It’s somewhat popular to blame Lucasarts for milking the Star Wars license like a lactating Bantha. I admit that to a degree, it’s an accurate accusation. But when you think about it, as the only company legally allowed to publish Star Wars software, they’ve held up their side of the bargain and given us some great games over the years, even if there have been some real stinkers along the way. Then when you think about it some more, you wonder why they haven’t made any awesome Star Wars games recently. The recent massive layoff at Lucasarts has me worried—if so many employees have been dumped down the trash compactor, and from multiple levels of production, who is left to make great Star Wars games?
Lucasarts usually hands off development to very talented third party houses, houses that they haven’t exactly been close to recently. With so much downsizing going on you’d think that Lucasarts would be outsourcing even more development, but aside from a few ports that isn’t the case. The biggest third party Star Wars games in the last couple of years have been of the Lego variety, and meaning no offense to Traveler’s Tales and their casual games, they never felt like “real” Star Wars to me.
Lucasarts announced their huge secret project, The Force Unleashed, in mid 2007, after teasing us with tech demos for several months. Fans are starting to get really excited about the bombastic project, but the whole “FORCE XTREME” aspect strikes me as more than a little pretentious and immature. Where did the Rogue Squadron sequels go? The Tie Fighters and X Wings? The epic third KOTOR we’ve been asking for?
In a bout of nostalgia, I went on a Star Wars binge recently and replayed some of my old favorites. I think it’s time for Lucasarts to dust off its little black book and call up some of its old flames. Most Star Wars fans hate to admit it, but we could play games in that galaxy far away until the Taun-Tauns come home—the games just have to be good. Below is a list of Star Wars games Lucasarts and their third party friends should be making, be they sequels, remakes or original ideas.
Star Wars Bounty Hunter 2: Boba Fett
Xbox 360, Wii
Back when Episode II Attack of the Clones was all the rage, Lucasarts made an accompanying game to cash in on the fleeting popularity. Despite being glitchy and rushed, Bounty Hunter was a decent run and gun title with an uncommon amount of character. The story was good and had some genuine dark humor, a hard thing to come by in the Star Wars universe ever since Jar Jar Binks showed up. Bounty Hunter had good mechanics but its lack of polish kept it from reaching its full potential.
For starters, the game starred Jango Fett, not his clone son (and fan favorite) Boba. It kind of sucked playing as a guy you knew died at the end of Episode II, and longtime fans had always wanted to play as Boba Fett in the first place. Second, the game was a level-based action platformer, not the free roaming, galaxy hopping Star Wars sandbox we all wanted. Catching bounties was an awkward process and didn’t even give you money; all it did was unlock concept art. In the end it felt like Lucasarts had the right idea but cut corners everywhere they could, resulting in a somewhat mediocre game that wasn’t quite at home in its own Mandalorian armor.
The sequel should be an open world game that encompasses multiple planets. It should put us in the worn boots of Boba Fett, right after he crawls his way out of the Sarlacc pit in Return of the Jedi. That way, we skip the crappy prequels but get in before the depressing, uninspired Yuzhaan Vong war—a perfect sweet spot in the Star Wars canon. Backstabbing crime lords, vicious criminals on the loose, and a universe of corruption make the perfect backdrop for a Boba Fett sandbox game.
Lucasarts got the combat engine right with the first game, and that would mix well with some light spaceflight sections—just enough to let us fly between galactic hot spots in the Slave 1. With the galaxy at our fingertips, we could chase bounties from Tatooine to Kashyyk to Corellia and all the way to Coruscant. Imagine Assassin’s Creed in the Star Wars universe, with more interesting cities to explore, an arsenal of high tech weaponry (including stolen lightsabers) less talking and a lot more assassinating. That’s how you do a Boba Fett game up right. The Fett man deserves no less.
Knights of the Old Republic 3: Revan Comes Back and Kicks Ass
Bioware, with help from Lucasarts
Xbox 360, PC
Okay, so maybe the subtitle is a bit much but that basically sums up the game. Lucasarts has one hell of an RPG franchise on their hands and they shouldn’t let it wither and die the way they did with the Jedi Knight series. Rumors of a KOTOR MMO have been brewing for years, and now it looks like they might come true. If so, it’ll be a great replacement for the troubled Star Wars Galaxies, but if you ask me, it’s not the proper way to end the series. The previous two KOTORs deserve a third installment in their character-driven, plot-centric epic.
KOTOR 1 blended Bioware’s top notch RPG skills with the best Star Wars story since the Empire Strikes Back, practically topping “Luke I am your father” in the stunning revelations department. KOTOR 2 made the gameplay a lot deeper and more intuitive, but it was so rushed that the whole last act of the game was chopped out. What we got was a great sequel by gameplay standards, but with a crippled ending that couldn’t hold a candle to KOTOR 1’s plot.
KOTOR 2 began with Revan’s disappearance into the depths of space, and ended with the Jedi Exile going in search of him. A triumphant return of both characters seems in order, with a crisis/war tearing apart the galaxy as a worthy motivation. As for the story of KOTOR 3, that’s hard to nail down because prequel canon is cluttered with spinoffs and obscure characters. Suffice it to say that Bioware can come up with something suitably epic, fresh off their work on Mass Effect. KOTOR 3’s combat should also be like Mass Effect, but less buggy and with flashier lightsaber moves. The pseudo-turn based gameplay from the first two KOTORs worked, but taking turns with a lightsaber kind of defeats the purpose in my opinion.X Wing/ Tie Fighter 4
Totally Games, with help from Lucasarts
It’s been nearly nine years since X Wing Alliance was released, and while I don’t blame Totally Games for pulling a Duke Nukem Forever on us (they never announced a sequel) it is time for a new game. Alliance was a suitable conclusion to Totally’s trilogy of pure Star Wars awesome. It didn’t quite live up to the monumental proportions of Tie Fighter, which is probably the best space flight sim ever, but at least the story was more cinematic. In between Tie Fighter and Alliance, Totally tried their hands at a multiplayer-centric game called X Wing vs. Tie Fighter. X Wing vs. Tie was a competent multiplayer game, but by excluding a solo campaign, it felt about as half-empty as Quake 3 Arena. Totally Games tried to fix that soon after with a substantial expansion pack, but X Wing vs. Tie never made full use of its potential.
Well guess what, it’s 2008 and it’s time to dust off that flight yoke. In other words, Totally Games should make the Star Wars flight sim to end them all. They’re the only developer who could legitimately give Star Wars the Bridge Commander treatment (several years and spiritual sequels later, and Bethesda still can’t make a better tactical Star Trek game than Totally did). This new game should follow the premise of X vs. Tie, and include two fully fleshed out campaigns, Rebel and Imperial, and have them converge at some amazing focal point. This dualistic gameplay should be based around planetary missions, enhanced squad based AI and a brand new engine. Heck, they could even dink around in the prequels with those wimpy banana yellow Naboo fighters, so long as they do it right.
The superb X Wing books by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston imitated the original games down to the smallest of details—in turn, the new game should be based off of those novels. Just give us a Star Wars flight sim as only you can, Totally Games. You proved with Bridge Commander that nearly a decade later, you guys still have the magic touch. Now do it again with Star Wars.
New Factor 5 project
Factor 5, with help from Lucasarts
Okay, so Lair wasn’t everything we were hoping for. In fact, it kind of sucked. PS3 fans might’ve been royally let down by Lair, but now that Factor 5 has all of that SIXAXIS experimenting out of their system, they can get back to what they know. After three stellar Star Wars flight combat games, Julian Eggebrecht and his team of arcade-loving developers had a falling out with Nintendo. They weren’t too happy that the Wii was essentially an overclocked GameCube with a goofy controller (I can’t say I blame them), but after a while Eggebrett got frustrated that the Wii’s modest potential was being wasted by lazy developers.
As the old saying goes, if you want something done right, do it yourself, and Factor 5 definitely knows how to do it right. In fact, out of all the games on this list, this one has the best chance of being made. Factor 5 is working exclusively on a new Wii project, with a completely original engine. There’s no word yet on if it’s a Star Wars game, though. Old rumors said that Factor 5 was making a new Pilotwings, while IGN’s big-mouthed Matt Casamassina has practically come out and said that F5 is making the long dreamed of Kid Icarus sequel.
Whatever it is, it’s going to be damn pretty. Factor 5 pulled off graphical tricks with the GameCube, at launch, that other developers still aren’t doing with the Wii. Factor 5’s developers are technical geniuses, and they’re set to put other Wii developers to shame.
Even if this new project doesn’t involve X Wings, Death Stars and (inevitably) Hoth, Factor 5 could still give the Wii some Star Wars material through their previous work. Putting the original N64 Rogue Squadron on the Virtual Console would be a good start. Some bug fixing, framerate smoothing and maybe a gentler learning curve for those casual gamers would buff that old classic right up. Or even better, they could remake Rogue Squadron with the engine they labored over to make the GameCube sequels, Rogue Leader and Rebel Strike. Those games are the most graphically stunning titles on Nintendo hardware, and having the original Rogue done up with that engine would be fantastic.
Packing in a remade Rogue Squadron with the sequels to form an epic “Rogue Trilogy,” with online support and co-op for all three titles? That would be the second coming of Luke Skywalker. It’s too early to tell, but if Factor 5 and Nintendo are on even terms again, we might even get Rogue Squadron 4.
Republic Commando 2: Soldier for the Empire
Lucasarts, in house
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Despite being a shameless ripoff of Halo and Metroid Prime, Republic Commando was a pretty good shooter. The action was tense and unrelenting, and the tactical teamwork made you feel like part of a larger war machine. I also thought the combat, weaponry and health system was more balanced than Halo. The story did a good job of simultaneously making you a nameless number stamped out by a factory, and an individual with personality. The banter of your clone teammates was a cool look into the daily life of a clone trooper, replete with sarcastic comments about being expendable. Like Bounty Hunter, Commando had a darker take on Star Wars. The game was tragically short, though, and again felt like it had a lot of unused potential.
The logical sequel has yet to arrive, unless you count the cell phone game. Personally, I wouldn’t want a true sequel to follow the characters from the first game—they most likely died anyway (there’s a book coming up where we’ll know for sure). Rather, I want a true stormtrooper game set during the Galactic Civil War. As with Bounty Hunter, Lucasarts almost gave me what I wanted with Republic Commando, but with that nagging, unpleasant aftertaste of prequel.
Commando really emphasized the squad-based gameplay and with advances in AI a sequel could do it even better. Instead of having pre-set positions for your squad mates, rooms could be completely open to strategy. The sequel could add a scan visor similar to the one in Metroid Prime, that would let the player map a room or area for tactical positions. The player could then assign sniping points, grenade bombardments, computer hacks and target assaults from a 3D map. The command system in the first game made it feel like an FPS/RTS hybrid, but the interface was a little clunky.
The sequel could streamline things, let you assign multiple teammates to different targets and even issue orders while you were preoccupied with hacking a console or setting an explosive. There should also be a new health system—it was convenient in the first game that nearly every room had a bacta dispenser, but not very realistic. Maybe a persistent objective would be to acquire medical supplies from enemies and sickbays, and carry first aide kits for emergencies.
As for the story, I’d deliberately avoid the clones from the first game and the camaraderie they had. The sequel should start off with a new batch of troops, drafted into the Empire around the time of Episode IV. It’d be cool and a little chilling to have the tutorial level be a training exercise, where the new trainees act out Order 66 as the clones from Delta Squad, and work together to execute Jedi. This would set the game’s tone of indoctrination and loyalty to the Emperor above all else.
In the first game, your clone teammates were endearing characters that you connected with as the game progressed; I even felt a little sad when I had to abandon one at the end. In the sequel, this brotherhood should be interrupted and avoided at every opportunity by having squad mates die suddenly, or be hauled off, tortured and executed for suspected treason. This would factor into the game’s central theme of moral choice, something the first game lacked. Around the time Alderaan is destroyed by the Death Star, the main character would start to have doubts, and halfway through the game he has to make a choice between the Empire and the Rebellion.
Maybe he’s in a bad situation where he’s trapped behind enemy lines, and he knows that the Empire won’t bother getting him out. Maybe he’s ordered to kill a loved one, or a fellow stormtrooper who also happens to be a friend. Either way, a day in the life of a stormtrooper sounds like the logical sequel to Republic Commando. Timothy Zahn did a great job of exploring this idea in his book Allegiance, so maybe Lucasarts should look to one of Star Wars’ greatest authors for inspiration.Wii Lightsaber game
The next big media project from Lucasfilm is The Force Unleashed. This thing is a marketing phalanx, ranging from action figures to comics, with the focal point being a new platform-spanning game. Lucasfilm does this sort of thing every few years; it started with Shadows of the Empire in the late 90s (remember that N64 classic, kids?) and more recently the Clone Wars.
However, the game hasn’t been the focal point of these marketing pushes until now. With Force Unleashed, it’s like George Lucas finally realized that video games make him money, so he’s putting all of Lucasfilm behind the game and shoehorning its story into the Star Wars canon. Even ILM and Skywalker Sound are working on it. Lucasarts is taking a page out of Microsoft’s book, and plugging Force Unleashed the Halo 3 way.
And you know what? I’m still not sold. Sure it’s coming to all consoles, but the Wii port was announced (and most likely started development) much later than the other ports. I’m guessing Lucasarts came to the panicked realization that the Wii was profitable, and they had better put a Star Wars game on it NOW. Krome Studios got the job of porting down the cumbersome project to the Wii and PS2. The Wii build is probably a fiddled-with port of the PS2 version, with some motion controls thrown in. I know Krome is doing their best to make the Wii port worthwhile, by adding in multiplayer and a handful of extra levels, but it still won’t be using the high-powered physics engines of the 360 and PS3 builds, and the whole thing looks understandably rushed.
Besides that, I don’t like the general theme of the game: “kicking a guy’s ass with the Force.” The main character is a shadowy apprentice of Darth Vader, who just isn’t that interesting to me. The whole thing smacks of macho overindulgence, and the kind of sensory overload media blitz that made me sick of Halo 3 before it was even released. I wouldn’t be surprised if they market Midichlorian-infused Mountain Dew with the game.
Krome is also hard at work on Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels, a Wii and DS exclusive based on the new movie. Superficially this game seems to be exactly what I want, but from gameplay descriptions, it sounds a like a fighting game and that’s about it. I’m excited to see what they do with the art style and I’m glad it’s being developed exclusively for Wii, but it’s probably running on the Force Unleashed engine. I’m also tired of the prequels and the Clone Wars—they’ve done that to death, let’s get back to Luke Skywalker’s time period.
Lucasarts can do better than Lightsaber waggle and rehashed prequel stories. They could give us something completely out of left field, designed to take advantage of the Wii hardware the way Medal of Honor Heroes 2 did.
A real Jedi game, one that takes the Force at least a little bit seriously, would do the old Dark Forces series justice. The Force, light or dark, has never been about simply kicking ass. It’s a commitment, and I want a game that makes it feel that way. KOTOR had a great Star Wars morality play, but it was an RPG. Can Lucasarts do the same thing in an action game? The Wii, despite its puny graphical capacity, has the perfect interface for such a game.
A keystroke, button press or mouse click can not convey the visceral, personal nature of the Force. With the Wii remote, I could convince stormtroopers they weren’t looking for my droids with a wave of my fingers. I could send enemies flying by casting my left hand forward, or tear weapons from their grip with a reverse motion. I could throw skittering electricity from my fingertips by stabbing my hand forward. And I could bend the environment to my whim with a gesture.
Imagine grabbing a stormtrooper with the Wii remote, force-choking him by squeezing the A and B buttons, then bashing him around with simple hand movements. Even better, you could humiliate a Jedi opponent with flying debris, in the tradition of Darth Vader. But that power shouldn’t be taken lightly--snapping necks with a gesture shouldn’t be done with the same reckless abandon as energy-swording a Brute in Halo 3. Succumbing to the Dark Side should be a difficult choice, the kind of hard decision we’ve seen in KOTOR. If you don’t cater to the 13 year old lowest common denominator, you can make a Jedi game where the awesome power of the Force is at the player’s fingertips, but inextricably linked to character depth and development; that’s what made KOTOR so beloved.
And what about the lightsaber? Just about every Star Wars nerd thought “lightsaber” when they saw the Wii remote. The little speaker on the thing could even emit a humming sound. The saber control in Force Unleashed is supposedly very precise, but it’s still pure waggle. Up until a month ago, I thought a real Lightsaber game would be impossible on the Wii because of the motion control limitations, but Nintendo’s new Wii MotionPlus accessory could do away with waggle. Lucasarts should be leading the charge, using that new gadget to recreate the Force. We’ve already seen the latent potential in Nintendo’s Wii Sports Resort, which has a sword fighting minigame.
The jury is still out on The Force Unleashed, and I should reserve judgment until I can play it. Maybe it’ll be incredible across all platforms, even on the Wii. We’ll find out in a month, and I admit it’s growing on me, but the prequels have taught me to never get my hopes up when it comes to Star Wars. Even if the Wii port shocks and amazes me, I’ll still want an original Jedi game for the Wii. Despite being a dumping ground for minigames and kiddie titles, Wii deserves its own Star Wars game, built from the ground up, just because of the Jedi potential in that weird little controller.
I like Star Wars. I like Star Wars games. There are literally millions of other people who feel the same way. But these people, these diehard fans, like a variety of games. Lucasarts is taking a big risk, sacking dozens of their employees and pouring all of their resources into a single project. Force Unleashed will make them a lot of money, no doubt, but what do they do after that? Sequel the life out of their new franchise?
I miss the old Lucasarts, the company that explored numerous facets of the Star Wars universe with a wide spectrum of unique Star Wars games. This multi-front approach did give us bad games like Force Commander and Super Bombad Racing, but we also got Rogue Squadron and Battlefront out of it.
There is a sprawling, rich continuity to explore in the Expanded Universe, hundreds of novels and comics and short stories to choose from. That’s basically where KOTOR came from, but what about a Thrawn Trilogy game? Or one that follows the storied career of Corran Horn? Can we at least have another Kyle Katarn game? This source material has been around for years, and I’m amazed nobody’s made a game out of it yet.
These ideas are just my opinions, and for the most part I want Lucasarts to make sequels to games that deserve them. But what do you think? I’m sure we have some Star Wars fans reading Gaming Nexus, so post your ideas for games in the comments section.