Greetings from a galaxy far, far away! Your regularly scheduled Digital Blend is on hiatus this week since I’m down in sunny Orlando, Florida for Star Wars Celebration VI. As you’re reading this, I’m either wandering around the show floor of the Orange County Convention Center in a fanboy daze or sitting and watching some geeky panel or another.
In honor of this year’s Celebration, we thought it would be a good idea to celebrate Star Wars as only Digital Blend can, with a look at some of the best Force-infused gaming you can find for under $20. Pretty much everything in the realm of interactive Star Wars things can be purchased in that price range right now, so I’m really more interested in highlighting a few personal favorites in this week’s column. Read on for the rundown… and may the Force be with you. Always.
There are many LEGO games and many Star Wars LEGO games. LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is the best in both regards. You don’t have to watch the TV series to enjoy the game, though it does faithfully follow the events of the animated series’ first and second seasons. This LEGO game is packed with content: individual episode-based missions, unlockable bounty hunter missions, a dizzying number of Republic and Separatist quick-hit ground missions, light RTS elements, an elaborate hub, and the usual diverse offering of unlockable characters and vehicles. If you wrote this one off because it has nothing to do with the movies, you should definitely consider revisiting it.
For less than $20 you get yourself Star Wars: Dark Forces, the Star Wars FPS that started it all, as well as the more Jedi-focused follow-ups/spin-offs, all of which fill out the back story for one of the most beloved characters in the franchise’s Expanded Universe, Kyle Katarn. You’ll wield a lightsaber, face off against light or dark Jedi depending on the path that you choose. earn new powers, and basically just feel like a Force-powered badass. LucasArts has yet to replicate the experience of being a Jedi as well as it did in the Jedi Knight series. Some of these games are pretty old now, but they’re all still well worth your time.
You can still get these older games for your vintage Xbox consoles, but PC will be the ideal choice for most. This is a particularly timely pick, since this week marks the release of KOTOR 2 on Steam. The original Knights of the Old Republic remains one of BioWare’s best games and is still unrivaled as the best Star Wars RPG ever made. Obsidian’s KOTOR 2 continues the story, though it is highly recommended that you track down a mod pack to integrate the content that ended up being cut from the game. It was never officially released, but fans have done the work of making most of it functional in the years since the game’s release. You really can’t go wrong with either of these titles.
Maybe you missed this under-the-radar Star Wars RTS. Bringing together space battles, land battles, and a galaxy-spanning meta-game, Empire at War aimed high. It didn’t deliver on every level, but it’s a solid game that was improved upon with the Forces of Corruption expansion pack. Both the core game and the expansion are now part of a Gold Pack release that can be had for $19.99. Serious Expaned Universe fanfolk should take note: this game might be a bit rough around the edges, but there’s quite a large mod community that has added everything from rebalancing and rule changes to entirely new units and factions, including deep cut EU content like the Yuuzhan Vong. Definitely worth a look for armchair admirals.
Technically, BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG doesn’t go fully free-to-play until fall 2012. It’s halfway there now though, with every one of the game’s eight classes, split by four apiece between the two factions, playable to level 15. That’s enough for roughly 10-15 hours per class if you really dive deep and explore. Best of all, once the game goes fully free-to-play, you’ll already have a head-start with a somewhat developed character (or characters). Even if the multiplayer-oriented elements don’t excite, just think of each character class as an 80 hour-plus BioWare-scripted RPG campaign set in the Star Wars universe. Complete with nods to the two KOTOR games. It’s not quite a follow-up to those classics, but it’s a solid game. Also, did I mention that it’s entirely free? Just check out part one and part two of my review if you’d like to know more.