What’s the Best Kind of Star Wars Game?
Now that Disney is manning the helm of Lucas Arts Interactive, known by many of us as the developers in charge of making more Star Wars games, I can’t help but wonder what exactly they have up their sleeves to win back the Star Wars audience after a long stale period of Star Wars gaming… broken up only with the middlingly successful The Old Republic MMO.
But before wondering which franchise is getting a yes and which is getting inexplicably passed over for yet another decade (Republic Commando), I thought it might be fun to try and break down exactly what genres Star Wars games usually fall into – and in which genres they end up shining, instead of just being passed over.
So take a step back into yester year as I take a look at the Star Wars games of Christmas past, and what they might say about the Star Wars games of Christmas future:
First genre worth a mention is the racing genre, as well as general vehicular Star Wars games. Now I’m not going to jump ahead and spoil things by saying this probably isn’t the genre we will see anything good from in the future – but since I just did, keep that in mind while I talk about some of my favourites.
There have been some very solid Star Wars games in the racing/vehicle genre, and for me personally they can be epitomized in two very solid titles from this genre – ironically both released on the Nintendo 64 – Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and Star Wars Episode 1: Racer.
Rogue Squadron, which was eventually turned into a series, was an oddly serious game which placed you in control of a variety of vehicles from throughout the Star Wars universe. You played as the token X-Wing, but also rarer variants like the Y-Wing or Snowspeeder. Detailed and firmly planted in the Star Wars universe, the original Rogue Squadron was perfect for Star Wars fans young and old – although unfortunately it’s never received the modern sequel it deserves.
Something which can also be said for Star Wars Episode 1: Racer. Capitalizing on the buzz surrounding pod races following the debut of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, this game captured the frenetic action of the lethal pod races of Tattooine and expanded them across the Star Wars universe. From Ando Prime to Malastare, you could take to the track as your favourite character from the movie (who hopefully wasn’t Anakin due to his horrible voice acting) and build your perfect pod racer – utilising customisable parts and your very own service droids. This was a gem of a game which still holds the record for highest selling sci-fi racer of all time – and once again has never gotten the sequel it should have, although this is probably because people stopped caring about pod racing shortly after it debuted.
Well there are some true gems in the Racer/Vehicle category, but realistically those games are decades old at this point and are unlikely to see a revival. So instead why don’t we look at a more modern genre, like some of the most recent Action Adventure Star Wars games!
Now if you are scratching your head wondering exactly which titles fit under this heading, it’s basically only two – but those two were so popular that I felt that I had to work them into this article somethere: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II.
I’ll be frank for a minute if you’ll allow me (and even if you didn’t), I didn’t care for these games. Customisation was minimal, they took far too many liberties with the source material and they were largely derivative hacking and jumping which could be found in action adventure games the world over – albeit without the Star Wars label.
Sadly this is the franchise which is most likely to see a revival under Disney’s reign of terror, but if I had things my way I would throw both of them in a coffin and nail the lid shut.
You heard it here first, I hate The Force Unleashed and everything it stands for. Moving on.
Ah now we’re talking! A genre which has never really seen the attention it deserves in terms of Star Wars gaming is FPS and Third Person Shooter titles. I mean, yes there were two Battlefront games and a bunch of Counter Strike mods or illegal maps made or custom settings for [insert generic FPS here] but we never really saw the laser-trading battle action that is so iconic in the Star Wars films.
Well I say never, but we did see it once. In Star Wars: Republic Commando.
Much like Episode 1: Racer, Republic Commando debuted shortly after the Clone Wars movie and was based largely on the concept of the genetically created clone troopers and their capacity for destruction. Placing the player in charge of a squad of four commandos, skilled clone troopers designed to basically be heroes among men, it followed a unique story which somehow managed to touch on most of the major events of the movie without following it verbatim and exploring a plot of its very own which was realistic and tasteful (imagine that). Sadly this game never saw a sequel and probably never will, so we have to go back to the main hope for a Star Wars shooter: Battlefront III.
Both the original Battlefront games were moderately successful, the premise of fighting on either the republic or empire side of a famous battle and controlling a variety of different units delivering basically exactly what you expected. The third title was confirmed to be in development but ended up being scrapped somewhere around five years ago, much to the outcry of fans and the internet alike.
Since then there have been multiple rumours of its revival, and these persist to this day. Disney has mentioned they are interested in finally dusting off Battlefront III and doing it right – but as far as I know nothing concrete has been confirmed as of yet.
Oh and I forgot to talk about Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast! My favourite Star Wars FPS series! Sure it may be dead and gone by now, but we can all remember that was potentially the best Star Wars FPS/Third Person creation which ever saw the light of day – even if it took a couple of sequels to get there.
Well now that we have the most likely candidate out of the way we can return to fringe territory – and you don’t get much more unlikely than another Star Wars MMORPG.
Star Wars has had a couple of runs at the genre by now, starting with the successful-until-we-broke-it Star Wars: Galaxies and following up with the Bioware-we-trusted-you Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Basically both of these MMOs managed to screw the pooch, although for vastly different reasons. Galaxies was working fine (or close enough) until Sony Online Entertainment decided to do a massive patch which changed a lot of core game features and also deleted an entire class – which I’m sure didn’t piss anyone off at all *wink*.
Meanwhile The Old Republic thought it could take what was good about World of Warcraft’s levelling experience and make it even better by introducing story as a core concept – and they even managed to do it! Until people concluded these stories, got to the maximum level and began wondering why they were paying a monthly subscription for what was basically World of Warcraft’s endgame but far more shallow and repetitive.
Coloured past aside, I think we can throw out the idea of another Star Wars MMO for a decade or two. Which leaves us with…
Ah the RPG, long-time favourite of the nerdy gamer. Only within a true role-playing game can we get the level of detail about a universe that some people desperately crave – and the rest of us probably didn’t need to know. Do I need to know that a red lightsaber crystal comes from Kinrath eggs? Or that if you don’t have a proper docking permit on Nar Shaddaa your ship will get jacked by a roving band of thugs? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy learning these colourful details throughout an extensive playthrough and multiple replaythroughs of a well created RPG title.
Of course when it comes to RPGs there is only one Star Wars franchise worth talking about: Knights of the Old Republic.
To be perfectly honest, both KotOR 1 and 2 have a special place in my heart – and took up hundreds of hours each between countless playthroughs during my child/teenhood. I would have called them the perfect Star Wars games, or called this the perfect Star Wars franchise… if it wasn’t for the meddling MMORPG.
Like Icarus, Bioware turned an incredible RPG series into yet another dead name on the page by overextending and trying to turn it into an MMORPG – and so they are to blame if we never see the funding for a KotOR 3.
That being said if such a title did see creation it would undoubtedly be the strongest contender for a Star Wars game of undisputed quality – and would hopefully revive my dwindling faith in Bioware.
Sadly we may never see such a game, but if I could pick any franchise from this list for further development – it would be Knights of the Old Republic.
Well that or Republic Commando. That game was awesome.