It’s a good time to be a Star Wars fan. We’ve got new films – The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and all the sequels down the road. There’s new books – movie tie-ins and reference books and even Where’s Wally?-style books. There’s a whole lot of new comic books, giving us new stories about Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Kanan Jarrus and many others. There’s the awesome Rebels TV series. There’s merchandise everywhere – toys, LEGO sets, t-shirts, you name it, it’s probably available somewhere.
However, if you like video games, you only have three options: Battlefront, Disney Infinity or the upcoming Force Awakens LEGO game. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love LEGO games, and I’ve been enjoying the Star Wars Disney Infinity playsets (I’ve collected all the Star Wars characters for that, naturally), and I’ve heard Battlefront is pretty good too. But as good as those games are, they’re nothing like the Star Wars games I loved growing up.
Some of my favourite games of all time are Star Wars games. I remember being swept up in the cool live action cinematics of Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. I think Kyle Katarn was my first video game character crush. I’d never even played a first-person shooter game before that one, but I played through Jedi Knight numerous times. Jedi Knight II followed, and then Jedi Academy, and although it lacked the compelling story of the previous two games, it was the first time I played a game that allowed me to choose to play as a female character. Add to that the choices of lightsaber designs and fighting styles, and it was awesome.
Then there was Galactic Battlegrounds. I played it so much the year it came out that it impacted my school marks. Having grown up playing mostly strategy or simulation games, but having never played Age of Empires, I spent many long hours playing Galactic Battlegrounds and its expansion.
Star Wars games introduced me to other game genres I may never have encountered otherwise. Though not a very good game, I became an expert in the Episode I action-adventure game (what can I say, I was 14 and I got to play as Padmé). I also mastered the pod racer game, which is still the only racing game I’ve ever seriously played. I even played the Yoda Stories game to death.
Then came Knights of the Old Republic, and it changed my whole view on the world of gaming. Never before had I experienced anything quite like it: it was my first role-playing game, and it remains at the top of my list of favourite games of all time. I won’t ramble about it too much here, but suffice it to say that between the character customisation, compelling characters (and voice acting), leveling choices and gripping story, it’s an experience that has stuck with me, even now, 13 years later.
You may have noticed that all the games I’ve mentioned above are over a decade old. That’s because it’s been that long since there’s been a Star Wars game that really excited me. There have been games that didn’t really appeal to me, like Battlefront, games that were okay, like Force Unleashed, and games that were downright horrible, like Kinect Star Wars. There are even a few mobile games.
And then there’s the MMO. As a fan of KOTOR and a casual MMO player, I decided to give the Old Republic a try. Given the fact that it seems to despise its free-to-play players, I even bought a short subscription. While the story showed some promise, for me, having played the likes of World of Warcraft, TERA, Rift and Guild Wars 2, the Old Republic as an MMO really didn’t compare well. Eventually I decided the frustration of the unnecessary online stuff wasn’t worth it for the story. The question of why they would turn one of the greatest single-player experiences of my life into an online multiplayer game is still one that haunts me.
So, to get back to my original question, where are all the Star Wars games? With story-driven games like Mass Effect, Tomb Raider and Uncharted doing so well, where are the Star Wars games for grown ups? I know Disney has done away with a lot of the old canon, but all the comic books, novels and the Rebels TV show suggest they are actively creating new stories in addition to those in the films. So why have we not heard so much as a whisper about a new Star Wars story in video game format?