Star Wars games are an interesting mix, aren’t they? Some of them are good, yet some of them are more tedious than dry bread. We all know the good ones: Knights Of The Old Republic, Battlefront 2, the sorely underrated Starfighter, but the boring ones are fairly obvious as well. The Force Unleashed 2, Battlefront (2015), and… Ugh… Kinect Star Wars. That one’s kept in that dark, terrible void where Jar Jar Binks and the midichlorians dwell.
But what I find curious is how the worst games in the franchise aren’t really Star Wars games. They’re just bland, box-ticking creations wearing Stormtrooper helmets to hide their true nature. The aforementioned Battlefront (2015) was just a generic shooter with the aesthetic of Star Wars laid over the top, like adding food colouring to tap water. They could’ve reskinned everything so that Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise were blasting Klingons on the planet Vulcan, and nobody would’ve noticed any discrepancy at all.
And that’s a problem, because this legendary film series hasn’t become popular for the fight scenes or spaceships. No, Star Wars is based on charisma, with fun characters playing off each other and generating that unique chemistry that brought us to love them in the first place. One of the reasons that everybody loathes the prequels is that they have all the charm of a punctured football in a muddy puddle. That’s not to say that you couldn’t have a fun entry that was mainly gameplay-focused, but you’d need some edge, some new gimmick that nothing else had. Battlefront 2 didn’t have much in terms of a Star Wars narrative, but the shooting, flying, sword-swinging action was just about fun enough to excuse it.
Of course, with the arrival and subsequent popularity of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, interest in the Star Wars franchise is at an all-time high, and of course there are developers waiting in the wings to capitalise on this current and future Star Wars trend. Obviously, there’s a Lego game of the new film on the way, a move that’s about as predictable as four o’ clock coming after three o’ clock. Same goes for the planned Battlefront sequels that EA are lining up,as they’re determined to keep driving this gravy train until it finally goes off a cliff. We in the business call it the “Guitar Hero phenomenon.”
But Visceral, the chaps who made horror sci-fi series Dead Space, have been generating a lot of rumours about a new future Star Wars game. Those same rumours suggest it’s an action RPG of some kind, with Uncharted writer Amy Hennig attached to the project. Thought-provoking stuff. From that information I can only assume that it’ll be some sort of gory splatterfest, as Han Solo fights zombie monsters on his way out of the Death Star, before raiding a trap-filled Wookie temple for treasure.
But there’s also games that’ll probably never come to light at this point. Lucasarts had a couple of ideas cooking for a future Star Wars game, but when Disney came in and swallowed the company up all progress was cancelled, which is a legitimate shame. The first game was apparently a cover-shooter known simply as 1313, featuring Boba Fett as the protagonist of a Star Wars story that would be exploring “mature themes.”
I never thought Mr. Fett was that cool myself – let’s not forget he died by accidentally falling into a large open mouth, the silly plonker – but the idea of an M-rated Star Wars game is an intriguing one. Just as long as it actually used that licence to do something original and clever with the material, not simply have naked aliens and over-the-top gore for the sake of it. The other idea Lucasarts had in the works bore the title “Battle Of The Sith Lords,” and was apparently about Darth Maul planning the destruction of the jedi with Gurgles the Emperor. It’s said to be on the lookout for a publisher willing to back the Star Wars game to completion, with a functioning demo and a bundle of assets already made, and thus could still gain some foothold… But probably not for a while.
The fact of the matter is that Star Wars is a series based on likeable characters, as that’s what sticks with us. This was the series that managed to make a beeping blue and white pedal bin a beloved household icon. It’s not enough to have lasers and the repetition of the phrase “may the force be with you.” You have to get the spirit and energy that the best of the films have had, the desire for adventure and that need to go swashbuckling across the sky.
The better games have understood that, the worse ones have not. All they’ve picked up is shiny swords and turtle-camel-box vehicles designed by the lowest bidder. But honestly, I can think we can expect more misses than hits when it comes to future games. It’s not an easy formula to get right – hell, half the movies have failed spectacularly – but those that do succeed may come up with something very special as a result, because this is good source material.
It’s May 4th in a couple of weeks, the date that is now accepted as “Star Wars Day” (though I prefer Life Day, myself). Boot up some old classics of the Star Wars franchise, go on some great escapades, and pray to the great Jawa in the sky that the fun stuff is as obvious to the developers as it is to us.