My family and I recently had a chance to check out the new virtual reality experience at Disney Springs: Star Wars Secrets of the Empire. Located at the Void, which is next to Once Upon a Toy, it is billed as “a full sensory, immersive experience, with you, your friends and family walking around inside the action.” I had never done anything like this before, and didn’t know what to expect. I wondered if the experience, created by Lucasfilm, ILMxLab, and the Void, could possibly live up to the hype (and the price tag!) And I also wondered if my non-Star Wars-loving younger daughter would even be entertained.
So, how was it? Well, I need not have worried at all: the entire family loved it! We had an absolute blast (pun intended).
While you could chance your luck and just show up, it’s best to purchase a ticket beforehand. Otherwise, you might be turned away or have to return for a much later time slot. Entry times are in 15-minute intervals starting from 9 am and running all the way to 11:45 pm seven days a week.
Tip: If you want the shortest wait time, pick an early morning slot. Missions can get very backed up as the day goes on
Tickets are $29.95. With tax and a payment processing fee, they came to $34.75 each. It’s important to note that children must be at least 10 years old and 48” tall to enter the Void. I’m assuming this is both because of the weight/size of the equipment you wear and the intensity of the experience. The sign in front claims that it is also wheelchair accessible.
You work in four-person teams. If your group is larger, you will be split up. We also saw instances where single riders were paired up with other groups, but when we were there that was by choice, it was not forced upon them.
If you buy tickets online, you’re sent a QR code that you will scan when you enter the Void. You will then be given a tablet where you will sign electronic liability waivers for everyone in your party.
You next enter a holding area where you are shown a video about the gear you will be wearing. We stood here a few minutes with another group and then were shown into a briefing room where we received a mission briefing from Cassian Andor from the movie Rogue One.
We then waited a bit in another holding area before being led off to gear up for our mission.
The equipment consists of a vestlike backpack that attaches with multiple straps and buckles. It’s not heavy enough to impede movement, but you can definitely feel that it is there. You also get an adjustable helmet with a visor.
Tip: If some of your party will be waiting for you outside hoping to shop, keep in mind that the Void opens earlier than the shops at Disney Springs.
There are shelves to stow your personal gear, and the castmember told us that she would be there to watch our stuff the entire time. She also mentioned that they are always watching us, so if we ran into any difficulties during our mission, we could just signal them.
I remarked that she and her coworkers must have a lot of fun watching us run around chasing after essentially *nothing* and she just laughed.
No cameras are allowed inside. I did ask if I could take a couple of quick cell phone pics of us gearing up.
It’s not giving away anything more than the Void’s own advertising trailer if I tell you that your team is disguised as stormtroopers and you end up on the volcanic planet of Mustafar.
I won’t spoil the plot of the mission, but I will say that you don’t have to have seen the movie to understand it. I will also say that I was so excited during the briefing that I didn’t capture all the details of what we had to do, but if this happens to you, don’t fret, you’ll figure it out, and even if you don’t, you’ll still have fun.
There’s a bit of a puzzle solving aspect to it, too, and the mission definitely goes better if you can all work together.
The experience takes about half an hour altogether, not counting the wait time if they get backed up. The preparation/briefing stage takes about 15 minutes, and then your mission takes a further 15 minutes.
When the Void’s website calls it a “hyper-reality experience,” I couldn’t fathom what they meant by that. In Secrets of the Empire, you will actually *feel* the heat of the lava, reach out and touch certain objects, feel movement on a transport ship, and even feel slight pings if you get shot (don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt at all).
No one in our group is motion sensitive, but I have heard that Secrets of the Empire does not usually cause people to get motion sick.
This experience was really unique and amazing, and I actually thought it was worth the somewhat hefty price tag. Everyone in our party loved it, even my younger daughter who finds the Star Wars films “boring” (seriously?! How could this be my kid?) If this is a sneak peek at some of the technology we might eventually see in Galaxy’s Edge and elsewhere, then I can hardly wait. If you thought Flight of Passage was incredible, then wait until you try out Secrets of the Empire!
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**Feature image courtesy of Disney Magic Diva