Star Wars video games are going to happen again. The dark times following Lucasfilm’s closure of LucasArts seem to have ended, with Electronic Arts having entered into a multi-year partnership with Disney that will see three of its top studios deliver games aimed at “core” gamers, all set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
The three studios in question are BioWare, DICE, and Visceral Games. Of the trio, only BioWare brings actual Star Wars experience along, having developed by Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and, more recently, the massively multiplayer RPG Star Wars: The Old Republic. Visceral Games, formerly known simply as EA’s Redwood Shores studio, is known best for its work on Dead Space. DICE is the bringer of Battlefield, but the studio also delivered Mirror’s Edge for EA. Now imagine some first-person Jedi parkour action.
There’s already some easy speculation to play with here. BioWare will no doubt continue to oversee SW:TOR, but the new partnership also now opens the door for a long-awaited return to the KOTOR line of stories. DICE hasn’t even worked on a Star Wars game before, but if the multiplayer shooter Battlefront is going to live on, it will probably do so in the Battlefield developer’s hands. Visceral Games is more of a wild card, but consider a scenario where the Dead Space developer nabs LucasArts’ unfinished work on Star Wars 1313.
Plenty of possibility here, to say the least. This is just the Star Wars that we all know about, however. Assuming the EA studios have free reign to explore the full breadth of the Expanded Universe (and assuming Disney decides to not disavow it all as non-canon), there are plenty of other time periods, locales, and narratives that a new crop of Star Wars games could turn to. Here’s a handful of one fan’s favorites, a “most wanted” wishlist, if you will. Sure, we likely won’t see any of this actually happen, but it sure is fun to think about. A general spoiler alert is in effect for those who haven’t read the books/comics.
One of the longest extended story arcs in the Star Wars novels, called New Jedi Order, saw the galaxy as fans know it torn to pieces as a fighting force of extra-galactic invaders appeared on the scene. The Yuuzhan Vong, as they are called, embrace the worship of pain and the practice of scarification. Their technology is entirely organic and they have a deep-seated hatred of electronics and mechanical constructs.
The Vong stampeded across the Star Wars galaxy over multiple books, overwhelming planet after planet and terraforming any environment unsuitable to their genetic makeup. Some species ended up displaced, others were wiped out completely. Chewbacca was killed. So was the youngest child of Han and Leia Solo, along with countless others. These were the darkest of dark times, and the galaxy-wide conflict provides a perfect backdrop for an action-driven video game.
The Birth of the Sith
If you’ve seen the prequel trilogy then you’ve undoubtedly heard Yoda speaks of the Sith Rule of Two: “Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.” The Sith belief has its basis in the distant Star Wars pre-history, chronicled in Drew Karpyshyn’s Darth Bane Trilogy. Karpyshyn is a name you know if you’re a Star Wars fan; he was a key writer on both KOTOR and SW:TOR.
In the Bane trilogy, Karpyshyn recounts the story of how the sprawling Sith Empire was brought to its knees by an all-powerful Force-user who saw a better way. Bane’s story begins with an all-out ground battle between dueling armies of Sith and Jedi, a battle that turns out to be a trap in which both sides lose. Imagine a Karpyshyn return to BioWare that gives players an opportunity to become Bane in an RPG. Or perhaps one of his descendants. The long line of Sith pairings started here, and there’s plenty of fertile narrative territory to cover.
The Skywalker Line Lives on
Dark Horse Comics has done incredible things with Star Wars over the years, but one of the publisher’s strongest is the now-completed 50-book series from John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, Star Wars: Legacy. The story is set almost 150 years after the Battle of Yavin, the site of the first Death Star’s destruction. All of the characters that you know from earlier Star Wars stories are gone, but some of their descendants live at the heart of the story.
Perhaps the most intriguing of these is Cade Skywalker, a descendant of Luke’s who gave up his Jedi mantle and embraced the life of a bounty hunter. Needless to say, the comic doesn’t let Cade get away with shunning his family heritage. The distant future of the Star Wars galaxy that Cade lives in is a dark place, with a new Sith Lord sitting on the Imperial throne and the Jedi forced into hiding. Fans learned late last year that there’s more to come for Legacy, with a new story set to focus on the great-great-granddaughter of Han and Leia Solo. A lady Jedi hero to star in an action-oriented video game? Seems perfect.
Unleashing the Force Again
No one in their right mind will try to defend Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. The first game delivered a promising, if somewhat flawed, take on Jedi-infused third-person action, but the follow-up took a step backward. It felt like a game that had been neutered at some point during development, and then rushed to release. The finished product sported an almost offensively short play time.
That said, the writing was a high point. Much like the first game’s plot, The Force Unleashed 2 brought new revelations about some of the key characters and events in the Star Wars universe. Critics almost universally agreed that the story felt unfinished… so perhaps now is the time to finish it? Much like the never-materialized KOTOR 3, fans would like to see where the story of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice might have ended up.
Bridging the Gap
Many fans don’t realize, but there are significant stretches of time separating the events of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Many of those stories have been charted in books, at least as they relate to the three main characters. Yet there’s still a galaxy-spanning struggle unfolding during that time. The Empire continues to oppress and the Rebellion continues to buck against oppression.
What cool directions a game set during this period could go. Many attempts have been made in the past to deliver a strategy-focused game set in the Star Wars universe. None have succeeded in any significant way. No one in EA’s studio threesome assigned to upcoming Star Wars projects is particularly well-suited to a real-time or turn-based strategy game (maybe BioWare), but there’s still plenty of opportunity for another developer to come in and take on a different project. Bring on EA Phenomic and give us some ship- and ground-based warfare set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.