Lightsabers In Video Games Are Too Weak

At E3 this past week we saw a good amount of gameplay from the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the new game from Apex Legends developers Respawn Entertainment. The game looks good and I’m excited to see characters like Saw Gerrera appear. But it has the problem that so many other Star Wars games featuring lightsabers have: Its lightsaber feel really weak. And it isn’t alone in having pathetic laser swords.

If you think about lightsabers in the movies, especially the original films, they are not used very often and usually when they appear they are shown as powerful weapons or tools.

Think back to the first time in Star Wars A New Hope that we see someone use a lightsaber in combat. Obi-Wan Kenobi uses it to cut a dude’s arm clean off their body.

With one quick slice, Kenobi was able to remove an arm with little effort. In Empire Strikes Back, the sequel to New Hope, the lightsaber is given more screen time and used to cut and slice.

Early on, Han Solo uses a lightsaber to cut open a Tauntaun and does so easily. Later on, Vader cuts Luke’s hand off with one quick move. Even in the prequels, lightsabers are dangerous and powerful. Anakin decapitates Dooku using lightsabers, Obi-Wan cuts Darth Maul in half using a laser sword and Mace Windu removes Jango Fett’s head in Attack Of The Clones.

Even in the Disney era of Star Wars films, we see people get cut up with lightsabers. Specifically Last Jedi has some nasty lightsaber kills.

But in video games, this is rarely the case. Ignoring droids, who get sliced up in all Star Wars media because nobody cares about robots, Star Wars games rarely let you truly shred people up using a lightsaber.

Force Unleashed was this advertised as an amazing power fantasy. You were a super powerful force user who could basically do anything and kill entire armies of enemies. But your lightsaber was still fundamentally a glowing baseball bat.

It hurt people, sure, but it never cut folks clean in half or severed limbs or heads. And it seems Fallen Order will also follow this same path.

In the gameplay of Fallen Order, we see the lightsaber leave glowing marks on enemies and the main character even stabs a few. But limbs and heads never going flying off. In an interview with IGN,a senior designer on the game, Justin Perez, explained that players would be able to cut up robots and cut off the limbs of big alien creatures. But humans seem off the table.

This is an interesting problem in these games and a problem the films rarely faced that much. In the films, Luke never slices up Stormtroopers. In fact, when lightsabers come out, they are never used for that purpose. Luke is never facing off against a dozen troopers and gutting them with his blade.

Even the prequels relied on droids or weird alien creatures as their enemies, with a few exceptions. In a way this makes sense. Jedi probably shouldn’t be gleefully or frequently seen dismembering folks. It also helps keep the films from appearing too violent to parents. When a lightsaber is used against humans in the films it’s usually in a very important scene or moment and it’s then that we get to see how deadly these sabers can be.

But it seems developers don’t or can’t avoid having players face off against dozens of nameless rebels or troopers constantly. So developers of games like Fallen Order or Battlefront II are faced with an issue the movies mostly sidestepped: Using lightsabers on human and human-like beings.

The results are usually disappointing. Lightsabers are supposed to be these powerful weapons, swords made out of pure energy. They hum like a deadly electrical generator or exposed wire. They can rip through metal and steel. But in games, I rarely feel like I’m wielding a powerful Jedi or Sith weapon. Instead, it feels like a pipe that is really hot and glows.

Some games have tried to have dismemberment, such as Star Wars Jedi Knight and Jedi Academy. But without cheats or mods, dismemberment was a bit rare in these games. Still, it could happen.

It’s not just the lack of limbs flying off that disappoints me. These are laser swords and yet it can take multiple hits in many games to kill enemies. Of course, this issue is more a problem with trying to balance gameplay. If a player could one hit kill most things, the game would be too easy. But I think if a game was built around the idea of a powerful lightsaber, it could work.

Maybe a player has to hide it during most levels because they are trying to stay undercover? Maybe the more you use it to kill people, the more dark side points you gain? There has to be some way to make these iconic and powerful weapons feel more impressive than glowing sticks that hum.

Another aspect of this situation is that Disney, Lucasfilm and previously 20th Century Fox, have all probably pushed back on lightsabers being shown as powerful weapons, capable of slicing and dicing enemies.

Hopefully, these restrictions will be lessened in the future so we can finally wield the deadly laser swords we see in the films. If we are allowed to see people get chopped up in the films, why not in games? Or at least a cheat code we can enter if we want to do some chopping.


Comments

    Always wondered what would happened if you accidentally dropped the saber with the beam out and pointing down. Would it just cut through the ground and you have to dig it out? What about on board the Millennium falcon? Not at all worried Luke would drop it and cut through the ship killing them all?

      I'm assuming the light part itself has no mass, so whilst a dropped saber might cut the floor as it bounced around, the handle would eventually come to a rest on its side.

        Some early lore notes while the blade has no mass, depending on what you read, the magnetic forces containing the blade or the gyroscopic forces generated by the plasma arc made the blade very difficult to wield. Only individuals gifted with the force could muster the strength and skill to use it effectively.

      I believe there's a failsafe which turns off the blade when the hilt is released.

      Though there have been a number of instances where lightsabres have been thrown, and the blade stays on. People have explained that by saying the force is used to keep the failsafe from deactivating.

      The blade being both energy and mass needs the wielder to still force it with effort to cut through things of a heavy structure like a blast door. The wielder has both the power and grace to manipulate it

      Think of like dropping a molten rod of steel or droppingva plasma cutter.

    Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid

    Last edited 17/06/19 12:39 pm

    To make saber combat like this, you would have to make combat meaningful rather than button mashing.

    Maybe someone will make a Mordhau mod for Star Wars?

    If you live in a world where people are running around with laser swords, then surely building laser sword resistant armour would be a priority. Especially if your army is up against laser sword wielding religious fanatics.

    If it isn't possible to deflect a blow from a light sabre, why would the troops sent to fight a Jedi bother wearing armour at all? Surely they'd have better mobility without it?

      Sometimes I wonder if the armour worn by stormtroopers actually does anything other than obstruct their vision (resulting in poor aim?) as they seem to instantly die from almost anything.

        Light sabers, blaster bolts, rocks, pointy sticks..Seems to be more the the intimidation factor than anything else

      In Starwars the Jedi hunters who are a threat are better equip asvyou mention. Rare armour, better tactics, if they are not force users.

      The thing is the Empire occupies planets with billions of people, exotic threats... and 0.0001% of the people they encounter is a Jedi. True a single jedi is a disaster... but it is not a normal day for an oporessive army.

      Even a high ranking empire soldier thinks the Jedi are a joke, partly due to Sith propoganda and censorship, but also if they never served with one pre Order 66 during the Clone War you never truely knew what they could do.

      Jedi/Smith aren't numerous enough to invest in Lightsaber resistant armour.

        Agent Smith learnt to multiply himself into an army though!

        In the films there doesn't seem to be any requirement to be a Jedi or Sith to wield a lightsaber, so you wonder why more people don't use the weapons. And if the physical principles behind the weapons are used, why don't they use them in more types of weapons?

        If only a Jedi can construct a lightsaber, then it would make sense to capture some and force them to start producing more. If they are so effective, then this would seem like a good investment.

          A lightsabre is sort of useless in the hands of anyone who doesn't have the Force enhancing their combat abilities. It's a good weapon in the way a chainsaw is. Great against unarmed stationary targets in extremely close quarters but useless against anyone who can run or shoot you from a distance.
          If anything the question is why aren't the Jedi using blasters?

            Some did, Kyle Latarn, Jaden Korr, Luke and Obi Wan all used blasters but I suppose when your good enough you really don't need to anymore.

            The blades are said to create magnetic/gyroscopic forces that make the weapon unusable for anyone without force abilities to control it. Also without the intuition of the force to deflect blaster fire, it would be useless against projectile weapons.

            Jedi are mostly pacifists and only use their weapon as absolute last resort. Given they have the ability to deflect most projectiles, why would they need a blaster is probably the better question?

              Blasters can be non-lethal. When Obi-wan and Jango Fett fight only the ruthless bounty hunter has the capacity to end the fight without murdering anyone. Just saying.

        Apparently it doesn't work very well against rocks and sharp pointy sticks wielded by 3ft tall teddy bears either

      KOTOR did well in that area by adding a lot of lore, armor and weaponry that dealt with that very concept.
      The Echani gear had armor and traditional melee weapons with a cortosis weave that allowed it to defend and connect with lightsabres.
      It was apparently a lost art and fairly rare back then, for story purposes I assume.

      In Star Wars lore, there are some materials which are resistant against lightsabers. Mandalorian iron (the armour worn by Jango and Boba Fett) is known to be resistant, not immune, to lightsabers, albeit this material itself is quite rare and the Mandalorians are nearly extinct and rare themselves.

      Then there was cortosis ore (featured in Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Outcast and other novels/comics), but that's actually not resistant to lightsaber. The material is supposed to deactivate and disable lightsabers, if a lightsaber blade comes into contact with it.

      To be fair though, the Jedi are extremely rare during this time in the Star Wars universe, as Fallen Order is set a few years after Revenge of the Sith, so most of the Jedi would be dead, so I suppose the Empire's focus would essentially be generic conquest.

      Despite being called the so called "elite forces" of the Empire, stormtroopers were pretty much treated like cannon fodder. They were a force to be reckoned with because their numbers were usually quite high, and because of their sheer numbers alone, they were using cheap, mass-manufactured equipment. In a way, the philosophy of stormtroopers is kind of like TIE fighters, to overwhelm the enemy. That's basically why stormtroopers didn't have very good gear.

      As for remaining Jedi who are still alive, they are probably being hunted by Imperials, specifically trained to kill Jedi, such as Inquisitors. Inquisitors are Dark Jedi who were trained by Darth Vader, and they're most likely from the original Order themselves. Inquisitors are important to the Emperor's cause, which is why they received better equipment, resources, training etc.

        Fun, Star Wars trivia that's probably no longer considered canon.

        In the Star Wars comics, a group of Jedi on the run from the Empire during the Jedi Purge, had found a sword made from cortosis ore. With cortosis, it's not quite 'resistant' against a lightsaber, but rather, if the material makes contact with a lightsaber, it will disable the lightsaber blade.

        So using this sword, this group of Jedi came up with a plan to ambush Darth Vader. The plan was to lure him into a trap, to which they would use the sword to disable Vader's lightsaber, then all the Jedi would attack him at once.

        The Jedi group had successfully lured Vader into the trap, using the sword to deactivate his lightsaber. Just as they were about to attack him, Vader took the sword-wielding leader by the throat, broke her neck, disarmed her of the sword, then proceeded to use the cortosis sword to kill the remaining Jedi.

        Vader is so bad ass in the comics.

    You know, the Lightsaber was just a device to help drive a story of space knights.
    I think the problem here is not that they are under-powered, but that they are over-represented and thereby more meaningless.
    Give me a build-up (like the old Dark Forces and Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight), over being this powerful and awesome 3hours (according to respawn) into the game.
    This would make the introduction of a lightsaber more impactful, without having to be all "these things should really be slicing off limbs".
    But I guess the modern disney audience doesn't want that. Subtlety is gone.
    More Lightsabers is more betterer.

      I don't disagree with you about them being over-represented; I think that's good point. But over-represented & under-powered are not mutually exclusive. They can exist simultaneously; In fact, I think that's part of the problem.
      When people think about Jedis they think lightsabers, so when you are making a game about Jedis you are going to want to put lightsabers front and centre. But doing that AND keeping the moment to moment combat interesting means devs need to nerf the lightsabers a bit.
      One way to get around this might be to actually have a video game Jedi that is against near indiscriminate killing and uses some other kind of weapon in the general gameplay but whips out a lightsaber when things escalate.

    I coined a 'your momma' joke back in school: "Yo' momma's ten minutes work with a lightsaber."

    Somehow this legendary burn travelled the globe and made it into nearly every fucking Star Wars video game's design docs. (Props to JK2, you did it right. Good job. Everyone else: Detention.)

    Sounds inferior to JK 2 and 3 (Academy) and if you should replay those games instead of this one for your light sabre fix

      Academy was a bloody masterpiece for its time.
      Sabre was a bit awkward but it was definitely powerful.

    Actually you could indeed decapitate and dismember with your lightsaber, in The Force Unleashed II.

    Interesting read. But I would ponder are lightsabers supposed to be weapons to a Jedi?! Because I always saw them as a defensive item. Yes they can kill but the point of them in a Jedis hands is for defence and protection. Only used as a weapon of they have to be, well that is how I always saw them.

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