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How do you follow a game like Knights of the Old Republic, the most famous original Star Wars tale a video game has ever told? Forget about Obsidian's sequel for a moment and imagine it was BioWare staring at a piece of paper wondering how to follow a twist like Revan's. Because once upon a time BioWare was - and it came up with an idea.
Yoda. Not the actual Yoda, because canonically he's untouchable, but someone a bit like him; we know so little about Yoda's almost nonexistent species even someone in his likeness would have the same effect: trust. "We felt like Yoda was the ultimate - everyone trusts Yoda," James Ohlen tells me, lead designer of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
James Ohlen was also lead designer of Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, Neverwinter Nights and Dragon Age: Origins, and director of Star Wars: The Old Republic, the online game. These days he's creative director of BioWare Austin, and he's working on Anthem. He's BioWare through and through.
When considering the best Star Wars games for this list, it's clear that the saga has had its ups and downs on PC. During the '90s and early '00s, LucasArts had a lot of hits, particularly with games that were targeted at using a mouse and keyboard or a joystick—these were the days when Star Wars games would launch just on PC, instead of every single console, too. And honestly, based on recent experience, it was a better time for fans of games based on Lucas's iconic films. It's hard to envision EA making a new X-Wing with just PC players in mind, for example.
While a previous version of this list was in a numbered order, here we've revised that so we can fit in more of our favourites. Among this bunch you'll find brilliant dogfighting games, first-person shooters, Jedi duelling and even an RTS. If you're looking for some not-so-good Lucasarts tie-ins, which are still loveable in their own right, check out our list of the worst Star Wars games.
This light tactical FPS is one of the most enjoyable games to come out of the Clone Wars/Revenge of the Sith era, which is mostly remembered for disposable PS2 nonsense like Racer Revenge and Bounty Hunter. While Republic Commando looks a bit rough these days, it's refreshing to see that era of Star Wars executed with the right adult (but not too serious) tone. If the prequels were more like this, you might even have enjoyed them.
After an extremely effective opening sequence where you watch the creation of your clone captain in first person, you're put in control of a squad of clone specialists. You can order them around with simple presses of the F button, prodding them towards highlighted parts of the environment to blow things up, converge on a single enemy, or take control of an area. With decent dialogue and voice acting, too, it's still easy to recommend now.
The neatest touch, which I've heard everyone bring up when discussing this game, is the comical windscreen wipe effect on your helmet that kicks in whenever its gets dirty or damaged.
It wasn't the most radical, in-depth or interesting RTS around back in 2006, but it's nonetheless as close as an official Star Wars game has got to capturing the magic of the saga's space and ground battles (better than Force Commander did, anyway). Petroglyph's Empire At War even has multiplayer again these days, after the developer switched it back on in September.
If one sci-fi multimedia series isn't enough for you, check out Andy's recent feature where he pitted the ships of Star Wars against those of Star Trek in a brilliantly detailed mod, then try it out yourself.
When Rogue Squadron landed on GOG, I played through over half of it in one night. It’s still a brilliant shooter, featuring every Rebel spaceship with their own differences in sound design and feel (except the poor old B-Wing).
In the late '90s I was obsessed with Star Wars games—I think I still have a PC Gamer demo disc containing only Star Wars game demos that I played again and again for about two years—and Rogue Squadron is weirdly one of those titles considered an N64 game before a PC game, even though it came to PC first in North America. I only ever played it on PC, and for someone watching the Star Wars Special Edition VHSs every day in 1999, Rogue Squadron blew me away. That’s partly because of the level of fan service employed in setting some levels in familiar locations (or some you heard in passing, like Kessel) or having the Millennium Falcon turn up halfway through a mission, but also because it’s so simple an arcade shooter that it's aged pretty well.
Rogue Squadron, I suspect, was created to emulate Nintendo's brilliant Star Fox 64, with planets represented as little hubs and most completable in the space of about ten minutes. It's a really easy game to get to grips with in terms of the way each Rebel craft moves, and it was nice counter-programming to the X-Wing series if you weren't always in the mood for a sim experience. The only thing that drove me insane about Rogue Squadron is that its two best levels—and surely a reason to buy the game for most people—were the Death Star trench run and the Battle of Hoth, both of which were hidden bonuses that had to be arduously unlocked by collecting gold medals. They should've been the first missions in the game!
Though Rogue Squadron didn’t have the Battle of Endor (which is okay because X-Wing Alliance did that brilliantly and makes more sense in a sim style), this was a very complete-feeling game for players who particularly love the space and ground battles of Star Wars. It’s got some fun Expanded Universe bits, the Millennium Falcon as an unlockable and even patched in the Naboo Starfighter from Episode I, back when The Phantom Menace was more promising-cool-thing than pop culture atrocity.
I regret that that LucasArts didn’t bring its sequel, the stunning GameCube shooter Rogue Leader, to PC (is it too late for this to happen? Capcom is porting its console back catalogue to PC—no reason LucasArts shouldn’t do it), and it’s sad that Factor 5 is no longer around to create more games in the series. It seems like a waste to let the series die when it’s such a good representation of a major part of Star Wars.
Also recommended—but not good enough to be on this list because there are no X-Wings in it—is the similarly angled Battle For Naboo, which for my money would’ve been a way better addition to GOG than the weaker Star Wars Starfighter. That was the third best Prequel Trilogy game after Racer and Republic Commando. Hopefully it happens someday. Rogue Squadron fans would lap it up, I’m sure, but for now this remains the best you can get on PC.
Knights of the Old Republic's success comes down to a single smart creative decision. By setting their story thousands of years before the events of the films, BioWare neatly removed themselves from the complex and contradictory state of the expanded universe in the early noughties. Given the freedom to do more or less what they wanted, they were able to build a Star Wars RPG that made that galaxy far, far away feel fresh again.
This was an era when Star Wars fiction was frequently tripped up by its addiction to iconic characters and set-pieces. The original Knights of the Old Republic demonstrates that repetition can actually be a good thing if it's sufficiently well executed. The plot is, after all, built from familiar parts—easy-going smugglers and their lifebound wookiee companions, deadly battlestations, young Jedi learning about the Force.
Knights of the Old Republic works because it drills deeper into these ideas than anyone had for a long time, capturing what made those original moments special in the first place. I'm pretty sure that Revan moment was the most surprised I'd been by a Star Wars story since the first time I saw The Empire Strikes back, even though the two reveals are structurally equivalent to each other.
This, incidentally, is the key to understanding the difference between KOTOR and its sequel—the former is an intelligent reconstruction of familiar Star Wars notions, while the latter is an intelligent deconstruction of them. That's perhaps a tangent too far. The point is: this series represents a high point for developers investing serious thought into their Star Wars stories. You should play it for that reason.
Star Wars Galaxies should have been one of the most important MMOs ever made. It had the ambition and the credentials for it—one of Ultima Online's lead designers creating a fully-3D persistent world where everything was driven by players. A ground-to-space simulation of the Star Wars universe with player houses, player cities, player ships, player factions. It's the dream that currently powers Star Citizen, and it almost saw the light of day a decade ago. I'm still a little heartbroken that it didn't. SWG sits near the top of the list of my personal games of all time, and I'm still angry about the way it all panned out.
This was an extraordinary game for roleplayers. The chance to just live in a totally open, totally customisable simulation of the Star Wars universe was an irresistible one, and when it worked, it worked wonderfully. I feel like Roy Batty at the end of Blade Runner saying this, but man—I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. I've played through Star Wars stories that you'll never get a chance to because they only existed because of the power SWG gave its players. I've taken down a rival bounty hunter in a duel in the streets of Bestine. I've flipped an Imperial gunboat upside-down so that the fleeing spy manning the top-mounted railgun can get a clear shot at the A-Wing on our tail.
Star Wars Galaxies was killed by two things: balance problems and its license. The former is something that should have been handled with far more care, and the latter is something that shouldn't have been a problem at all. When the game was conceived, Star Wars was a place—somewhere you could set an MMO. By the time the game matured, Star Wars had become a set of symbols, and the game was ripped apart by the need to cram as many of them into it as possible. Iconic 'theme park' worlds. Collectible movie trinkets. A little button at the start that lets you be a Jedi by clicking a picture of Luke Skywalker. All of this was utterly contrary to the spirit of the game SOE originally set out to make, but it can't take away from how many wonderful experiences I managed to have before it all fell apart.
I think I'm still angry about it, guys. Wait, no. I'm definitely still angry about it.
Jedi Knight 2's lightsaber mechanics are important not only to the history of Star Wars games, but to multiplayer gaming on the PC in general. This was the game that established a passionate, competitive community dedicated to the concept of the one-on-one melee duel. Jedi Academy expanded and improved many of these ideas, but Jedi Outcast was there first. Without it, gaming would be much poorer—Blade Symphony wouldn’t exist, for one thing.
This was the first game to make duels feel like duels—acrobatic contests between two skilled combatants using deadly weapons. Most Star Wars games still get this wrong, treating sabers like regular swords. Jedi Knight 2 made the weapon in your hand feel hot, lethal, precarious. Each contest with Dasaan's dark Jedi was imbued with a sense of danger.
A note of praise, too, for the campaign. Early-noughties Raven shooters were a staple of my adolescence, reliably exciting action-adventures with colourful characters and great set-pieces. Jedi Knight 2 is among their best work, particularly the sense of mounting power it encourages. You start off without a lightsaber, crawling through vents and blasting Stormtroopers a la other Dark Forces games. By the end you're a force of nature, culling whole squads at a time as a blur of Force power and hot blue light. Well worth revisiting.
Knights of the Old Republic 2 is the quintessential Obsidian Entertainment RPG. The successor to a Bioware game, developed at a frenzied pace in only a year and a half, littered with cut content to hit its release date, and at times (like, a lot of times) utterly crippled with bugs. Even playing KotOR 2 years after its initial release, with a forum-brewed concoction of bug fixes and content-restoration patches, it's quite possibly the buggiest game I've ever completed. And yet it's brilliant, in spite of all those issues.
Here's Knights of the Old Republic 2's dirty little secret: it's not very good at being Star Wars. At least, not the classical film Star Wars of unambiguous heroes and villains, where the light side of the Force is always right. Lead designer Chris Avellone took Star Wars to the darkest place it's ever been. The Jedi are imperfect. The Sith are nuanced—manipulative, intimidating, but obviously scarred and broken in human ways that led to their downfall. Your mentor Kreia spends much of the game criticizing the Jedi, and she always speaks about the Force in shades of gray. Knights of the Old Republic 2 is the rare Star Wars game—really the rare video game, in general—that will show bad things happening to characters even when you try to help them.
Kreia is the key to KotOR 2's greatness, a character who is clearly haunted, bitter, manipulative, and yet right in so many ways. Avellone and the rest of Obsidian reexamined Lucas's galaxy through the lens of Kreia's ideology, and it's probably the most thoughtful take on Star Wars we'll ever get.
Even when bugs stopped me from progressing, when save files refused to load, when the ageing battle system left me frustrated, I had to push on to read just one more line of dialogue. It's simply the best Star Wars story ever written, buried in a game that only works right about half the time.
Jedi Academy grants you far more freedom than its predecessors. There's a bit of BioWare to the way you pick between different identities for your character at the start, the way you move through the campaign by choosing missions from a list of options, the way your alignment to the light or dark sides hangs off a mixture of large and small decisions.
Starting you with a lightsaber from the get-go, this game is all about mastering a combat system with a remarkably high skill ceiling. There are multiple types of saber, including Darth Maul-style double-sabers, dual sabers, and increased depth for single-saber fighting. It's a little messier than Jedi Outcast as a consequence, but far more stylish. I played this game to competition dozens of times between 2003 and 2005 because it felt so good to carve new paths through each level. I treated it as an opportunity to direct my own Star Wars movie, each run of moves just as important for their aesthetic value as their combat effectiveness.
Despite the aging engine it still holds up remarkably well—landing a heavy blow after a wall-run feels amazing even now. I can't believe it's twelve years old, and it's even stranger that the series ended here. No Star Wars game has done lightsabers this well since. It's crazy, when you think about it—fourteen years since the last time a developer rendered the series' most famous weapon in an interesting way. People who were born the month Jedi Academy came out are now almost too old to train as Jedi! If Jedi were real. I understand that they are not.
Old Battlefront 2 is a bit of a mess. But what a joyous, silly, damn fun mess of a game it was. Where most Star Wars games cast you as a Jedi or a heroic pilot, Battlefront and Battlefront 2 finally had the good sense to make you just another trooper on the ground, a lowly Stormtrooper or rebel soldier with a good old fashioned blaster at your side. There's something sublime about that: Battlefront is the rare chance to feel like you’re playing inside the Star Wars universe, rather than carving out a new destiny.
It plays like a goofier Battlefield, with floaty jump physics and battles that were more chaos than calculated strategy. AI enemies are nothing but stupid cannon fodder, and yet they’re so satisfying to mow down in droves. It’s hard not to love a Star Wars game that unabashedly gives you every toy you could ever want to play with. Sure, jump in an AT-ST! Sure, play as a wookie with a bowcaster! Sure, ride a tauntaun across the surface of Hoth. Oh, you want to be a wampa? Yeah, hell, why not.
Battlefront 2 added hero characters to the original game, and sure, they’re crazy unbalanced. But who doesn’t want to Force-sprint across a map as Obi-wan Kenobi and slice up a bunch of droid troopers? How could you say no to landing a fighter inside an Imperial Star Destroyer, fighting your way through its corridors, and destroying it from the inside? Battlefront 2 is the most unabashedly video gamey Star Wars game of them all. Revel in its silliness.
In every possible way, TIE Fighter was a space jockey's dream. It took the formula established by X-Wing and polished it to a perfect shine with glorious graphics and audio, an exciting variety of ships, and a multi-layered narrative wrapped in an overload of Star Wars bombast. You even got to fly with Darth Vader himself!
But its real genius—the element that transformed it from a great starfighter sim to an unforgettable Star Wars experience—was the way it convincingly turned one of sci-fi's most famously evil empires into a force for good. By portraying the Galactic Empire as a bulwark of peace, order, and good government standing fast against a band of violent, lawless terrorists—and playing it completely straight—it pulled me in: I was blowing Rebel ships into radioactive space dust, and I was the hero. Sure, there was some shadiness going on around the edges, but the greater good was always served.
The instructions came in the form of a pseudo-novella entitled The Stele Chronicles that humanized not only the lead character, young Maarek Stele, but also many others, like his friend Pargo, who signs up to be a stormtrooper, and the fatherly admiral who guides him through the early stages of his career as a pilot. The strategy guide took it even further, painting a picture of Imperial life as one of camaraderie, heroism, practical jokes, and, sometimes, emotionally-wrenching losses. I wasn't fighting for the Empire simply because the game forced me down that path—I was doing it because I wanted to. It was the right thing to do. And I loved it.
While it wisely didn't try to ape the events of the movies beat by beat, the first LucasArts Star Wars game was still filled with enough familiar sights, sounds, and details to make you feel thoroughly connected to the fiction. It was exciting to do the stuff the characters yelled about in the movies, like diverting power to the shields and weapons, not to mention activating the hyperdrive at the end of every mission. You got to dock (in cutscenes) with familiar ships like the Mon Calamari Star Cruiser, and were able to fly A-Wings and Y-Wings, which never got much screen time in the films (though, honestly, I really only ever wanted to fly an X-Wing).
While you couldn't look around with the mouse, there were tons of different cockpit views to toggle, including one where you could look back at your trusty R2 unit. Hang on back there! Between missions you "walked" around (doors would slide open when you moused over them) and got mission briefings from the same weird old guy that prepped the pilots who took on the Death Star. It all went a long way toward making me feel like a real rebel pilot engaged in a campaign against the Empire.
At the time, the iMuse (interactive music) system had only been used in adventure games, but it was put to stellar (ha) use in X-Wing. Events such as the arrival of enemies and allies were coupled with dynamic musical cues, giving the soundtrack a real cinematic feel. X-Wing's sequel, TIE Fighter, may ultimately have been the superior game, with a better campaign and more interesting story (and that blessed ‘match target speed’ key) but at the time, X-Wing gave me exactly what I was looking for: a blend of exciting arcade shooting and enough fiddly flight simulator options to cover a keyboard.
— Chris Livingston
Episode 1: Racer was the first racing game I ever played that felt fast. I mean truly fast. As in, if you lose focus for too long, your mindset quickly deteriorates into “Oh my god oh my god oh my god, don’t crash, turn faster, oh god what’s happening” before you hit one too many walls, lose an engine, and drift slowly to an explosive stop. The glorious thing about that level of speed is it emulates exactly how I imagine podracing would feel. To me, podracing is on the very short list of good things that came from the Star Wars prequels—along with Darth Maul, Jango Fett, and this moment—so for the game version to get it so right was pure ecstasy.
Racer didn’t just stop at the speed—it gave you complete control over your pod. You could overheat your engines to boost, push your nose forward to gain speed midair, tilt your pod sideways to make it through small gaps—or attempt to and crash into the wall anyway as I often did—and sacrifice speed to repair an engine mid race. Basically anything you saw Anakin do in the movie, you could do to your pod during a race, but without having to eventually become a Sith lord. Racer gave you all of the detail of the film without the burden of its storyline, instead placing you in the shoes of a generic racer working your way up the ranks of the podracing circuit.
Spare parts, upgrades, and even pit droids were all available to buy for any of the 23 possible pods you could unlock. Racer had an immense and, frankly, surprising amount of customizability and detail for a licensed game, especially one based entirely on a 15 minute scene from the movie. But LucasArts managed to incorporate every single thing from that scene to make podracing feel like podracing. It feels fast, dangerous, and fun as hell. The music matches the intensity of the races, and each new track is like exploring a different piece of the Star Wars universe.
Even since Episode 1: Racer’s release in 1999, few racing games have matched the amount of depth and speed it offered. Sure, other games let you unlock new cars to customize, but going around a track doesn’t offer the same adventure as dodging rocks on Tatooine, and cars can’t go nearly as fast. Whenever I think fondly back on Racer, I remember the speed first and foremost. I remember how awesome it was to finally unlock that racer who had beaten me a dozen times, and how dangerous it felt to be racing at all. And I remember how glad I am that they made the prequel trilogy, if for no other reason than this game came out of it.
— Tom Marks
Before I ever played Dark Forces, I remember reading the gorgeously illustrated, captivating Dark Forces: Soldier For the Empire, in which Imperial-turned-hero Kyle Katarn infiltrates the Death Star to steal the battle station's schematics. This was a revelation to ten-year-old me: that a new story could tie into the events of the Star Wars films, with a character who felt vital to this universe.
When I found out Katarn was the star of Dark Forces, well, I naturally had to play it. That story is the real legacy of Dark Forces: it spawned the Jedi Knight series and its own cast of characters that weaved in and out of the films and the rest of the (now noncanonical) Expanded Universe. Dark Forces helped prove that there were compelling stories to tell outside the films in Lucas' galaxy far, far away. And it let you shoot a ton of Stormtroopers in 3D, which was way novel in 1995.
— Wes Fenlon
It sounds weird, but being able to jump, crouch, look up and down, and walk around in multi-level maps was pretty exciting at the time, and it helped Dark Forces feel less like the Doom clone it easily could have been. The main appeal for me, though, was that instead of shooting a bunch of demons and monsters I'd never met before, I got to shoot Star Wars men I'd been familiar with for years.
Stormtroopers, Imperial officers, probe droids, Gamorrean guards... we got to have blaster battles with all of them, a dream come true for fans of first-person shooters and Star Wars. We even got to fight Boba Fett, who was waaaaay OP, by the way. He'd dodge around in the air like a hummingbird on cocaine, soaking up damage and flinging an inexhaustible supply of missiles in your face. We weren't ready for that. We were expecting the dumb, lame Boba Fett from the films, the moron who deliberately landed right next to a dude holding a glowing laser sword and attempted to shoot him from six inches away. The Boba Fett who was defeated by a pat on the back. That guy.
— Chris Livingston
I love the hell out of this game and its sprawling, often confusing levels and lovely-feeling guns. My dad got stuck in the sewer level with all the dianogas for ten years. In some ways, he never really left it.
Okay, sure, Dark Forces, TIE Fighter, blah blah. We know they're great. But the greatest Star Wars game is obviously Star Wars Screen Entertainment, a 1994 "CD-ROM including different A New Hope-thematic options to use as screen savers."
The thrilling screensaver options included an infinite opening text scroll (with customizable text!!), a (likely poorly animated) Death Star trench run, and a bunch of Jawas being annoying. There were also glacially paced space battles. What's not to love?
If you want to own the greatest Star Wars interactive media product of all time, you can find a used copy on Amazon for the bargain price of $1.95. It will almost certainly not work on any computer made after the year 2000.
Come on, Wes, we all know Yoda Stories is the secret best.
There are more wonderful games being released on PC each month than ever before. In such a time of plenty, it’s important that you spend your time as wisely as possible. Thankfully, we’re here to help. What follows are our picks for the best PC games ever made. (more…)
I’ve recently started playing with a new Dungeons & Dragons group, drafted in after one of their numbers upped and left town. It’s my second time playing table-top D&D, after a splendid stint a couple of years back with Jim Rossignol (late of this parish) DMing, and it’s a properly good time. And what I’ve learned is that it becomes a much better time the more flaws you introduce to your character. Which got me thinking: wow, do PC RPGs not follow that rule at all.
Kickstarter’s been pretty good for RPGs. We may not have seen the next big leap yet – Divinity: Original Sin 2 is looking pretty damn special, mind – but it’s certainly breathed new life into the classics. Wasteland and Pillars of Eternity are both returning. Numenera went down well, despite a little over-promising. Divinity was superb.
Have I left anyone out?
(Oh yeah, don’t forget Taz.)
Oh. Yes. Tyranny. If you thought that game kinda landed and faded quickly, you’re not alone. Despite being a very solid half of a game, even Obsidian/Paradox have admitted that when it came to it, “everyone was hoping that it would do better.” I think it deserved to. The thing is, I’m not sure this should have been a huge surprise.
Update: Kotaku's Jason Schreier has now entered the fray with a KOTOR counter-rumor, stating that his understanding is that BioWare Austin "played around" with a new KOTOR prototype, but "it hasn't been greenlit and is not currently in development." He believes that the bulk of the Austin studio is actually working on the company's new IP, which Robertson also touched on in a Patreon post, that's expected to be revealed at E3.
Robertson now thinks that he "misheard some of the Austin stuff," and thus "may have misspoke about it," he told the site. "There’s also the element that I had no notes in front of me and just sort of rambled on from memory. I did not expect these few select statements to blow up (oops). I’m used to having the opportunity to just release follow-up notices on the Patreon with any updates and corrections. My bad there."
"Let me clarify that I don’t think KOTOR’s a current project. From the same people I learned about Dylan from, I did hear that they prototyped a KOTOR revival at Austin a while back. I believe it may have evolved into something else since then or fizzled out since then. I’m still confident Austin is doing something Star Wars related though and I’m confident in that."
That's quite a turnaround from stating unambiguously that "BioWare Austin is working on Knights of the Old Republic... something," and I should probably emphasize—again—that all of this is entirely unsubstantiated and subject to change, and may even be completely wrong. Such is the nature of rumors.
Here's a rumor, courtesy of industry insider guy Liam Robertson, that BioWare Austin, which was originally created to develop the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, is now in the early stages of work on a new Knights of the Old Republic game. Robertson revealed the info, based on his anonymous sources, as part of his Patreon-exclusive podcast last week, the good bits of which were then shared with the rest of us by The Star Wars Game Outpost.
“I’ve learned now that [BioWare Austin is] pretty much now exclusively working on Star Wars games and they’re going to be doing that for the indefinite future,” he said. “What they’re currently working on right now—and I have this on good authority—is a sort of remake/revival of Knights of the Old Republic. I don’t know when this is set to come out, but it has been in development for a little while now.”
The game apparently began as a remake of KOTOR but has now evolved into its own thing, although what exactly that "thing" will ultimately be isn't nailed down yet. Roberston described the project as "sort of like wiping the slate clean," in order to embrace the new Star Wars canon.
“I don’t really know how that game will end up,” he said. “I’ve heard that it isn’t exactly a remake anymore, but it started as a remake/revival. Now it’s kind of going from that blueprint in sort of its own original thing. I guess we’ll see what that turns out to be, but they are prototyping it right now.”
It's a thin rumor, definitely, but even so it seems like a pretty good bet. EA now has exclusive rights to Star Wars videogames, a license it no doubt wants to utilize as much as possible—and what better way to flex that muscle than with a new KOTOR? Let us also remember that Drew Karpyshyn, the senior writer on the original KOTOR, left BioWare in 2012 but returned in 2015. What's he up to these days?
Karpyshyn said in a separate tweet that despite being back at BioWare for well over a year, he did not work on Mass Effect: Andromeda. Interesting, no?
The following article contains plot details for Star Wars: Rogue One.
This is a strange time to be a Star Wars fan, particularly if you were a devotee of the books, games and comics that sustained the series in the mid-1990s. When Disney axed the Expanded Universe back in 2014, it felt like the final spasm in a prolonged death that had begun with The Phantom Menace fifteen years prior. The EU was allowed to inform small aspects of this new Star Wars, but throughout the noughties its influence sharply waned. The prequels represented the triumph of LucasFilm's merchandising arm over its story group. How could a Disney-led reboot be any different?
Yet here we are. Rogue One is a tonal u-turn for Star Wars, a return to the look and feel of the old Expanded Universe if not its specific plot beats. We're back to a Star Wars that feels like a lived-in universe rather than a greenscreened backdrop. Indeed, the movie's planet-hopping opening act has far more in common with the old novels and games than it does with the other films, which tend to lock in on one or two key locations for their duration.
There's loads to be said about the influence of the Expanded Universe on Rogue One, and this extends to games too. If you lament the fact that they no longer make Star Wars games like Dark Forces and Knights of the Old Republic, then it's strangely comforting to see them paid tribute in the biggest Star Wars event of the year. It's no coincidence, either: former PC Gamer editor Gary Whitta has a story credit on the movie, and he was chief of our US edition the year that Dark Forces came out. This is a movie by people who are aware of Star Wars' long relationship with PC gaming, and it shows.
In Dark Forces, the Death Star plans are stolen by Rebel spies Jan Ors and Kyle Katarn. They have a substantially easier time of it than their Rogue One counterparts do, in part because they live in a Doom-inspired maze-world where everybody runs at 20 miles per hour and Stormtroopers can't really look up.They're very different characters, for the most part, though 'Jyn Erso' and 'Jan Ors' use enough of the same letters to raise an eyebrow. Kyle and Cassian's fates are very different, but if we ignore Katarn's later Jedi adventures then their presentation isn't actually that different: they're both fringe operatives who work with a single partner, travelling the galaxy undertaking independent missions in a compact starship.
Late in Rogue One, when Jyn and Cassian have shed their Imperial disguises and are climbing the data archive, its worth paying attention to their costumes. Jyn's gear echoes Jan anyway, and sans jacket Cassian's khaki undershirt has a strong Kyle Katarn vibe. He's just missing the ginger beard.
This is a little bit more of a stretch, but Orson Krennic's elite Deathtroopers have a shade of Dark Forces' Darktroopers about them—the latter are droids, but the garbled mechanical speech of Rogue One's black-clad troopers gives them a mechanical vibe even if there are people underneath those uniforms.Darktrooper-inspired Imperial security droids also appeared in a recent episode of Star Wars: Rebels.
Your first act in Knights of the Old Republic was to escape from the Endar Spire, a Republic starship with an unusual profile. The design proved popular, appearing in the wider Knights of the Old Republic backmatter as well as in Star Wars: The Old Republic. 4,000 years later, an updated version joined the Alliance in Star Wars: Rebels.
The Hammerhead gets a huge hero moment in Rogue One, swinging the space battle above Scarif for the Rebellion in one of the most daring acts of self sacrifice since Arvel Crynyd crashed his A-Wing into Vader's Super Star Destroyer and wiped out a starship the size of a megacity. I guess now you know why it's called a 'Hammerhead' in a universe that doesn't have sharks.
Think about that for a second: a ship designed by BioWare not only appeared in a Star Wars movie, it made a star turn. We might not get Knights of the Old Republic 3, but we did get that.
In Rogue One, General Antoc Merrick is the X-Wing pilot who leads Blue Squadron in the battle over Scarif. In 1993's Star Wars: Rebel Assault, Merrick Sims is a veteran Rebel pilot who teaches you the ropes in this (ropey) rail shooter. Later in the game, Merrick and the player participate in the Battle of Yavin... as Blue Squadron.
That can't be a coincidence, can it? It's an incredibly niche reference, but I guess if you were ever going to pay tribute to this most '90s of Star Wars CD-ROM games then now would be the time to do it. It's just surprising that they didn't pay homage to X-Wing, which came out the same year and is a million times better. If he'd been called 'General Farlander', I'd have wet myself. And rightly been kicked out of the cinema.
Star Wars. Now that I've got your attention, you can get 14 Star Wars games on Steam right now for as little as $29.99. That's a 77 percent discount: normally the Star Wars Collection, which compiles a list of retro and not-so-retro videogame adaptations of the series, costs a whopping $100.
I haven't played all of the many Star Wars games out there, but there are some really good titles in that bunch. Dark Forces is a solid '90s FPS, as is its sequel, and Knights of the Old Republic endures as one of BioWare's best RPGs.
If you're looking for older stuff, the Star Wars Classics Collection is available for $16, down from its usual $40 going price. That one includes Tie Fighter and X-Wing, both of which are worth a play, even now.
If you still need convincing, we put together a list of the best Star Wars games on PC – most of which are available in these bundles.
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.