Gaming In A Galaxy Far, Far Away
Star Wars is, arguably, the most successful multimedia property of all time. Star Wars video games have been around for nearly as long as the movies, but things have been a little quiet of late. With the exception of The Force Unleashed and Lego Star Wars, any releases have fallen under the radar. All that's about to change: The Force Unleashed and Lego Star Wars are attempting to step up their game, BioWare is out to redefine the MMO with The Old Republic, and Sony Online Entertainment are developing a browser-based MMO, which, surprise, might actually be good. Here's a rundown of the upcoming lineup, and what they have in store for Star Wars fans.
The Force Unleashed 2
The first Force Unleashed was the best selling LucasArts title in the publisher's history. Dramatic set pieces, awesome Jedi powers and an epic, yet personal, storyline combined to overcome the games shortcomings and deliver a thrilling Star Wars experience. TFU2 looks to improve upon the first game in every way, the most important being improving the sense that you, the player, are a Jedi/Sith with an absurd amount of power.
The story, if you weren't already aware, sees your avatar, Starkiller, cloned by Darth Vader for unknown reasons. Naturally, you escape, and head off in search of answers, and your ladyfriend (Juno Eclipse) from the first game. The trailer hints at other Starkiller clones, including a particularly nasty looking fellow who presumably acts as a villain in the game.
New features include dismemberment (something conspicuously missing from lightsaber based games in the past), a second lightsaber, and new powers including Mind Trick (make enemies attack each other or commit suicide – good times!). Early gameplay videos also demonstrate the improved graphics engine, with the lighting effects looking especially pretty.
Why Star Wars fans should buy it: Continues the story of Darth Vader and Starkiller, and will presumably be official Star Wars canon again, making it a must play for fans. Plus, it looks to be the most complete Jedi simulator to date.
LEGO Star Wars III – The Clone Wars
The previous LEGO Star Wars games were two of the most charming and enjoyable Star Wars games, period. LEGO Star Wars 3 looks to continue the tradition, with an overhauled graphics engine and plenty of new features, including a head-to-head mode, an updated level editor, improved combat system and even squad command. While the LEGO series is in need of renovation, hopefully more complex gameplay won't deviate too far from the simplicity that makes the series such a joy.
From a Star Wars fan perspective, I can't wait for this game – I've been particularly enjoying the Clone Wars series, and the marriage of that approach with the charm of previous LEGO games should be a match made in heaven. Then there's the gamer perspective, however, where I found LEGO Batman and LEGO Indiana Jones 2 to be a little tedious, with frustrating bugs and overlong levels. Hopefully there will be shorter levels to allow for more casual play.
Why Star Wars fans should buy it:Relive adventures from The Clone Wars TV series with the addition of fun-filled levels, LEGO style characters and Traveller's Tales Games' trademark humor.
The Old Republic
Possibly the most anticipated licensed MMOs of all time, The Old Republic, like it's offline predecessors (Knights of the Old Republic I & II), is set many thousands of years before the films, meaning the folks at BioWare can let loose with their imaginations and not have to worry about strictly fitting in with existing mythology. The game looks to be quite unique among MMO's, by combining the story driven nature of a single player RPG with with team based raiding, grinding, looting and constant world nature of an MMO.
Playable classes revealed so far include: the Sith Warrior, Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler, Bounty Hunter and Imperial Agent, plus more to come. Players join one of the two factions, Republic or Sith, and take part in a galaxy-wide storyline. While I'm struggling to see how a massively-multiplayer storyline will work in terms of logistics, I'm don't see how this game could possibly not blow people away.
Why Star Wars fans should buy it:The chance to create their own avatar and live a second life in a Galaxy far, far away, join in the Galactic Civil War and take part in a great BioWare story.
The Clone Wars Adventures
The second of the two upcoming Star Wars MMO's also has the most to prove. As is fast becoming the fashion, the game will be free-to-play. The Clone Wars Adventures looks as though it will be made up of mini-games, including Tower Defense, Speeder Racing, Lightsaber-Dueling, and space battles. Gamers will also be able to access premium content at a price: additional levels to already available mini-games, extra equipment and accessories etc. You can have your own digs to decorate and show off your trophies, and even get your own droid to customize. Definitely aimed at the younger generations, but there's no reason why Clone Wars Adventures, if it's done right, can't appeal to mature gamers as well.
Why Star Wars fans should buy it: A Clone Wars game that just might be good, with plenty of challenges and mini-games to keep fans of all ages entertained.
There we are; the small lineup demonstrates the increasing popularity of MMO's, and, unfortunately, the increasing reliance on sequels. Hopefully LucasArts will announce an original Star Wars game soon. Or, if it must be another sequel, how about Empire At War 2? Strategy is still one of the only genres Star Wars doesn't have a legitimate stake in.