is very intriguing but doesn’t really give you a good idea of what you can expect. After experiencing it, I would describe it as a combination virtual-reality movie/video game with some puzzle elements. I also believe that the mystery and surprises are part of what makes this a really enjoyable experience; so with that in mind, I’ll break down my experience without giving away too many spoilers.
7:00 PM- Purchase tickets. Cost: $38.00 per person. I recommend having a group of four people. It seems to be designed for four and if your group has more people, you may be broken up into smaller groups; if you have less than four you may be paired with strangers. Also, as you would expect with everything Disney related, you’re going to be standing in line. In fact, we were told that we had to wait 10-15 minutes before we could even get in line. That’s a mind-blowing concept in itself.
7:15 PM- Get in line. The first thing you do is provide your personal information and sign the liability waiver. Much like the Jundland Wastes, the liability waiver is not to be taken lightly. No one was injured in our group but you WILL be running around freely and swinging fake blasters in all directions while wearing virtual reality headsets. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people came out with a few bumps and bruises. Also, I highly recommend that you elect to receive emails as they will provide you with your gaming stats (accuracy, kills, etc).
7:50 PM- Game On! Or so we thought. It turned out that this was actually just the mission briefing. Your group stands in front of a jumbotron where Cassian Andor informs you that you are part of a team of Rebel Alliance commandos who will be infiltrating an Imperial base (disguised as Stormtroopers) in order to gather information on some highly classified cargo that has just arrived there.
7:55 PM- Back in line. Luckily this was a much shorter line and we could see the groups ahead of us being suited up in their VR headsets and vests. After about a 10 minute wait, it was our turn.
8:05 PM- Game on! We were all lead into a dark room where the VR headsets were activated and we suddenly appeared to be a group of Stormtroopers. Then the adventure began…
It’s a hard to describe how impressive this was. I can be negative sometimes and I was fully prepared for some lame VR roller coaster ride. Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire is so much more than that. Right away you’re on a dropship that is about to land at your destination and you’ve got a 360 degree view of an alien planet. It’s an impressive sight but you don’t have a lot time because the mission clock is ticking and suddenly the cargo bay doors open and you’re walking into enemy territory; and as I mentioned before, you’re actually walking around freely. Without knowing the behind-the-scenes details, I would guess that we were just moving through a series of empty rooms; but thanks to VR technology, we were ducking through archways as we made our way down corridors to the weapons locker where I instantly blew our cover by firing my blaster the moment I got it in my hands (Only Tom could cause a covert ops mission to descend into chaos more quickly than I did.). Suddenly the jig was up and the real Stormtroopers were swarming our position from every direction. From here on out, it was approximately 15 minutes of non-stop Star Wars-style action. There were moments when I looked over the edge of a catwalk and felt the heat on my face from the fires below. There were moments when some team-members were forced to hold off enemies while others tried to hack into a computer. There were moments that required bravery to take the next step forward. There were even a few moments when I was so in awe that I couldn’t do anything more than stand there and watch the adventure unfold. And there was blasting… lots and lots of blasting. I went in skeptical and left amazed. Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire is as close to experiencing a real-life Star Wars rpg adventure as you can get. If you have a chance, grab three friends and live the adventure (and I challenge you to beat my accuracy and kill numbers). You won’t be disappointed.
Until Next Time,