A new Star Wars movie is finally coming out, and it looks like it won't be terrible. That means that now is a great time to start thinking about a new generation of Star Wars games (with Star Wars: Battlefront being the less than stellar vanguard that we are hoping to improve on).
While the possibilities are nigh endless, here are the Star Wars games we'd really like to see emerge from the new franchise.
Though never exceptionally popular, the Star Wars franchise has produced a couple of sweeping, grand-strategy type games in the vein of Master of Orion or Sins of a Solar Empire. These ambitious 4x strategy offerings – first Star Wars Rebellion and then Empire at War – fell short of their promise. But they captured the imaginations, if not the attention, of many fans.
At the time, trying to accurately simulate ground battles and space battles in the same game meant that one or the other got shorted, but subsequent generations of 4x games have demonstrated that it is absolutely possible to pull this off without dumbing down gameplay or cutting features from other parts of the game.
With three generations of conflict to draw from and interest riding at an all-time high, now is definitely the time to take another crack at this. The galaxy-spanning conflicts, inspiring and deeply evocative starships, and oversized personalities of the Star Wars franchise make for perfect grand strategy material, and could provide the basis for some truly excellent galactic campaigns.
Though maybe not the most popular genre of games, tactical RPGs like XCOM and the Banner Saga are well-loved by a small but enthusiastic set of gamers, and Star Wars could be a potential way to draw more fans into this type of experience. It also seems like Star Wars is a uniquely excellent opportunity for small, squad-based combat – so much of the established canon involves small groups of commandos/rebels/Jedi infiltrating facilities, bringing down space stations, or fighting off much larger groups.
In a genre that is focused on management of limited resources, clever use of technology and abilities, and fights against difficult odds, a Star Wars campaign seems like an easy fit. From the battles of the Clone Wars, to the strike team that landed on Endor’s forest moon, to the new struggle against the First Order, the good guys in the Star Wars movies are almost always outnumbered and having to infiltrate, sneak, or tactically take down dangerous targets (though a campaign where you play as a dark Jedi or a Stormtrooper squad would be cool as well).
A game focused on a clone trooper squad, a Jedi strike force, or a Rebel infiltration team would have near infinite potential for missions, tactical gameplay, and story tie-ins. It could also draw from the innovations of other games in the genre like the upcoming XCOM 2.
Ok, I know that the rebooted Battlefront just released and that a lot of people are just fine with it, but let’s be honest – it’s not everything that it could be. It’s low on content, obviously unfinished in areas, and EA seems to be gearing up to milk the community for everything that it’s worth with paid DLCs. The game isn’t hurting for players, but many people are rightfully questioning the longevity of the game, and whether there is any substance to Star Wars Battlefront once you get past the shiny Star Wars exterior.
Battlefront is a franchise worth saving though, and since all of the games have been somewhat flawed, there is definitely still room to get the formula right. Obviously there is interest in the franchise, and fan patience hasn’t been exhausted yet, so EA and DICE have an opportunity to take another crack at it and get it right for a change. Yes, they need to turn a profit on the game, so DLC and microtransactions are inevitable, but changing the formula to have more initial content and to focus on cosmetics and side-grades would make Star Wars Battlefront 2 a significantly better game.
Older fans of Star Wars games will remember Dark Forces, a shameless Doom knock-off that turned out to be a lot of fun and spawned several more first-person Star Wars games. More recently, Republic Commando tried to cash in on the prequel hype and bring a new Star Wars FPS to market. While it was fun, it lacked the depth to be a real contender, and the planned sequel was cancelled before it even got to the development stage.
While this isn’t exactly the most stellar track record, there’s a lot to be said for the visceral quality of Star Wars firefights and the excitement of playing in first person in a Star Wars setting (see: Star Wars Battlefront). While Battlefront is filling this niche somewhat, it has a distinct arcade feel -- and there may well be room in the market for a grittier, more mechanically grounded Star Wars FPS with a solid single-player campaign and a meatier multiplayer component.
It would also be a great way to explore the stories of some of the non-Jedi characters of the Star Wars universe who often play second fiddle to the force users.
Ok, so this is a little bit of a pipe dream, but with Elite: Dangerous now out and Star Citizen (theoretically) on the way, we are living in a golden age of ambitious, open-world space sims. And who wouldn’t want to experience Star Wars with the freedom offered by one of these games?
It could easily be set in the Old Republic Era, during the Rebellion, or during the conflict with the First Order that we’ll be exposed to with The Force Awakens (though in terms of justifying a liberated, open-world exploration game, an Old Republic setting might make the most sense).
The ships in the Star Wars universe have been lovingly detailed over the last thirty years by artists, writers, and fans of all stripes, and there are tons of options for ships you could fly: from Y-Wing fighters to light freighters like the Millennium Falcon, or capital ships like Star Destroyers and Nebulon-B frigates.
Though Jedi combat has been decently well explored in a few games like Jedi Outcast and The Force Unleashed, there is still a lot of room for improvement. And one potential area where a Jedi-focused game could really shine is in an open-world action-adventure title in the vein of Shadows of Mordor or the Batman games.
A game set in a largely vertical city like Nar Shadaa or Coruscant focusing on the exploits of a singular Jedi like Luke Skywalker, Corran Horn, or Kyle Katarn would have truly exceptional potential for things like free running, action combat, and exploration. Jedi powers could enable unique travel and interaction options that would inspire creativity and experimentation among players.
And since we’re still waiting for really exciting lightsaber combat, this could be a great opportunity for game designers to make it feel authentic and exciting. Besides, being a Jedi clearly fits perfectly with this type of game – who better to take on groups of thugs with style and flair?
Flight sims aren’t what they used to be, but some of the best story and best gameplay ever presented in a Star Wars game was found in the old-school X-Wing/Tie Fighter series and its spiritual successor, Rogue Squadron. If game designers could recapture that feeling and nail the important gameplay elements, this would be a real hit. The Star Wars universe is made for dogfighting and space combat, and being a pilot is a key characteristic of the films’ protagonists.
Even if an old-fashioned flight sim wouldn’t work, this could work extremely well as a Crimson Skies-style arcade dogfighter – in fact, Battlefront gave us a taste of how awesome that would be with their exciting (but ultimately unfinished) fighter squadron mode.
We're definitely in need of a high-quality Star Wars space combat game -- and after the high-flying, death-defying space battles of The Force Awakens, there are no doubt thousands of wannabe aces just waiting for their opportunity to take the sticks of an A-Wing or a TIE Interceptor and put them through the paces.
The only bright spot in an otherwise severely disappointing movie, the podracing scene from Star Wars: Episode I has captured the imagination and excitement of Star Wars fans old and new, and is an excellent opportunity to capitalize on an underserved niche – sci-fi racers.
The 1999 pod racing game, Star Wars Episode I: Racer, was not a critical success, but it was well-loved by fans and surprisingly fun for what was a pretty egregious movie tie-in. It would absolutely be worth building on the lessons learned from that game to create something truly extraordinary.
With basically just F-Zero as competition, a Star Wars racing game, if done properly, could totally revolutionize the field and break the mold in which racing games are currently made. There’s not a lot of movie material to work with, but the possibilities are endless.
Arguably some of the best RPGs ever made and easily in competition for the best Star Wars games ever produced, the Knights of the Old Republic series is a prime candidate for revival. While a lot of the material that might have ended up in a theoretical KOTOR 3 ended up in Star Wars: The Old Republic instead, there is definitely room for another dedicated single-player RPG. And a lot of fans who loved the original games are hoping for a return to form.
What’s more, there is now a unique opportunity to build on the successes of other games like The Witcher 3 that have shown the world exactly what an open world RPG is capable of being. A roaming, open-world game with good combat, exploration, and a solid story can and would work so well in the Star Wars universe that it’s kind of shocking that it hasn’t been done already. (The 2001 Obi-Wan game made a token attempt at this, but fell well short of expectations.)
No matter what shape it takes, the time is definitely ripe for a new RPG set in the Knights of the Old Republic universe – fans have been clamoring for it for years -- and if done correctly, it could blow the genre wide open.
The Jedi Knight series of games are still some of the most iconic, most impactful, and most successful Star Wars games ever made. Additionally, the story of Kyle Katarn is absolutely worth revisiting. Jedi Outcast, moreso than perhaps any Star Wars game, introduced an engaging, smooth, and supremely fun lightsaber and force power combat system that has yet to be matched. (Force Unleashed came close, but amped up the power so much that it lost touch with reality).
While it might be hard to truly replicate the feel of a game like Jedi Outcast, a third-person action game that emphasizes lightsaber combat and force usage the way that the Jedi Knight games did would be incredible, and this is a niche that is currently unfilled – lightsaber and jedi combat is entirely unique and independent from other types of gameplay, and is absolutely the kind of thing that Star Wars games should focus on.
On top of the gameplay opportunities, the overarching storyline of Kyle Katarn and his associates is one of the best we have outside of the movies themselves, and whether it’s a reboot, a reimagining, or a continuation of his story, it would be something that Star Wars fans would love.
Ultimately, we're going to get some new Star Wars games -- there's no doubt about that. Let's hope that we have a new era of innovation filled with quality games and good storylines, rather than lazy commercial cash-ins. May the force be with you, game designers.