The Best (and Worst) Star Wars Games on GOG.com

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For those of you who don't know, I'm a bit of a Star Wars gaming nerd. Between LEGO and Lucas Arts, my childhood had lots of lightsabers and X-Wings, so I know exactly which Lucas Arts games are stinkers, and which ones are hidden (or not so hidden) gems. If there's mod support available for any of these games, I'll link to it in the descriptions so you can get all your money's worth.

(Best) X-Wing: Rogue Squadron

This is one of those games I wish hadn't become an exclusive, because it felt so at home on PC with its relaxed, arcade-style shooting and awesome mission design. The campaign primarily stretched from A New Hope up to The Battle of Hoth, but also features a mission set in the New Republic Era of the now defunct Expanded Universe.

The graphics have aged as much as any other N64 game, but it still holds a lot of charm. Missions are varied, from all-out assaults to interceptions, and even a tense breakout/escort mission. Until now, it hasn't been available on any system beyond Windows XP, but fans with a modern PC can finally play it.

There are also several small utility mods, all the game's cheat codes, the soundtrack, and the original demo, available on ModDB.

(Best) Rebellion

This is a fairly forgotten 4X strategy sim that Crusader Kings fans will enjoy. Make no mistake, this game is obtuse and vague, requiring you to learn its systems on your own. Once you have it under your control though, it's arguably the most sandbox-like Star Wars game in existence.

Have Luke duel Palpatine first and leave Vader to rule the Empire? Sure. Or maybe Luke discovers Han has a force sensitivity and trains him the in the ways of the Jedi. Perhaps the Rebels turn to terror tactics and a firm grip equal to the Empire to win the war. Maybe even have the Empire finally becomes a benevolent peace force and favors diplomacy over suppression.

The amount of stuff you can do through just a few menus and a limited space battle simulator is astounding. Getting to the good stuff will bore those who want an action-packed adventure, but the most patient gamers will find this game to be a treat.

Niche as the game may be, there's not only a community still playing the game online through Game Ranger and Hamachi, but it's also got modding support too, which you can find here.

(Best) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and The Sith Lords

This game and it's sequel, The Sith Lords, are two of the best RPGs in existence, let alone two of the best Star Wars games in existence. The original introduced us to a new form of action-RPG we'd never seen before, all while weaving a Star Wars tale that was equal parts traditional and new style. It gave us HK-47, the Dance Dance Malak cheat, and an epic story of redemption (or revenge). There's also a fan expansion pack that adds a new companion, and over seven hours of new content, with voice-overs and everything.

Then The Sith Lords rolls up and offers a dark, introspective, and almost gothic Star Wars universe. Your master, Kreia, stands starkly in the gray, while most Jedi and Sith argue absolutes. As a whole, the game is the exact opposite of the Star Wars prequels. Instead of impressive graphics or famous locations, The Sith Lords is heavily grounded in criticizing both sides of the force. The discussions on cause and effect, and how no matter what we do, something good and bad can come from our decisions, are some of the deepest topics any Star Wars game has covered.

Unfortunately, the sequel was marred by a rushed development, but modders have seen fit to fix the vast majority of that, in addition to new planets for you to explore. There's even a full, total conversion mod, with a brand new storyline that follows up the first two games.

(Best) Star Wars: Tie Fighter

This game is without a doubt one of the most highly praised Star Wars flight sims in existence. While it's been ages since I last played it, Tie Fighter remains an impressive game. There were hidden objectives, solid (at the time) cutscenes, and a fair amount of story context to tie everything together.

If the age of Tie Fighter worries you though, X-Wing Alliance is a more modern entry point into the series. While lacking the more unique aspects that Tie Fighter touted, it features a scenario editor, and boasts the best graphics in the series. It also had some civilian missions, a rare perspective in a Star Wars game.

(Best) Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds

This game almost looks like a total conversion mod for Age of Empires II, packaged as a new game. But the power of the level editor and the new ranged-focused combat brought fresh life to the gameplay.

Additionally, every faction had varied attributes. For example, Gungans could build underwater structures and were the Zerg-like faction, making the species actually useful for once. Every campaign had unique ideas to offer, and the expansion pack tossed in a fair number of hard-as-nails battles to complete.

Really though, praise must be given to the community. I've lost the link ages ago, but I once played a custom scenario in this game that functioned more like an action game than a strategy game. The creator even made navigation hazards and moving "blades" to navigate around. Others have made old-school RPG inspired levels. Some maps were made for live role-playing with friends. Others tested every ounce of strategy.

Then there's the ongoing Expanding Fronts mod that aims to make several sub-faction variants to further specialize your preferred means of conquest. Despite being, for all intents and purposes, abandonware, the fanbase has not given up on it yet. Once again, multiplayer is possible through Hamachi and Game Ranger.

(Best) Star Wars: Battlefront 2

This is the little game that could. It was only given a year for development, had to rush in a campaign at the last minute, nearly had as many tactical features as Battlefield 2, and tried to restore cut ideas from the original game. Yet, even though it had so much going against its core development, Pandemic pulled it off and sold millions of copies.

I cannot even begin to level with you how active the community base is, nor how much moreso it was back in the day. There's a ton of fan-created content: an unofficial 1.3 patch, a new KotOR era, additional campaigns, and more maps than I can count. I speak from personal experience when I say that all were made with some of the  most damn frustrating mod tools on the planet.

Game Ranger, Open Spy, and Hamachi support Battlefront II. Until EA/DICE's reboot hits store shelves, enjoy your time with this fine game from Pandemic's twilight years.

(Worst) Star Wars: Empire at War

This was the response to people not liking Rebellion. To put it bluntly, the original release for this game was a farce, with a bungled ground battle system full of awkwardly balanced units, and space combat that favored the Rebels far too often. (Also, the Rebels were favored in nearly every other way as well.) The AI would either rush you endlessly, or do absolutely nothing.

The sequel, Forces of Corruption, fixed a number of the original game's issues, but also introduced further imbalances, and had an odd issue with frame rate decreases, despite minimal graphical improvements. Even on a modern machine, it can struggle to push a consistent 60 on the lowest settings, whereas the original runs at upwards of 100 near max.

There is one upside though, and that is that developer Petroglyph made the game HIGHLY moddable. So even if the multiplayer maps were terrible at times, fans could make some of the finest RTS maps you've ever seen (or the most absurd, in many cases). With an integrated chat lobby and friend system, the multiplayer remained the highlight here, and it's worth looking into Hamachi or Game Ranger to play it with a few friends. Other than that though, this game is 100% ignorable.

Published Jan. 24th 2015

Featured Columnist

Grumpily ranting at this computer screen since before you were playing Minecraft. For more of my work: https://elijahbeahm.contently.com/

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