Star Wars has seen an absolute resurgence in film and TV content since Disney’s acquisition of the franchise. But how have Star Wars video games held up this generation?
Back in May 2013, just prior to the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, a new era of Star Wars games was promised. Disney and Electronic Arts (EA) signed a 10-year deal giving the video game publisher exclusive rights to make games for the galaxy far far away.
This deal was met with big expectations and plenty of scepticism from gamers. Fast forward to 2021 and we’re eight years into this Star Wars deal. So, have these expectations been met? If yours were low, then it seems the answer is yes.
Let’s take a look at the recent Star Wars games to see how they’ve fared throughout this generation of gaming.
Star Wars Battlefront
EA has always been a fan of live-service games, which has been rather frustrating for solo Star Wars players. EA’s first move was to release a reboot of Star Wars Battlefront under its new licencing deal. This one was pretty well-received and genuinely fun to play. But it lacked any significant single-player or campaign modes, leaving players with the option of online multiplayer matches or split-screen co-op rounds. Sure, Star Wars Battlefront was a good time but only for a short time. Particularly when new content was only accessible via an expensive season pass. So it was surprising to see EA return to Battlefront two years later.
Star Wars Battlefront II was a pretty big flop upon its release in 2017. EA clearly listened to players’ frustrations by adding a single-player campaign but at the same time, it completely hamstrung itself. Battlefront II introduced a loot box system that rewarded players with significant advantages in-game from items purchased with real money. While EA eventually removed these controversial microtransactions, the damage was already done.
To be fair, plenty of hard work has been put into Star Wars Battlefront II since its early days. A complete overhaul of the progression system and consistent updates with new maps, characters and content has helped the game to claw back its reputation. This may also have been the tipping point for EA to re-evaluate its strategy.
Star Wars, like many franchises, is no stranger to Lego adaptations and this generation’s Lego Star Wars games were a bright spark for the franchise. There’s a lot to like about Lego games in general and the same can be said for Lego Star Wars. Lego The Force Awakens was a great reinvigoration of both Star Wars movies and their Lego adaptations, bringing fun puzzle mechanics and classic characters to gamers of all ages.
In 2021 we’ll get Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga to round out the sequel trilogy and it’ll be interesting to see how the game deals with the divisive nature of its source material.
Jedi Fallen Order
In 2019 we received Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, and this is where I see hope for the future of Star Wars games. Respawn Entertainment brought a totally original Jedi action-adventure game to the table and for a lot of people, this was everything a Star Wars game should be. Its difficult Dark Souls-style gameplay wasn’t for everyone, but Jedi Fallen Order nailed its lightsaber combat and world-building.
Since Jedi Fallen Order’s release and huge success, EA has acknowledged plans to bring out more single-player Star Wars games. So there’s still hope for the future of Star Wars games under EA, if Jedi Fallen Order is anything to go by.
Star Wars Squadrons
At the end of 2020, Motive Studios brought out its Star Wars fighter-pilot simulator, Star Wars Squadrons. Squadrons was incredibly good at immersing players into the cockpit of a TIE fighter or X-Wing. But while Squadrons gloriously achieved what it set out to do, it was always going to face challenges when it came to prolonged interest. Fair enough, Motive stated prior to release that Squadrons would be a standalone piece without huge content updates, hence its cheaper price tag. But that also makes Squadrons one of the less memorable games in the recent Star Wars lineup.
Star Wars VR
While this generation was full of mainly EA published games, there were still a couple of outliers. I’m mainly referring to ILMxLAB’s Vader Immortal and Tales From The Galaxy’s Edge games with Oculus. Most people prefer to refer to them as ‘experiences’ rather than games, but for those partial to virtual reality, these two were nice additions.
While they haven’t gained the same level of popularity as the mainstream games, probably because they’re restricted to VR technology, I’ve got a feeling this is only the beginning of Star Wars’ VR potential. After all, shows like The Mandalorian are now creating their sets virtually in game engines, so more VR games aren’t too much of a stretch.
It’s hard to look at this generation and not be struck by what Star Wars could have been. The past years sadly signalled the cancellation of a whole range of Star Wars games after LucasArts was pulled from video games. Early on we lost a potential third The Force Unleashed game, an awesome looking bounty hunter game known as Star Wars 1313 and a third entry in the Knights of the Old Republic series — which still seems to be in an eternal loop of development hell. Given fans’ frustration over the cancellation of these games, it wouldn’t hurt for execs to give them a second look in the future.
At this point, one thing EA seems to have learned is that no sole Star Wars game can play to every single market in the fanbase. Looking back at these listed Star Wars games, you can see the company is giving each sub-genre a decent shot. And while it doesn’t seem like any game has seeped into the collective conscious as much as titles like Knights of the Old Republic, some promising groundwork has still been laid.
Given this generation’s hit or miss track record, I wouldn’t go as far to say Star Wars games have made a comeback. But I do think that we’re on the way. And whether its EA or another company that continues the Star Wars video game legacy, the past eight years have been a learning curve for all.
Star Wars is heading into a new era on Disney+ with a huge number of new series and movies on the way. This is the perfect time for Star Wars games to ride this wave and bring in a new generation of great games.