With May the 4th earlier this month, and recent teasers for Episode IX, I've had Star Wars on the mind recently. Okay, who'm I kidding. I pretty much have Star Wars on my mind at all times. I've got something with Star Wars on it in pretty much every room of my house, and my office at work. I've got these guys (see below) staring at me from above my monitor right now. I really just wanted an excuse to talk about my favorite Star Wars games over the years. Here they are in chronological order.
Super Empire Strikes Back (SNES - 1993)
While I had played several Star Wars games before, including a couple on the Atari, this is the earliest game that really stands out in my mind. The epic duel with Darth Vader at the end of this one really made an impact on me. When I finally defeated Vader after many many failures, I had one of those Dark Souls moments of glory. I lifted both arms in the air and shouted "YES!". It also felt extra awesome because I was 13 at my older brother's house, and one of his hot friends was watching me play. Honestly, I don't know if the game is "good". Back then, you couldn't just hop online and read dozens of reviews. You got 1 or 2 games for Christmas, and you played the shit out of them. I do remember being really impressed by the graphics of all the Super Star Wars games, though, and just seeing that art takes me back.
Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (PC - 2002)
Jedi Outcast was my introduction to the Star Wars FPS genre, and it blew me away. If you're not familiar, you play as Kyle Katarn who apparently walked away from being a Jedi in the first Jedi Knight game. So you start this game with some blasters and grenades, and nothing else. But during the course of Outcast, Katarn relearns the ways of the Force, and there's a wonderful progression from typical FPS gameplay to third-person super-powered Jedi combat. The saber combat is insanely fun on it's own, but you also get access to a huge list of Force powers. Force pushing people off ledges never gets old, and Force jumping makes you feel incredibly agile on the battlefield. And because Katarn isn't strictly a Jedi, you get access to some dark side powers as well, like Force choke and lightning. The game can be pretty unforgiving at times, but it's worth pushing through.
Star Wars Galaxies (PC - 2003)
Before Sony Online Entertainment mangled it's own game, I played unhealthy amounts of this MMO. The game was by no means perfect. It was pretty grindy, the animations were kind of janky, and by today's standards, the game is very slow. But it did some things so well, that even now, no other game has done them better. Namely, player housing, the player-driven economy, and the social aspects of the game. The game (at first) did not include any "classes". Instead, there were dozens of professions you could mix and match to customize your play style. Among these were non-combat professions like architect, dancer, musician, droid engineer, merchant, and even politician. In other words, you could play the game without ever using a blaster if that's what you enjoyed.
Additionally, players could not only build their own houses and guild halls almost anywhere on any planet, but they could build entire cities. And these weren't instanced houses that only you could see. They were persistent on your server. If your city got big enough, you could even get a spaceport and it would show up on everyone's map.
Also, virtually every item in the game was made by a player. SWG had a very intricate crafting system, where the quality of the item depended on the quality of the materials you used. So the same item made by two people wouldn't end up with the same stats. This meant that crafters could actually make a name for themselves. I remember on my server that "Strider Rifles" were the best you could buy. And with the merchant profession, you could set up your own store with NPC vendors to sell your wares 24/7.
These three things combined to create a really active social environment. You would almost always find people hanging around the cantina getting buffs from entertainers, shopping, using crafting stations, decorating their homes, having guild meetings, or just plain hanging out. No other MMO has ever made me feel as connected to my fellow players as SWG did. If you missed out on the game, and feel like giving it a try, you can download the original vanilla version of the game over at swgemu.com. Apparently this is all legal, because they're not using any of Sony's assets. Full disclosure: I tried the game out again not long ago, and it does not really hold up well. Gaming has just come a long way since 2003.
Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox - 2003)
The first time I played KOTOR, I only got a few minutes in before I quit. I had gone into it expecting something along the lines of Jedi Outcast, so I was really taken off guard when the game paused every time I entered combat. I had never played an RPG like that before, and it seemed so bizarre to me at the time, that I just moved on. However, I later decided to give it another shot, and I'm glad I did because it finally clicked. I grew to appreciate the tactical nature of the combat, and I was amazed at how deep the characters were. The whole companion system was completely new to me, so the first time I spoke to Carth, and realized how deep the character really was, I was really hooked. I spoke to my companions at every chance I got, to see if I had progressed enough to learn anything new. And the fact that you could romance companions was like my own personal Star Wars dating sim. It was awesome.
The Old Republic (PC - 2011)
Given my love of KOTOR and KOTOR 2, and my penchant for MMOs, The Old Republic sounded like my dream game. If you're not familiar, it was billed as virtually KOTOR 3 through 11 because every character class had its own story line. But when I finally got my hands on it, I found it to be stiff, ugly, and boring. The characters looked plastic, and there were three body types: pencil neck, muscular dude, and this fucking thing.
Not only did the characters look weird, but they moved weird too. They felt like they were gliding around; there was no weight to them. This might sound petty, but these are the kinds of thing that kill the enjoyment for me. I want to like the character I'm playing. And the gameplay couldn't save it, either. The game was your typical MMO bullshit, with an ugly, plastic Star Wars coat of paint.
Star Wars: 1313 (???)
1313 was shaping up to be the next-gen Star Wars game everyone was waiting for. Not only was it gorgeous, but it appeared to feature a bounty hunter as the main character, and looked like it was going to have a grittier tone than most Star Wars media. Basically, a recipe for success. Unfortunately, the game was side-lined as Disney bought out Lucasfilm, and its' future is uncertain. There have been rumors that it wasn't completely canceled, and may see the light of day again, but I won't hold my breath.
Hit me up on twitter and let me know what your favorite Star Wars games are, and/or why I'm wrong. I'm sure I'll get more of the latter.