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Feels like it’s far too soon to be remaking Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic but a) they’ve rebooted the Spider-Man movies 48 times in 18 months and b) KOTOR is, in fact, 13 years old oh god I’m so ancient how did this happen help help. So maybe the time isn’t too un-wrong for someone to take a crack at making one of the most beloved 3D-accelerated Star Wars games look a whole lot more modern. Waitaminnit: isn’t this just like George Lucas and his bloody Special Editions? SHUT IT DOWN SHUT IT DOWN SHUT IT DOWN.
The fans making Apeiron carefully classify it as a mod rather than a standalone project, in the hope that Ian Disney won’t force-choke it to death. It’s a remake of KOTOR in the Unreal 4 engine, and while it’s a million parsecs away from completion, or even from showing how it will function as a game (including an apparent move from third- to first-person blasting), we do get a look at some extremely pretty and really quite Star Warsy environments.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, affectionately known to fans as KOTOR, was originally released in 2003. It was a fantastic sci-fi RPG, and enough of a hit to spawn a sequel and form the underpinnings of EA's hugely-hyped, monumentally-expensive MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. And more than a dozen years later, it's the basis of a community-made reboot called Apeiron.
The Apeiron website describes it as a remake and remastering of the original game with added content, new worlds, missions, HUD, inventory, items, and companions, created by a group of dedicated programmers, artists, voice actors, world builders, and writers that have all come together to breathe life back into a wonderful game. It will be free at release, although as a mod, a proper copy of KOTOR will be required to play it.
As for whether or not the project will able to dodge the cease-and-desist hammer, the developers seem to be relying on precedent established by previous, similar projects, and a general hope that Disney/EA will just leave them alone. Engine refresh of games has been around since the '80s and some have become very successful. Games like Black Mesa did it with Half Life and Renegade X rebuilt Command and Conquer in the Unreal Engine 3, the team wrote. This is a full conversion refresh, that being said you will have to own a copy of the original game in order to play Apeiron since we are using the original audio and music. At its core Apeiron is the most intense KOTOR modification ever.
The debut gameplay video, posted by YouTuber MrMattyPlays, looks really good. It's choppy in spots and obviously not complete, but the visual upgrade is striking. I don't agree with his assessment of KOTOR as bland, but as the screen below very clearly demonstrates, we've come a long way over the past 13 years. Also interesting is that Apeiron will support first-person play, which the original did not. Ideally, that will make for a more immersive experience, but I expect it will also require some rather dramatic changes to KOTOR's lightsaber combat, which was built for a third-person view.
Apeiron is a long way from seeing the light of day, but so far so good.
In the last months of 2015, Star Wars was everywhere. Everywhere. TV ads. Billboards. Sneakers. Mac n cheese. Cars. PCs. It s hard to remember a time when Star Wars wasn t all around us. Even before the Force Awakens marketing blitz, Star Wars has been omnipresent for a decade now, with a steady stream of cartoons and toys and games and books and comics, some good, many bad. This is what we ve come to expect from the Lucasfilm and Disney empires. We don t expect Star Wars spin-offs to be bold and daring, and it wasn t until I spent the holiday break playing Dark Forces that I remembered Star Wars games were once genuinely groundbreaking.
After watching Force Awakens, my Star Wars fever drove me to replay Dark Forces and Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II for the first time since my childhood. This was actually my first time playing all the way through either; I only had demos as a kid. Despite being released just two and a half years apart, in 1995 and 1997, the games feel like they belong to distinct eras of FPS design. Each is forward thinking in some ways I found fascinating with 20 years of perspective, and comically dated in others.
But not really comically. Like, Jar-Jar-and-his-stupid-tongue-funny. It s 2016. We know better.
21 years on, Dark Forces feels almost prehistoric for a 3D game, and its ambition dates it in a way that the arcadier Doom will never age. The 2D sprite enemies, their simplistic AI and repeated audio clips, the labyrinthine levels and obtuse puzzles are the essence of first-person PC games from 1995. Made today, Dark Forces would probably feel like a sanitized Call of Duty clone with lasers.
And yet. And yet. The same way Star Wars took the basic structure of the Hero s Journey and turned it into a movie unlike anything we d seen before, Dark Forces cloned Doom and created something amazing from its DNA: a game that placed you into a three dimensional world that was new and yet recognizably Star Wars.
LucasArts s Jedi Engine added jumping and looking up and down on the vertical axis, so you could explore Dark Forces world like it was a real place. The stormtroopers and Imperial officers may have been crudely animated 2D sprites, but they looked just like they did in the movies. The blasters sounded the same. The music captured the essence of John Williams in simple MIDI.
Instead of revisiting locations from the films or playing out some hackneyed video game version of the battle of Hoth, LucasArts took places we d glimpsed, like the interior of a Star Destroyer, and spun out their own creations with the scope and detail to bring them to life. The world is gray more often than not, but Dark Forces keeps switching out tilesets as you reach new levels. One Imperial base looks different than another. Ship interiors take inspiration from the Death Star. Natural canyons, blocky and angular as they are, admirably lend scale to Dark Forces representation of the galaxy far, far away.
Even the hundreds of stormtroopers spread across the campaign makes it feel like you re struggling against the Empire, a Rebel underdog deep inside an overwhelming military machine. The mostly static cutscenes and briefings between missions feel rudimentary next to the 3D world—possibly Dark Forces at its most dated—but Mon Mothma lends the story an air of legitimacy, too.
21 years on, Dark Forces feels almost prehistoric for a 3D game.
I found Dark Forces additions to the Doom template simultaneously the coolest and the most frustrating bits of its design. I appreciated some of the puzzles I had to solve to make my way through Imperial strongholds, and not always knowing where to go in its layered and complex levels. Other relics of the time—like how difficult it was to discern a random decorative texture from an interactive control panel—really do add depth to the world, making it feel more real and less like a linear guided tour through some Cool Shit, as so many shooters today are.
But I spent more of my Dark Forces playthrough appreciating what it pulled off in 1995 than I did really having fun. The shooting doesn t have Doom s oomph, and I ground my teeth in frustration while trying to navigate the sewers early on, and while trying to make one particular series of jumps between rising and falling platforms later on. If you ve played Dark Forces, you know the one. And the computer core in mission 11? Fuck that hexagonal nightmare.
I'd recommend playing with a guide on-hand for the most obtuse bits, but Dark Forces is still worth a run through to get to Jedi Knight, where the series really finds its way. And it's easy to play on modern hardware thanks to DarkXL, a rebuilt version of the game that supports high resolutions and Windows.
What a difference two years makes. When LucasArts started using scale models for Star Wars in 1977, they first had to figure out how to make them look like real spaceships. A couple years later, for Empire Strikes Back, they had that down—the next step was making them look good, leading to the invention of Go Motion. Jedi Knight followed a similar path, going fully 3D, telling a far more complex story with full motion video, and slowly unlocking Force powers throughout the campaign. Dark Forces great success was putting you inside a Star Wars world with the best technology available at the time, and Jedi Knight amplified that tenfold.
Its FMV story is unfortunately every bit as bad as the words full motion video usually imply. Hero Kyle Katarn has the gruff voice down, but can t do much more than frown and deliver terrible dialogue from awkward bluescreen-turned-CG-graphics sets. Everyone else is even worse, especially Dark Jedi Jerec, who is wearing the banana hammock equivalent of a pair of sunglasses and has chin tattoos that I mistook for a bad fu manchu for 90 percent of the game.
There s no passion to be found here, but the story loosely justifies Jedi Knight s strength: the experience of gaining badass Force powers over the course of 20+ levels. Where later Bioware RPGs would much more deliberately tie your Force skills and alignment into the narrative, Jedi Knight mostly just gives you points to assign between missions, and bam, you re a Jedi. Believable? Not really—but the FMV cutscenes already threw immersion out the window. Accept Kyle s inexplicable mastery of the Force, and Jedi Knight will hand you a really satisfying skill progression from blaster-wielding slowpoke to Jedi superhero.
Gaining Force powers in Jedi Knight gave me one of my favorite experiences playing games: the feeling that I m using abilities to play the game in a way it wasn t meant to be played. To outsmart the designers by navigating the environment and defeating enemies in ways I wasn t meant to. The best-designed games give me this sensation even when it s not true: they make me feel clever and powerful, even when I m following the path I was meant to.
When you first start gaining powers in Jedi Knight, they re a convenience. You can use Force speed to get around more quickly, or Force jump to leap over a gap that would ve taken longer to cross by foot. Gradually, the game starts introducing areas you need Force powers to navigate. By the end, you re jumping a dozen meters into the air, yanking blasters out of your enemies hands, and sprinting across levels to avoid unnecessary combat.
Jedi Knight ties its high-level light and dark Force abilities to some key story decisions, which would be a great idea if the story wasn t such a galactic suckfest. Star Wars games have done it better since. But Jedi Knight deserves credit for doing it first, and for doing Force powers so, so well. Dark Forces let you view Star Wars from an angle very different than the films, and in making Jedi Knight, LucasArts did the same with the Force. This was the Force we imagined watching the films, letting a heroic master run faster, jump farther, sense enemies that can t be seen, heal his body when he s injured. I don t know if Jedi Knight s powers were directly influenced by the novels filling out the Expanded Universe in the 90s—almost two dozen were written between 1991 and 1997, with different authors granting Jedi new skills—but it nailed the toolset, making the powers fun to use and believable within the Star Wars fiction.
The story loosely justifies Jedi Knight s strength: the experience of gaining badass Force powers.
Acquiring those Force powers is unfortunately tied to the most archaic part of Jedi Knight s design (aside from the FMV, I mean). Completing each level earns you a measly one point to put into the Force skill tree. Most of the points come from discovering secret areas in each level. And there are a lot of them. These secret areas are usually packed with health and ammo, hidden in dark corners or behind stairs or on top of structures. Finding them is a fun excuse to explore...until you miss one of the six or eight or ten hidden areas in a level and miss out on the entire Force point bonus. Fun, that is not. The secret areas feel like a holdover of Dark Forces older design, and as poor match for the Jedi power system.
It's no coincidence my favorite level in the game has only a single secret room right at the outset. Jedi Knight is even more varied in its level design and settings than Dark Forces, but one really stands out: The Falling Ship, which has Kyle rushing through a ship before it hits the ground and explodes. The ship and gravity are both twisted, making for some surprisingly fun platforming on a tense time limit. I failed on my first time through but enjoyed going at it again, racing the clock to make it to the hangar bay and escape in a smaller ship. This is the kind of setpiece you'll see in a blockbuster AAA game today, but Jedi Knight managed to pull it off in 1997.
When I played Jedi Knight s expansion, Mysteries of the Sith, I skipped most of the secret rooms, and was nearly crippled by my meager Force powers in the last few levels. They really felt like a necessity, and only save scumming and dodging tougher enemies carried me through to the end. Freakin vornskrs, man. Most of Mysteries of the Sith feels like an uninspired retreat of what Jedi Knight has already done, which is a disappointing first (and only, really) outing for EU heroine Mara Jade in a Star Wars game.
But the last few levels, hard as they are, are its salvation: they take you deep into an old Sith temple to bring Kyle Katarn back from the Dark side, and it feels every bit like the hallowed, dangerous ground it should be. Well, mostly. The leaping dog creatures and yeti monsters may be based on Timothy Zahn s novels, but they come across as goofy video game enemies. And the zombie wizards? Maybe a step too far.
Nothing in Jedi Knight or Mysteries of the Sith is as challenging as getting the games to run in the first place. To play them yourself, I recommend slavishly following the directions on JK2DF, which was the only way I could get the games to run on Windows 10. The GOG and Steam versions each have their own problems, and patches and mods are often not fully compatible with one version or the other. You can also grab a Mysteries of the Sith texture pack to make the game look comparable to Jedi Knight retextured.
Hoo boy, are the original models and textures ugly. But they're still better than the FMV.
I haven t tackled Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast yet, but it s next on the list, and I have high expectations. LucasArts wisely handed the series to FPS maestros Raven Software, and by 2002 3D games could do far more advanced cutscenes than the awkward first steps of Mysteries of the Sith. I expect Jedi Outcast to be the game that turns Kyle Katarn into a genuinely interesting character.
And I hear the lightsabers are pretty cool.
There’s no shortage of ‘best Star Wars games’ features across this nerdly old internet of ours, but the majority focus on console games which don’t often stray from the action/shooting category. On PC, we’ve had so much more variety over the years: sometimes for better, sometimes for very much worse. With the warm reception to the The Force Awakens meaning we no longer need to hate ourselves for retaining an innocent love of Long Time Ago, let’s mix nostalgia and contemporary game design values into a big, colourful ball and determine which PC titles are the least unwise ways to indulge that love.
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>
Dark Forces was the first of the Star Wars FPS shooters and one I always felt was unfairly eclipsed by the (admittedly superior) Jedi Knight. Dark Forces bucked a lot of the trends that came before and a lot that would follow: it’s huge, sprawling levels seemed more life-like and realistic than what we’d seen in run-and-gun games like Doom and its imitators. … [visit site to read more]
Star Wars weaves itself in and out of the history of PC games, occasionally yielding genre-advancing greatness and sometimes coughing up the most mercantile dross you might ever regretfully buy.
The story of the games mirrors that of the film series as a whole. Sometimes, the link is obvious—as when the arrival of the prequel trilogy plunged the franchise into a dark new era. At other times, it s more subtle. Star Wars games, particularly those on PC, did much to advance the notion that this galaxy far, far away was a real place, governed by real rules and principles—a setting that could be simulated, not just presented as pastiche. The best games actively enhance the source material rather than merely doing justice to it. As Disney—Star Wars new owner—moves away from traditional games towards browser and mobile, it s an idea that might be lost. But if Star Wars has taught us anything, it s that good wins out in the end—even if it becomes more machine than human along the way.
RELEASED 1988 | DEVELOPER Atari / Vektor Grafix
Despite being a rudimentary rail shooter, it s remarkable just how much the original vector-drawn Star Wars arcade game anticipated about later games. Later takes on the Death Star trench run had you blowing the tops off turrets in the exact same way you do here. Notable also for the clumsily digitised voice of Sir Alec Guinness.
RELEASED 1988 | DEVELOPER Atari
This follow-up to the Star Wars arcade cabinet uses a diagonal-scrolling isometric view to represent everything from a speederbike chase to the Millennium Falcon s run at the second Death Star. The technique is stretched to its logical extreme when you find yourself dodging an endless stream of Ewok log traps as a questionably manoeuvrable AT-ST. It s actually aged worse than its predecessor: while the original s vector graphics make it feel like a crude forebear to the later, greater space combat sims, this just comes off as an attempt to jam as many Star Wars set-pieces as possible into Frogger.
RELEASED 1993 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
In the dark times before somebody thought to make actual games about Star Wars, this is what you got: the rail-shooter framework strapped to the clumsiest excesses of 90s FMV. I found it tremendously evocative at the time, and the pre-rendered visuals were stunning—but it s aged worse than the fan-fic I wrote about it.
RELEASED 1993 | DEVELOPER Totally Games
To really understand the troubled duality of Star Wars gaming, consider that X-Wing and Rebel Assault came out in the same year. The former: crap FMV tied to a fidgety arcade game. The latter: an earnest attempt to simulate the actual devices and conflicts of the Star Wars universe. X-Wing was groundbreaking because it was a movie tie-in that not only respected the source material, but built upon it. Thousands of fans understand the workings of an X-Wing starfighter thanks largely to this game s unusual attention to detail. This wasn t just about being plonked down in a rudimentary rendition of a familiar scene: it was about actually getting to fl y one these beloved starfighters for yourself. Despite the crude visuals, it holds up today—the pixel rendition of an X-Wing cockpit is even lovely, if you squint. Newcomers should go straight to the sequels.
RELEASED 1994 | DEVELOPER Totally Games
Beyond picking up where X-Wing left off, this spacebased combat sim stands out for being among the first Star Wars games to confidently tell its own story and offer a different spin on the source material—presenting the Empire s rank-and-file in a more positive light. Part of the golden age of the Expanded Universe.
RELEASED 1995 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
I have an enduring affection for the overweight and middle-aged FMV X-Wing pilot who shows up half way through Rebel Assault II because I assume he s someone s dad. Beyond that, though, this is a dodgy fan-film strapped to a shooter where you pan left and right to make a photo of a rebel soldier shoot pop-up stormtroopers.
RELEASED 1995 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
Dark Forces and Rebel Assault II are another set of strange contemporaries. While indebted to Doom s rat in a maze with a gun formula, Dark Forces paid fresh attention to both telling a story and giving the player greater freedom of movement—including jumping, crouching, and free-look. Its attempts to tie-in to the story of the original trilogy are a little hamfisted, but the Kyle Katarn saga that begins here picked up a lot of fans over the course of its run. It remains playable today, particularly if you ve got fond memories of the era of being totally lost in sprawling FPS levels. It is relentlessly grey and monotonous, mind—they weren t joking when they called it Dark Forces.
RELEASED 1997 | DEVELOPER Totally Games
Arguably the best of the series, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter boasts texture mapping, a huge array of multiplayer options and, via the Balance of Power expansion, substantial singleplayer campaigns. The AI is superior to X-Wing Alliance, too, so it s worth returning to on that basis alone. A landmark Star Wars game.
RELEASED 1997 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
An epochal Star Wars shooter, Dark Forces II pioneered the combination of firstperson blasting and third-person, acrobatic lightsaber combat. While ultimately eclipsed by its successors, the techniques and powers introduced here are incredibly important to Star Wars games as a whole. Your fond memories of Dark Forces II may not include the incredibly cheesy FMV, however. Presumably they switched to in-engine cutscenes for Mysteries of the Sith because there wasn t any scenery left to chew. Better: the effort expended to realise a proper Light Side/Dark Side system based on player actions.
RELEASED 1997 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
The proud history of finding ways to shoehorn new characters into every imaginable Star Wars sequence enters a new chapter in Shadows of the Empire, which opens with mercenary Dash Rendar fighting in the Battle of Hoth before variously rescuing Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. It s a passable third-person action game that hasn t aged particularly well, but at the time it was a pretty big deal—Shadows of the Empire is the Star Wars movie that never got made, a multi-pronged attempt to build interest in the series in the mid- 90s. Between the novel, comics and game it answered questions left hanging from the original trilogy, like where did Luke get that green saber and why does Dash Rendar have less personality than a frozen Han Solo.
RELEASED 1997 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
Part of LucastArts Desktop Adventures series, this was a set of puzzle rooms where you helped a bobble-headed Luke Skywalker rescue his friends from a variety of predicaments. Features a rare cameo by Indiana Jones, one of only two times LucasArts have made a joke about his resemblance to Han Solo.
On page two we head into a worrisome time for Star Wars games: the turn of the century, and the arrival of the prequel trilogy.
RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER Coolhand Interactive
A 4X strategy game, Supremacy (called Rebellion in the US) enabled you to steer either the Republic or the Empire through an alternative history of the Galactic Civil War. It s a great idea on paper, but there are far better 4X games from the period—and far more interesting interpretations of the setting than click on the text boxes .
RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER Factor 5 / LucasArts
If the earliest Star Wars games split themselves between themepark ride and attempted simulation , Rogue Squadron represents the two starting to come together. Its flight model is slow, heavy and arcade-derived, but the impressive (for the time) level of detail and dead-on sound mean that it hews closer to the proper space combat sims than the vast majority of console-first Star Wars games did. The campaign, similarly, straddles a line between feeling like a legitimate expansion of the universe and a series of too-familiar set-pieces. Its opening, particularly, is a little odd: an all-out attack by the Empire on a few square miles of Tatooine for no particular reason. That said, the story s scope—spanning the Original Trilogy and beyond—is impressive, as is the large roster of ships.
RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
A substantial, old-school expansion for Jedi Knight, Mysteries of the Sith sees the end of FMV—and with it, the end of an embarrassing era. The campaign amounts to more and more complex Jedi Knight, with larger set-pieces and a lightsaber available from the beginning. The opening, which sees you repel an Imperial invasion, was pretty exciting at the time.
RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER Hasbro Interactive
A last gasp for the very worst of the 90s, this came with a plastic Falcon cockpit that you stuck on top of your keyboard—ideally in front of the monitor—so that you could interact with a bunch of awful quicktime events overlaid on scenes from the original movies. It makes very little sense and functionally exists to sell plastic. Terrible. Also: for kids.
RELEASED 1999 | DEVELOPER Totally Games
The Phantom Menace was released only three months after X-Wing Alliance. Not only is this one of the best Star Wars games ever made, but it s one of the last games to be untainted by the prequel trilogy s infantilising influence on the series as a whole. Here s a sprawling new Star Wars story set during the events of the original trilogy, packed with detail in terms of the flight model and number of simulated ships, and in the small things that make it so replayable: cameo appearances by Slave I and the Millennium Falcon, the way missions spread from one sector to another via hyperspace jumps, the personal stories offset against the larger conflict. Its only weaknesses are those 3D cockpits, which have aged worse than the older 2D ones, and that awkward purple UI.
RELEASED 1999 | DEVELOPER Big Ape Productions
This is a movie tie-in console action game from the late 90s, which tells you everything you need to know about the creative rigour it displays. It s notable for two reasons: you can massacre a load of innocent Gungans, including children, and face no repercussions. Also, there s a homeless person on Coruscant whose likeness is based on David Duchovny.
RELEASED 1999 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
This game is basically the only reason you might be glad that The Phantom Menace exists. It s a fast, stunning (for the time) and creative sci-fi arcade racer based on one of the longest toy adverts to run in cinemas before Michael Bay got his hands on Transformers. Scant reward for the death of your childhood, mind you.
RELEASED 2000 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Ronin Entertainment
Ambitious but rough around the edges, this was the first concerted effort to create a Star Wars RTS. The camera is the biggest issue—useless when zoomed in, and awkward even when pulled back. Still, it offers a rare opportunity to try out famed Imperial strategies like march in a straight line and lose the war .
RELEASED 2001 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
A Phantom Menace tie-in dogfighting game that broadly follows the patterns established by Rogue Squadron, Starfighter offers far less in terms of playable ships but provides a greater sense of speed and agility. Terrible voice acting, although it did give us the immortal line now let s see how you deal with my favourite training canyon. Good job, whoever wrote that.
RELEASED 2001 | DEVELOPER Factor 5 / LucasArts
Another vehicle action game in the vein of Rogue Squadron and Starfighter, Battle for Naboo focuses on terrestrial combat, particularly in tanks. This is a less typical Star Wars fantasy than space combat, and as such it feels a little more detached from the source material—it really could be any other console-first shooter from this era, with a prequel trilogy coat of paint. The paint s chipping, too: this is a rough-looking game.
RELEASED 2001 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Ensemble Studios
Galactic Battlegrounds eclipsed Force Commander not with visuals, but with RTS credibility. It s by Ensemble, the studio behind Age of Empires, and it s great largely because those games were great. Their systems aren t a perfect fit for Star Wars—even in the drabbest corners of the expanded universe, gathering berries was rarely a priority. The campaign spans the four movies released up to that point and includes a few unusual factions in addition to the ones you d expect—wookiees and gungans being the strangest. Given its heritage, it s a viable competitive multiplayer strategy game as well as a singleplayer experience and picked up a small but dedicated following after release. If you re trying it today, check out the Expanding Frontiers overhaul mod.
On the next page, we move towards 2003, an amazing year for Star Wars games.
RELEASED 2002 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Ensemble Studios
Clone Campaigns expands Galactic Battlegrounds with two new factions derived from Episode II—the Separatists and the Galactic Republic. As such, the new campaigns actually fold into the middle of the base game, an unusual step for an RTS expansion. The factions, soldiers and vehicles of the Clone Wars never achieved the same iconic status as those of the original trilogy—perhaps there was never any hope of that—and it s telling just how far their star has fallen. If you were old enough to play this at the time, you probably don t care too much about getting to play with Galactic Republic AT-TE walkers today. They re no AT-ATs, that s for sure.
RELEASED 2002 | DEVELOPER Raven Software
Star Wars gaming entered its golden age in late 2002, starting with this—the best Kyle Katarn adventure, a great shooter, and an epochal multiplayer melee combat game all in one. It has a dedicated fanbase to this day, and rightly so. The campaign is worthy of a replay, and even now you can find players to compete against online from time to time.
RELEASED 2003 | DEVELOPER Raven Software
More than a decade on, this is still the greatest videogame realisation of the lightsaber. The weapon is simulated to a deep level of complexity, with a vast array of saber styles and accompanying force powers. This drove a vibrant multiplayer scene and powered a great campaign that has shades of BioWare in its branching story and Light Side-Dark Side system. No subsequent Star Wars action game has bettered it, and it s still very much playable today. Even after you ve exhausted every mission, the simple joy of combat sustains repeated playthroughs.
RELEASED 2003 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment
Beautiful, ambitious and broken, Star Wars Galaxies was a deep, player-driven MMO driven by the core talent from Ultima Online. It promised what Star Wars fans had always wanted—a chance to live in that galaxy far, far away, and to be given the freedom to determine what kind of life that was. It ll be keenly missed.
RELEASED 2003 | DEVELOPER Bioware
The emergence of BioWare into the modern era was also a huge advance for the quality of Star Wars storytelling. By taking the then-unprecedented step of detaching the story entirely from the era covered by the movies, BioWare gave itself the freedom to rebuild Star Wars from the ground up. And rebuilt it was, with far more character and integrity than had been achieved in a Star Wars game before. It remixes familiar elements in intelligent ways and presents traditional Star Wars themes with rare clarity and focus. Crap minigames, however.
RELEASED 2004 | DEVELOPER Pandemic Studios
Sitting somewhere between the Battlefield series and the console-centric vehicle action games that followed Rogue Squadron, Battlefront is fondly remembered for simulating conflict on a scale that hadn t been achieved before in Star Wars gaming. It had some interesting new ideas, too, particularly in the inclusion of neutral NPCs on each map. Great in multiplayer.
RELEASED 2004 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment
Space combat was notably absent from Star Wars Galaxies when it launched, but its eventual inclusion was revelatory: not only a substantial expansion to the underlying RPG, but a legitimate action game in its own right. For the first time, you could own and heavily customise your own starfighter, with each ship deeply tied into Galaxies underlying crafting system. Larger ships like freighters had fully explorable, multi-person interiors that could be decorated like any other building in the game, making them unique to the player who owned them. A reminder: this was 2004. Elite: Dangerous was a decade away, Star Citizen even further than that: and these features made it into an MMO that was fundamentally about life on the ground. A high-point for the game.
On the last page is 2005-2011, in which we witness the entropic demise of Star Wars in videogames. There are still some gems to celebrate, mind.
RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
A rare example of a Clone Wars tie-in game that isn t crap, Republic Commando offered a take on the period that was a little darker and a little more human thanks to the role played by your squadmates. It s like a more inventive Call of Duty: a similar sense of military bravado, tempered by your squad s status as expendable clones bred for a war they don t have any control over.
RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER Pandemic Studios
An expansion on the original s strengths with a single standout new feature: space combat between fleets of fighters with seamless transitions from cockpit to combat in the hallways of capital ships. It s also possible to unlock and play as hero characters such as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Darth Vader for a limited time during each match, adding an interesting degree of asymmetry to competitive play. Otherwise, Battlefront II s improvements build upon the foundation laid by the previous game: the AI is better and the freeform Galactic Conquest campaign mode has been revamped with a greater range of strategic options. Battlefront II picked up a dedicated modding and mapping scene on PC, where players would create new multiplayer arenas to simulate various famous battles from the expanded universe. To date, Battlefront II remains Star Wars definitive combat sandbox.
RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER Traveller's Tales
The first of the Lego platformers, a series that would become a genre unto itself: a template that could be applied to almost any suitably beloved childhood movie or book series. At the time, it was a surprise hit: a silly, charming and unpretentious take on a series that was becoming a little self-serious, with a vast number of characters to collect and a generous selection of new levels. Similarly, it marked a highpoint in Star Wars games for children.
RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment
A World of Warcraft-style expansion that both ignored SWG s roots as a player-driven persistent world and introduced a sickly quantity of movie tie-in gunk that the game was previously free of. Collect Anakin Skywalker s starfighter! Win medals! The beginning of the end for Galaxies.
RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment
In which Sir Alec Guinness s glowing ghost sends you to Mustafar just in time for the DVD release of Revenge of the Sith. Also, HK-47 from Knights of the Old Republic shows up in order to remind you that better Star Wars RPGs exist—indeed, Star Wars Galaxies used to be one of them. Standout dumb ideas include the lavasaber .
RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER Obsidian Entertainment
Rather unfinished on release (but subsequently patched up by the community), Knights of the Old Republic II is a fascinating, unorthodox take on Star Wars by Obsidian. Where the original reconstructs Star Wars, this deconstructs it: challenging the Light Side-Dark Side division and with it the core tenets of the Jedi-Sith conflict. In particular, the exiled Jedi Master Kreia offers a perspective on Star Wars—penned by veteran RPG scribe Chris Avellone—that functionally rips apart Lucas s simplistic fiction. The ability to act as a mentor to your Force-sensitive companions and explore a nuanced, morally grey interpretation of the universe is the main draw here, as its interaction with its predecessor s narrative is cursory at best. A rare example of Star Wars fiction that is smarter than it is dramatic.
RELEASED 2006 | DEVELOPER Traveller's Tales
More charming simply for being based on better films, Lego Star Wars II is otherwise a very similar game to its predecessor. In that it s for kids, mostly, but remains enjoyable today for the chunky clattery way that stormtroopers fall apart when you bash them. Brick Vader is adorable too, but not to be confused with Brick Vader from the excellent Snatch Wars YouTube parody.
RELEASED 2006 | DEVELOPER Petroglyph Games
If Galactic Battlegrounds represents the legacy of Age of Empires, then this represents its great 90s RTS rival—Command & Conquer. Empire At War s developer, Petroglyph, was formed out of Westwood veterans and would here produce a deep and beautifully-rendered take on Star Wars strategy. Rather than focusing on resource harvesting, Empire at War took the more setting-appropriate step of basing unit construction on the amount of galactic territory controlled by the player. Battles could take place both planetside and in orbit, with each campaign describing a different course through the period between Episode III and IV. It s far more grounded in the latter, though, featuring detailed renditions of the Empire s most iconic weapons of war. It spawned an active modding scene, too.
RELEASED 2006 | DEVELOPER Petroglyph Games
Rather than stick to the series traditional binary conflict, Forces of Corruption introduces the Zann Consortium as an organised crime syndicate capable of playing both sides against each other. A refreshing break from the traditional prequel trilogy tie-in formula.
RELEASED 2008 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Aspyr Media
This was Star Wars answer to the era of gritty console character action games like God of War—an attempt to win over older fans with a take on the setting that emphasised massive Force destruction and brutal lightsaber kills. A lot of emphasis was placed on the narrative, too—the story of Darth Vader s secret apprentice and his quest to scowl and kill people in every signifi cant location in the Star Wars universe. Its interaction with the movies is clumsy in the extreme, but it s not without drama and the more spectacular moments definitely stick in the mind—particularly bringing down a Star Destroyer using the Force. That said, this is also as over the top and videogamey as Star Wars combat gets—Jedi Academy had almost as much spectacle and far more nuance.
RELEASED 2008 | DEVELOPER Krome Studios
An action-platformer tie-in to the Clone Wars kids TV series that mixes Jedi platforming with Clone Trooper third-person shooting. The Force Unleashed for kids, basically. Lego Star Wars has aged better and has more personality, but this may still appeal if you were 12 in 2009. Or are still 12, for that matter.
RELEASED 2010 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Aspyr Media
Wherein the II stands for two lightsabers . Vader s apprentice returns as a clone of Vader s apprentice in a galaxy-shaking tale of revenge and rebellion that no longer happened thanks to LucasArts excision of the expanded universe. A little too similar to the original game to have the same kind of impact—by this point, man uses Force on spaceship was an old trick.
RELEASED 2010 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment
Shorter-lived than Star Wars Galaxies, Clone Wars Adventures was a free-to-play MMO based on the Clone Wars cartoon. It was a small-scale themepark MMO in the World of Warcraft mould, though far less successful in that regard than The Old Republic would subsequently be. Minigames were used to furnish players with other types of experience, like fl ight, racing, and even tower defence. Clone Wars Adventures was reasonably well-presented, for what it was, but SOE (now Daybreak) ultimately determined that free to play MMOs for kids didn t really work: parents wallets are only so deep, after all, and the cost of keeping the game updated ultimately outstretched its value to the developer. A shame for the game s fans, but likely a victory for their homework.
RELEASED 2011 | DEVELOPER Bioware
The Old Republic, at launch, was a great MMO of the WoW sort and a remarkably complete singleplayer RPG experience, with eight entirely different game-length campaigns. The scope and expense of its production was remarkable, which goes some way to explaining why it suffered once dwindling subscriber numbers necessitated the switch to free-to-play. It s gone a bit themepark-crazy since—particularly the recent Shadow of Revan expansion, which ties into KOTOR I—but it s (mostly) free and much of the writing is genuinely excellent.
RELEASED 2011 | DEVELOPER Traveller's Tales
Another TV tie-in, therefore the Lego Star Wars game that you re likely to have the least connection to. Introduced vehicle levels with an on-foot component, but otherwise highly similar to its predecessors. Almost a decade after the release of Attack of the Clones, the movie finally fades from the landscape of PC Star Wars gaming. It is the dawn of a new era.
RELEASED 2015 | DEVELOPER DICE
Star Wars makes its grand return to the PC a decade after the release of Battlefront II. DICE's rebooted Battlefront has more in common with the simple Battlefront of old than its military shooter Battlefield, but with a slavish attention to Original Trilogy authenticity and graphical detail. Gone are some of Battlefront's staples, however, like the Galactic Conquest and class system. Time will tell if this new Battlefront holds our attention for long, but it sure is pretty.
And that's it! Expect to see many more additions to the Star Wars PC game canon in the coming years. For now, here's everything you need to know about Battlefront and our round-up of our favourite Star Wars games ever.
Star Wars started as cinema and ended up as something else – lots of things, from pillow cases to theme park rides. But chief among them, the form that best captures the core of Star Wars now, is games. The last Star Wars I enjoyed watching was released two years after I was born, in 1983, but since then games have given me dozens of dogfights, blaster battles and lightspeed adventures layered with the nostalgia, hope and acceleration that is essentially Star Wars.