In case you aren’t familiar with what this experience is, here’s a recap of what we knew going in:
Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire transports guests deep into the Star Wars universe, walking freely and untethered throughout the multisensory experience with friends and family. In groups of four, teams go undercover as stormtroopers to capture Imperial intelligence vital to the budding rebellion’s survival.
In basic, non-PR language, this is a very advanced virtual realty (VR) experience with characters from Rogue One present.
How was it? In short, amazing. I legitimately experienced that “wow” moment that I had felt visiting some of the most impressive theme park attractions my first time, all throughout the 13 minutes we spent running around this virtual playground. Secrets of the Empire is a reason to visit Disney Springs if you don’t already have one, especially if you are a Star wars fans. Even if you aren’t the biggest Star Wars nerd, the technology and experience is still enough of a novelty that I think just about anyone could have a good time with it. If you didn’t believe VR was the wave of the future before seeing this, you will after.
I have done other VR experiences over the last few years, and this was better in every way. The helmet and the vest were far more comfortable than any other I have ever worn (even over eyeglasses), everything worked fairly well, and the experience was seamless.
After a short preview and set-up following check in, guests are equipped with the VR equipment they will need to wear. The vest and helmet (seen above) weigh somewhere between 10-15 pounds, which could be a lot of some guests with physical restrictions, but most guests will be able to comfortable get through the 13 minutes of the VR portion of the experience without much discomfort. Guests who have done other VR experiences and have been made a little nauseous by those stated that Secrets of the Empire left them with no weird feeling afterwards.
Participants must be 10 years or older and over 48 inches in height to participate. Wheelchair access is available via transfer, and all guests sign a liability waiver as you might have guessed. Photography, videography, and recording of any kind is not allowed inside of the attraction, as you might have guessed since you are strapped to a bunch of VR equipment and wearing a headset. From check-in to exit, it should take you around 30 minutes to complete your time inside of Secrets of the Empire. In order to go through, guests will have to leave some belongings that could be in the way of the experience behind.
Guests are sent through in groups of four, so if you have more than 4 people in your party, you will be broken up, and as you might guess, you will be paired with other guests if you don’t have a full party size. Some may find this challenging as getting through the experience does require a lot of communication between teammates carrying out the mission.
The set-up inside the experience is so that every wall and item you see with the headset on (that is within reach) is really there for you to reach out and touch. Even the droids in the room with you are physically there. This makes the experience feel as real as possible, unlike VR experiences you can have in your own home. The graphics inside the game are stunning, making it feel like you are actually living a Star Wars movie thanks to the work of ILM, and the presence of actual actors from Rogue One makes the experience all the more authentic. Much like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge promises, you are living your own Star Wars adventure here, with real consequences based on choices you make while playing through the many scenes of Secrets of the Empire.
All of this is complemented by fantastic elemental effects, such as changes in temperature, smells, air blasts, rumbling floors, and more. I hate to use the Disney-PR buzz word, but it is truly immersive. If you love to smell Rome burning in Spaceship Earth at Epcot, you’re going to love a lot of the stuff they have going on in here.
Oh, and you get to pick up blasters and shoot stormtroopers, so who wouldn’t love that? You’ll feel the gun recoil and do other things as well as you go through different portions of the story. It’s fairly cool and will allow many a fan to live out some childhood dreams of being a Rebel hero. Now we just need a chance to play the bad guys…
The story guests are thrown into is fun and easy to understand, and even has a payoff for the more hardcore of Star Wars fans towards the end. It is tremendous fan service, but accessible for everyone. There’s also a reason to come back and do this again since, as we stated above, different actions have different consequences and cause different events to take place in the attraction.
Again, I can not stress how enjoyable our experience was, from myself as a Star Wars fan, to others in my party who I would claim are more casual fans, everyone had a fantastic time and was simply blow away by the technology at play here. Get tickets now to make sure you get to see this the next time you are at Disney Springs.
Star Wars – Secrets of the Empire is now open at Disney Springs, located just behind the Once Upon A Toy store, next door to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in the Marketplace section. Tickets are $30 per person and appointments are available in 15 minute intervals (and highly recommended since this is sold out for the next few weeks already. You can find ticket information and more on Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire now at www.thevoid.com.
The experience will also open in Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort on January 5, 2018.