In December 2011, LucasArts and EA released Star Wars: The Old Republic, a game which has revolutionised an already fantastic franchise.
I consider The Old Republic to be a cross between World of Warcraft and Dawn of War in style and gameplay. It’s an MMO based around a single personalised character, whose ‘class’ includes four from each side of the Force; Troopers, Smugglers, Jedi Knights and Jedi Counsellors fighting for good, and Bounty Hunters, Sith Warriors, Imperial Agents and Sith Inquisitor from the Dark Side. Though not quite as extensive as the WoW customisation hub, each chosen class has upgrades and appearance traits which become unlockable throughout the game. But more about that later.
Since its debut in 1977, the Star Wars franchise has seen much fluctuation in style, format and storyline thread. Six fantastic films have been made in many games for many consoles and more, some more accessible and enjoyable than others. For example, we have the Top Trumps sets, a card game which became a fad in the new Millennium. You can find quite a few sets to do with Star Wars series, most prominent being the Clone Wars sets, released in 2007.
The Prequel Trilogy’s release spun off game-of-the-films, such as Gameboy Advance’s Episode II, my personal favourite. The new movement of platform experimentation meant that this gem played on the false-3D concept of multi-layered platforms, simply adding a new level of fun to my then-inexperienced gaming life. Such games have been remade on newer consoles like the Nintendo DS and the Wii, which did… well, alright. However, none so far can compare with the popularity of Star Wars: Battlefront…
When I was just starting to grow used to the gaming experience at school, the in thing was Battlefront. Simply, everyone played it, and back then it was a case of hooking up your controller to your mate’s console – none of this online malarkey… It was released on the four main gaming formats at the time, PS2, Xbox, Mac and PC, and was the first first- and third-person shooter based on the Star Wars franchise. Arguably the best-selling Star Wars game series, Battlefronts I and II took the world by storm (-trooper).
“GameSpot editor Bob Colayco praised the gameplay, which he presented as a Star Wars version of Battlefield 1942. He gave high marks to the versatility of playing modes, such as vehicle control and foot battle. The GameSpot team also praised the PC version for its extensive online play.”
Another successful Star Wars game series is the LEGO version. LEGO seem to have made their way recently by reproducing everything that was successful, like Harry Potter (1-6 available now) and Indiana Jones (1-4 available now). I’ve played all three of these quite extensively, and enjoyed the quirks and collectables in each, styled specifically upon the retro LEGO pieces, incorporated uniquely into each storyline. These worked because they’re fun and easy, not too arduous, and practically impossible to complete, because of so many upgrades in outfits and spells throughout, however for the more avid gamer, I’d keep away, because the story will suddenly roll on credits, and you’ll only be half-way through your mug of coffee.
Mini-games have been created and can be found on the Star Wars website, such as Clone Weapons Training and Pit Droids. This mini-game format has been carried forward to introduce iOS games available for your iPhone or iPad, if you fancied a jolt of nostalgia on the go. But this begs the question, “what next, Star Wars?”
Well, most noticeably is the Force Unleashed series, I released in 2009, II in 2010. The project brings together the two Star Wars trilogies, introducing a new protagonist (goodie), Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, in a compelling story with good graphics, however a new gameplay which critics disliked profusely. After listening to fans’ comments and reviews, LucasArts tweaked their new baby and made a sequel, which adds more variety in gameplay, such as puzzle-solving etiquette, and more Force Powers, like “Force Fury”, which are very exciting.
With the release of the Clone Wars TV series, LucasArts saw a fantastic opportunity to make some dosh on a new set of games. These continue the memorable cartoon-esque imagery of the TV programme, and create a nice-looking atmosphere to play in, regardless of the arguably poor graphics. In 2010 though, Clone Wars Adventures was released, an online virtual world game based yet again upon the TV series. This free-to-play game is reportedly doing very well still, demonstrating the continuing strength of the free-to-play business model. It currently has 10 million + players, and counting, which is amazing for the franchise, and even more so considering the still-edgy image quality.
Anyway, back to The Old Republic. Released in late 2011, the latest edition in the Knights of the Old Republic series is going down very well, and proves to be a hit among MMO fans alike. As I mentioned before, as much as this game features WoW similarities, it still follows a strong storyline, like DoW, which allows you to verge off independently at will. I personally prefer having a linear plot to follow, but this mixes both fairly well, a feature I think many gamers will sigh relief at.
SWTOR allows the player to customise their chosen character (form the eight classes mentioned before), by equipping armour and accessories, just like any other game, really. The very first test model of the game was slated because players weren’t able to dress their Sith Inquisitor with Jedi Knights’ clothes, and so on, and so you can now mix and match as you please, which appears to be an important feature to many gamers.
A prominent feature of this game is the action-reaction system it features. There are consequences for your actions within your story mode, an example being with the Sith Warrior. This class member has a companion in the game, who starts off wearing a shock collar. Now, if you’ve chosen to play as a Sith because you want to be different, don’t worry, because you can remove this collar at different stages in the game, earning you ‘favour’, which comes in useful later on. If, however, you chose the Sith because you are a sadistic gamer who enjoys blasting alien scum into hyperspace, fear not, because the Sith is no pansy; instead, you can zap your companion to your heart’s content, eventually earning their complete subservience. But, the trick is knowing where the line is, because Bioware’s mastery of the consequence game shows through here – choosing to continuously attack your companion may lead to you not being able to switch back to being good to them, and you will never be able to take the collar off to earn favour. Muahaha…
Some people say that The Old Republic has taken Star Wars too far from its origins, from its proper storyline, but I say differently. If you want to play a decent game which features Star Wars characters and awesomeness, this is a perfectly acceptable lenience from the real thing. I’d certainly like to give this game a go, regardless of lack of original characters and locations, and I expect it will live up to its fantastic reputation as a Star Wars classic.