Review: Building Droids at Galaxy's Edge

One of the most exceptional experiences at Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge isn’t the detailed decor of the Star Wars-themed land. The ultimate thrill in a galaxy far, far away is not (if you’re lucky) sitting at the helm of the Millenium Falcon, or constructing an awkward-looking lightsaber. No. The most heartwarming and fulfilling moments you can have at this multi-million dollar land is building a small droid of your own.

All the combinations!The Droid Depot is at the same time a workshop, build-a-bear, and gift shop. While in line to get up to pay for the thrill of building a little beep-booper, guests get a small introduction into just what they’re going to build and the level of variety. Either a BB-series or R-series can be chosen, both are the same price. Yes, this is an experience built for younger ‘Star Wars’ fans. At $99 per droid, though, it’s doubtful that many kids have that much pocket change.

Each droid can be customized, but as of right now, the BB units get the shorter end of the stick. Due to the BB’s shape, the only real customization comes in the form of different designs on the droids sphere body, or the head itself. On the other hand, the R-series droids have a plethora of different colored bodies and legs. There are multiple different head styles, including R2 and R5 designs. There are currently two different transparent R2 heads, one with blue panels, the other with orange. All different color combinations can be mixed and matched, but both legs must be the same color.

Once a guest has made it up the line to the register, they pick the droid style and an optional $15 “personality chip.” These chips can be purchased afterward, so don’t feel pressured into getting one right away. The default personalities of the two droid types are modeled after R2-D2 and BB-8. The choices include Resistance, First Order, and Smuggler. Each faction has two chips each; both have separate personality traits and sounds. These chips, which is a nice feature, alter the sounds and language of the droids. Additionally, the chips also cause the droids to react in different ways around Galaxy’s Edge. We’ll get into that later.

RT-DK0 in pieces.

After the Mouse claims your cash, you’re given a wire basket with assembly instructions on the base. This guide lets you know what parts to grab in the next stage of the experience, the conveyer belt. A cast member will show you to an assigned open area of the belt where various droid parts are slowly carried by. We’d seen videos where very few parts were available. On this day, the belt was loaded with nearly every combination.

The only part we didn’t find was a transparent orange head. The R-units took up the most real estate in this area. It could be that the employees in the back of the house load up the conveyer based on the ratio of BBs to Rs being purchased in real-time. We speculate this because the experience does take about 15-20 minutes. There is limited room to build the droid once a selection is made. So, making sure that the appropriate parts are moving through the selection process would be ideal.

Once we selected the head, body, legs, and center leg, a cast member showed us to an open space at the center assembly kiosk. There another cast member inspected all of our parts for quality and placed them on the table before us. Clear instructions are printed on the table. Line up the legs and use the power screwdriver to attach. Push the middle leg into place until it snaps. Line up the dome with the guide on the body and press down. After the majority of the assembly is done, we were told to choose the accessory covers for the legs (where R2’s thrusters are) and any two colored utility arms (the two rectangular panels just below the dome).

After a final inspection to make sure everything fits, the droid is placed in a dock. We were told to press a button which initiated a startup sequence. Within a few seconds, the droid sprang to life, rotating his head and beeping.

Lots of recognizable droids going by.The cast member removed the droid from the dock and gave us a rundown on how to set it up for use. The legs snap into place for standing and traveling modes. Each leg has one motorized tire and one free-spinning tire. The center leg has a multi-directional trackball allowing for the droid to spin left or right quickly. The dome does not rotate 360 degrees but can go left and right nearly all the way around. Almost all the panels on the front of the droid can open — most of these panels house sockets for accessories like tools and arms. The utility arms do open, but their only function is just for customization. As stated before, the removable panels on the legs hide more accessory sockets, but these have connectors to power lighting effects on the optional blasters or thrusters. Though these accessories snap into place, they’re not a tight fit. The blasters we purchased could easily be removed with a push of a thumb. This is helpful so that the droid doesn’t topple if it catches a corner while the blasters are out.

After a brief demonstration of how the small remote control worked, the droid was packed up in a large white cardboard box. The front of the box features a cutout so the droid can be viewed and heard during its journey. Yes, these droids interact with Galaxy’s Edge and each other. Though we couldn’t test out the interactions between droids, we did see and hear our droid as we moved into different areas of the park. These interactions can change based on the personality chip.

In the queue for the Droid Depot.We opted for the silver Smugger chip. If you want to hear what your droid may sound like before taking the dive, there is a kiosk within the gift shop area of the Droid Depot that allows you to hear samples for each faction. For example, the chip we purchased caused our droid to sound nothing like R2-D2. Instead, his chirps and beeps are bit curt and could be described as rude.

We named our droid RT-DK0 (Arty Deco) as a homage to ‘Hardware Wars.’ Arty was indifferent around most of the park, but he did light up when we got near the Falcon. Due to the congestion level, it was hard to hear him when he moved his dome; it could be felt through the box. The reactions were short, so catching a droid’s reactions is easier if the box is set down at a table in or around various locations in Galaxy’s Edge. We heard a few rude raspberries when we passed by Kylo Ren’s shuttle. Upon a return visit, we will bring Arty to Oga’s to see how often these interactions occur. Since he is getting a signal via Bluetooth, the droids may be triggered just when entering the coverage range and continue to be vocal until the signal is lost.

Now, guests are not allowed to have their droids out zipping around Galaxy’s Edge. With high traffic flow, that makes sense. Either another guest would kick the droid, trip over it, or worse. We saw people playing with them outside of Galaxy’s Edge, however. No one seemed to mind. There are plenty of avenues and secluded spots in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where one could test out both the BB and R units without bothering others.

The droid assembly area.The quality of the droid is far more than what I expected for $99. If you’ve been following ‘Star Wars’ merchandise for a while, you’ve probably seen the older remote-controlled R2-D2s both larger scale and the smalled Sphero ones that sported higher price tags. Sure, the droid doesn’t have a working projector and won’t follow you around the house on its own. It is functional where it counts with a large library of sounds and responsive controls. Arty moved at a rapid pace on the hardwood floors, and the motors even made him move at a decent pace on the carpets. What more would a kid want in a toy? Hopefully, more add-ons will be available in the store and eventually online. Spring-loaded rocket arms? A thermal detonator launcher? The possibilities could be endless.

Going back to what we said about it being for kids … yes, this is both a toy and experience for the younger fans of the franchise. The droid itself reflects this in its durable build and focus on accessories over true-t0-life collector quality details. These BBs and Rs are meant to roll around and be fun. That mission was achieved. An adult can slap a droid together in around five minutes, but doing this experience with a son or daughter makes it far more magical.

RT-DK0: Smuggler of sundries.We only waited around forty minutes to build a droid, but by the time we left, the line was out the building and wrapping around towards the back of the park. It is advisable to make a reservation, but keep in mind that Disney will take your credit card details to ensure you show up. Slots filled up so quickly that by mid-day, the only reservations available were after 6 PM. Reservations can be made from the Disney World app. With this app, you can also check wait times for ‘Smuggler’s Run’ and Oga’s Cantina.

We were focused entirely on the droid experience. On a Monday, Galaxy’s Edge was packed. In the future, and as the land improves with more attractions and rides, we’ll expand our reviews. As a matter of personal opinion, we do have a few thoughts. Something we’ve heard people saying is that these new lands, one located at Hollywood Studios and the other at Disneyland, is that they’re missing that Star Wars magic. True, the first time you see the Falcon in person, it is awe-inspiring. Yet, Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t offer a lot of thrills. Aside from ‘Smugglers Run’ and the upcoming Rise of the Resistance experience, there’s not a lot of adventure. If there’s one thing I’ve always associated with ‘Star Wars,’ it’s adventure.