PC Gamer

This article was originally published in PC Gamer issue 279. For more quality articles about all things PC gaming, you can subscribe now in the UK and the US.

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.

1988—Star Wars

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.

1988—Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

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.

1993—Star Wars: Rebel Assault

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.

1993—Star Wars: X-Wing

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.

1994—Star Wars: TIE Fighter

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.

1995—Star Wars: Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire

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.

1995—Star Wars: Dark Forces

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.

1997—Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter

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.

1997—Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II

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.

1997—Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire

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.

1997—Star Wars: Yoda Stories

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.

1998—Star Wars: Supremacy

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 .

1998—Star Wars: Rogue Squadron

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.

1998—Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith

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.

1998—Star Wars Millennium Falcon CD-ROM Playset

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.

1999—Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance

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.

1999—Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

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.

1999—Star Wars Episode I: Racer

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.

2000—Star Wars: Force Commander

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 .

2001—Star Wars: Starfighter

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.

2001—Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo

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.

2001—Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds

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.

Next we move towards 2003, an amazing year for Star Wars games.

2002—Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds Clone Campaigns

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.

2002—Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

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.

2003—Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

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.

2003—Star Wars Galaxies

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.

2003—Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

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.

2004—Star Wars: Battlefront

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.

2004—Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed

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.

Next up, 2005-2011, in which we witness the entropic demise of Star Wars in videogames. There are still some gems to celebrate, mind.

2005—Star Wars: Republic Commando

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.

2005—Star Wars: Battlefront II

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.

2005—Lego Star Wars: The Video Game

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.

2005—Star Wars Galaxies: Episode III Rage of the Wookies

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.

2005—Star Wars Galaxies: Trials of Obi-Wan

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 .

2005—Star Wars: KOTOR II - The Sith Lords

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.

2006—Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy

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.

2006—Star Wars: Empire at War

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.

2006—Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption

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.

2008—Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

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.

2008—Star Wars: The Clone Wars—Republic Heroes

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.

2010—Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

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.

2010—Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures

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.

2011—Star Wars: The Old Republic

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.

2011—Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars

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.

And that's it! Until 2015, when the new film and DICE's Star Wars Battlefront will surely bring Star Wars back in a big way. 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.

PC Gamer
This article was originally published on August 25, 2014, but to celebrate BioWare's 20th anniversary we're reminiscing again about the characters we love (and don't). Warning! The following article contains MASSIVE SPOILERS for the Mass Effect, Baldur's Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, and Dragon Age series.
We've been reminiscing about our favourite, and least favourite, BioWare companions. Interesting buddies, and sometimes enemies, have been a staple of BioWare games since Baldur's Gate, and the studio is famous for creating people you actually care about. So I decided to ask the entire PC Gamer team who among the vast pantheon of BioWare NPCs they hate, and who they love. Some of the answers may surprise you. Especially Chris Thursten's.

Andy Kelly

Loves...

Minsc (Baldur's Gate)

One of BioWare's most beloved characters, Minsc is a massive, tattooed ranger who wields a two-handed sword and travels with his faithful companion, Boo, who he says is a 'miniature giant space hamster'—but is probably just a regular hamster. Minsc typifies that anarchic sense of humour that pervaded the Baldur's Gate games, and his eccentric battle cries ( Go for the eyes, Boo! GO FOR THE EYES! ) are the stuff of RPG legend.

It wasn't until Baldur's Gate II, when BioWare realised just how much fans loved him, that his character was given more dialogue and depth. He became more sympathetic after the cruel death of his partner, Dynaheir, at the hands of evil sorcer Irenicus. Minsc is not as rich or nuanced as many of BioWare's more recent creations, but he makes up for it with sheer personality.

Hates...

Tali (Mass Effect)

People love Tali, and I don't know why. She's just so goddamn earnest, telling endless, boring stories about the her pilgrimage, droning on and on about quarian tradition and how hard life on the flotilla is. The only interesting thing about her character is that she wears a mask, and even that's just a cheap way of making her seem mysterious.

I genuinely cared about the majority of the cast in Mass Effect, but I avoided Tali at every opportunity. She has a loyal following, including former PC Gamer writer Rich McCormick, who replayed 25 hours of Mass Effect 3 just to prevent her death, but I really don't understand the love for her. One of the dullest characters in BioWare history.

Chris Thursten

Loves...

Ashley Williams (Mass Effect)

I know, I know. Ashley the space racist. Ashley who only survived Mass Effect 1 because she's not as boring as Kaidan. I've heard every argument against Ash in the last couple of years - often the same argument, over and over - but she's still one of my favourite BioWare characters. She's a rare example of a love interest for a male protagonist that doesn't really need anything from him. Ashley's background is defined by stable, positive relationships - with her sisters, her parents, her religion.

Her motivating crisis is a smear on her family name that she's had to struggle with to get where she is in the Alliance military, a struggle that she's already largely overcome by the time she meets Shepard. It's a sore spot, but also a point of pride. In a series largely defined by people that Shepard 'fixes', Ashley demands to be understood on her own terms. I respect that. As for the space racism: well, yeah, she says some unfortunate things. But it's not who the character is. If you bring her with you when you encounter the Terra Firma rally on the Citadel, she'll angrily condemn their leader for using political pragmatism to disguise the racist element of his party. People tend to forget that about her.

Hates...

Sebastian Vael (Dragon Age)

I struggled with this one, because there aren't really any BioWare characters I truly don't like. Jacob Taylor is boring, yeah, but his arc pays off in Mass Effect 3. I'm a bit tired of the 'quirky little sister' template (Imoen, Tali, Merrill) but all of those characters have their moments. So I'm picking Sebastian, the launch-day DLC character for Dragon Age II who more or less totally fails to get on with any of the other characters in the game. Despite its faults, DA II portrays its companions as a diverse but closely-knit circle of friends: a revolutionary cell that grows out of natural affections and affiliations.

Sebastian, the Chantry-dwelling, revenge-chasing former dilettante doesn't fit into that family. He's too posh to slum it with Varric or Isabela, too straight-laced to indulge in the anger that motivates Anders or Fenris. He shows a bit of fire in the game's final act, but by that point I was too invested in

literally everybody else

to side with him. He's that guy you see in the hallway at work that you have nothing in common with but you feel obligated to talk to anyway; he's your friend's boring boyfriend from university; he's the person you invite to your house party while secretly hoping that they don't show up.

Tom Senior

Loves...

Alistair (Dragon Age)

Dragon Age is a very serious game. You're juggling issues of lineage that'll decide the fate of the entire realm with the threat of impending genocide at the hands of an ancient evil. A little laughter goes a long way, and Alistair shines as the self-aware bastard contender for the throne. A great comic vocal performance and a bottomless bucket of quips instantly earned him a permanent role in my party, but his capacity of sudden seriousness gave him an interesting edge. At heart he's a nervous hero forced into a position of remarkable pressure, which makes him enormously sympathetic, especially in the final act when the kingship is decided.

The kicker is that he's probably not good King material. I ended up accidentally exiling him from the kingdom while attempting to put someone more decisive in place. The fact that I still feel bad about that shows how much I came to like the poor man. I hope he's running a thriving tavern somewhere, entertaining his regulars with some of the finest one-liners in Ferelden.

Hates...

Samara (Mass Effect)

Samara has a fascinating backstory. She's been hunting one of her three vampire daughters across the universe for hundreds of years, and now enforces the pious rules of her order with lethal force. This is great for driving plot, especially when her laws clash with the local customs of the planet you're exploring, but her personality has been entirely subsumed by the code.

Her outlook and actions are bound to a list of rules that she can never break, and she'll tell you that relentlessly during your observation deck chats during Mass Effect 2. She's a boring space paladin. You're interacting with dogma, rather than a person, which means there can be no evolution to your friendship with her. She could kill a dozen enemies in seconds with her mind, but ended up leaving her to her cross-legged meditation in the observation bay. I think we both preferred it that way.

Samuel Roberts

Loves...

Varric (Dragon Age)

Varric wins out for me because he's the closest your main character gets to an actual best buddy in a BioWare title (other than maybe Garrus in Mass Effect). He's just good to have around, and also has the interesting distinction of being one of Dragon Age II's narrators, so his perception of Hawke is oddly important to me as a player. I love that he frequently refers to his crossbow, Bianca, in third person a la Jayne's gun Vera in Firefly (but slightly less silly), and that he's technically spent years in Kirkwall's pub, The Hanged Man, by the end of Dragon Age II.

Controversially, I think Dragon Age II might have my favourite set of companions—or possibly tying with Mass Effect 2. I must point out, though, that picking one BioWare companion I love is nearly impossible. I have a list of twelve names here that I'll spare you from, but the thought of Varric being around again in Inquisition is pretty exciting to me.

Hates...

James Vega (Mass Effect)

James Vega is an easy target for least likeable BioWare companion he's not that bad, and I wouldn't say I hate him by any stretch. I think it's because I got it into my head that he was a cipher for Call of Duty players picking up Mass Effect for the first time with the third instalment, and couldn't handle sci-fi unless they had a way in via standard soldier guy.

That was a bit too harsh, and I think Freddie Prinze Jr does a fine job with the character's performance, but aside from beating him up in the shuttle bay of the Normandy, I can't recall enjoying his company that much. I just don't need someone being that grumpy on my Normandy. I would have put up a sign, politely asking that anybody trying to brood sexily on my ship has to get off at the next civilised star port. I've been saving the party sequence from the DLC Mass Effect 3: Citadel until I'm finally ready to say goodbye to Mass Effect, and I'm told Vega's attendance is mandatory. Aww.

Phil Savage

Loves...

Garrus (Mass Effect)

Characters my character has loved in BioWare games: Aerie, L'iara, Thane and Alistair. But the character

I

loved was never a romantic possibly. Well, technically he was in Mass Effect 3. What I mean to say is that he was never a romantic possibility for

my

Shepard. Like Sam with DA2's Varric, Garrus filled the role of best pal. By Mass Effect 2, he's reinvented himself in Shepard's image, and that leads to a common understanding between the two. He's got his shit together, even when he hasn't.

Many have criticised Mass Effect 3's actual ending. The truth is it was a game filled with endings, and many of them were note perfect. Garrus's ending takes place before the final battle, shooting cans with Shepard at the top of the Citadel's Presidium. It's a scene laced with humour, rivalry, sadness and, yes, friendship. The best way to remember BioWare's best companion.

Hates...

Khalid (Baldur's Gate)

Poor Khalid. You didn't really deserve to die every time I played Baldur's Gate. You were, I guess, fine. Adequate. Non-offensively present. My disdain for your life is really down to the way the first BG handled party members. Many of them were paired up—their inseparable buddy being a requirement to them joining your adventure.

If you wanted Jaheira, you had to take Khalid, and, in a game filled with interesting characters and variables, I really didn't want to waste one of my five companion slots on the cowardly complaining of an effete fighter. And so you were sent to your certain death; one of the few ways you could part these pairings without pissing their partner off. It was an inelegant solution, but a necessary one. BioWare, it seems, agreed, and in Baldur's Gate 2 they removed such dependencies. They, like me, killed Khalid off.

Ben Griffin

Loves...

Thane Krios (Mass Effect)

Everything about Thane is fascinating. He's a Drell, a reptilian species rescued from their dying planet by the Hanar. Unfortunately Drell aren't suited to their new world's humidity, and many develop a respiratory disease called Kepral's Syndrome. Thane has it, and he agrees to Shepard's suicide mission as a gesture of penance. He's an assassin, you see, and thanks to his photographic memory—an adaptation to an environment where Drell must remember the location of resources across vast distances—Thane involuntarily relives his kills in vivid detail.

This weighs heavily on his conscience, and it's not unusual to catch him praying in his private quarters. I never feel more badass than rocking up to the Citadel with Thane. I remember him once commenting on the 14 flaws in C-Sec security that a skilled assassin could exploit, and how eight of them were there ten years ago.

Hates...

Kaiden Alenko

Who? Ohhh yeah, that guy. That's the reaction Kaidan Alenko usually garners, for me the only forgettable companion in the Mass Effect games. Just look at his boring face. In a galaxy featuring psychic purple jellies, bright blue seductresses, and monotone elephant men, here's this...dude. His backstory is dull—a biotic born into a military family—and his conversations with the captain are unremarkable. I guess he's just too similar to male Shepard, his role already served.

I play Mass Effect to interact with strange new beings, not hobnob with brown-haired white guys. Literally everyone I work with is a brown-haired white guy. In the first Mass Effect he shares an interesting conflict with Ashley, her a pro-human xenophobe and him an equal rights advocate, and as Shepard you can persuade him to be either less or more sympathetic to alien races. It's an important subject to explore, but Kaiden feels superfluous to it. Ashley gets the job done.

Tim Clark

Loves...

Liara T'Soni (Mass Effect)

Lovely Liara. It's testament to the skill of BioWare's writers that she isn't reduced to just being the drippy, peace-loving, science-y one. I mean, she's all those things, but she's also more complex. Old by human standards, but a child in terms of Asari lifespan, she's naive and hopeful, but at the same time proud of her people and conflicted about her relationship with her mother.

She wants the best for the universe but fears the worst. I ended up taking Liara on most missions, partly because I liked having an all-girl Charlies Angels-style squad, but also because her enthusiasm and curiosity invariably added nuance and emotion to the plot lines that was otherwise lost with the more workaday companions. Her arc, leading up the excellent Lair Of The Shadow Broker DLC, is also some of the most interesting stuff in the series. Damnit, Liara, it was always you. You made me want to be a better Shepard.

Hates...

Thane Krios (Mass Effect)

Look, I wouldn't say I hate Thane pity, maybe it's more that I can't think about him without feeling the intense embarrassment that only comes with a truly disastrous one-night stand. After Liara was sidelined for Mass Effect 2 my Fem Shep couldn't be expected to live like a space nun, could she? So, reasoning that she was an experimental girl of the galaxy, I decided to bunk up with Thane. Largely to cheer him up because, hoo boy, badass assassins have rarely been more depressing.

Whether it's moping over his dead wife, praying for forgiveness after whacking some schmuck, or musing on what a terrible dad he is, Thane is just a big green cloud of glum. (Bonus bad times: he's also slowly dying of Kepral's Syndrome, the specifics of which I forget and have no desire to Google.) After the sex he's awkwardly grateful. Which, honestly, is a sure sign you've made a terrible romantic mistake. Ugh.

Evan Lahti

Loves...

HK-47 (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)

For all the well-rounded, nonarchetypal, and sensitive characters BioWare has thrown at us, I delight in the silliest, most murderous, and one-dimensional partner they've written. HK-47 is more bloodthirsty than Jack or fellow assassin Thane, and most reliable source of bad advice in BioWare games.

He's essentially a bad-ass, malicious one-liner dispenser ("Observation: We can begin by slaughtering the inhabitants of this building, master. Would that be impressive?"), but he also shows us a dark side of droids not seen in the Star Wars I grew up with--compared to the placative C-3PO, HK-47 shows zero concern for the needs of humans. The Star Wars wiki is a fine source of HK-47

quotes

, most of them containing meatbag as a perjorative.

Hates...

Miranda Lawson (Mass Effect)

Miranda is the closest to furniture that a BioWare character has ever been. What do we remember about her, other than her skintight bodysuit and the way Mass Effect 2's camera suggestively frames her hips? Her loyalty missions were among the least interesting, and her fluctuating relationship with Cerberus, which could've been a great opportunity for genuine betrayal in the series, never made me feel uneasy.

Tyler Wilde

Loves...

Mordin Solus (Mass Effect)

Mordin is great for the following reasons: One, he's a scientist, and science is neat. Two, he blinks upwards. Three, he speaks in sentence fragments, and it is a proven fact that omitting pronouns is super endearing. Four, he is the very model of a scientist salarian. Five, he gives practical sex advice and totally doesn't judge. Six, he has a cool thing around his neck.

My cynical side says Mordin was designed to be quoted by fans more than be an interesting character, but he's a very interesting character. His practical, logical morality is a bit Data-like, but unlike The Enterprise's android, he's emotional. He's just so sure of his pragmatism that he can stay upbeat despite the weight of his actions—and then he's not. It breaks my heart when he yells I made a mistake! in Mass Effect 3. Even if he was still talking about variables and potential outcomes, there's regret and hope there, too.

Hates...

Jack (Mass Effect)

Jack has lived a ridiculously shitty life. She's been experimented on, tortured, and used—and tragically, all that abuse turned her into a boring character who sucks. She's that garden variety violent psychopath who's always wiping something off her lip with the back of her hand (saliva? blood?) after saying shit. She's mad, and she should be, but her conflict with Shepard isn't interesting. It's just—she's mad. She's really mad, and that's about it.

Her grisly past means she doesn't have any interesting space culture to talk about, either—it's just a story about how Cerberus is bad and we shouldn't like them. That insane chest belt costume from Mass Effect 2 didn't help, either, and neither did the equally-stupid Biker Mice From Mars-inspired look in Mass Effect 3.

Cory Banks

Loves...

Aveline (Dragon Age)

For most of my time in Kirkwall (after a long absence, I'm only just now finishing the game), Guard Captain Aveline was merely an interesting character: stoic, hard-nosed, a fine example of how DA2's rivalry system can work. She often didn't agree with my actions, but our mutual goals united us. We're not friends, but we're companions.

Her companion quest is what turned me around. In most BioWare games, your goal with companions is to make them like you more—and most likely, fall in love with you enough that they'll join you in an awkward, unromantic sex cinematic. Aveline's quest is different: she has a crush on a subordinate guardsman, and wants your help to get his attention. The captain of the guard is awful at flirting, however, which leads to an amusing series of scenes where you entertain Aveline's future boyfriend while she works up the nerve to talk to him.

It works because it's not really about you, but about the character who is supposed to be your friend, and it's one of the most realistic character moments in a game that's supposed to be all about character. Now, not only is Aveline the best tank I can bring to a fight, but she's also an actual friend.

Hates...

Yoshimo (Baldur's Gate II)

I'll never forgive BioWare for Yoshimo. When I first met him in the game's starting dungeon, he was a welcome help to the party—good in a fight, great with a lockpick, and the only pure-class thief players get in the game. I kept him around in the team because I needed him, but also because I liked him. But then it turned out that he was Jon Irenicus' puppet, and was forced to betray me to save his life. Not that it helped, because I had to kill him. It's a very Joss Whedon move, to make me kill a character I love, and while that might sound like praise for BioWare, it doesn't make me any less angry about it.

Wes Fenlon

Loves...

Niftu Cal (Mass Effect)

Over the years, BioWare has written tons of interesting companions who journey and grow along with you. Characters with depth and humanity. In Mass Effect, those characters are often aliens with detailed and unique physiologies. But how many of them are biotic gods? Only one. Only Niftu Cal, the funniest throwaway character BioWare ever created.

Hates...

Carth Onasi (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)

It takes Knights of the Old Republic all of five minutes to pair you up with the most self-righteous soldier in the galaxy. There I was, walking through the streets of Taris, just trying to help out the local alien races by relieving them of their credits. That money was just weighing them down! And then here's Carth, lecturing me. So what if I goaded someone into a fight and killed them, just for the fun of it?

What gives you the right to guilt me, Carth?

I loved to hate Carth in Knights of the Old Republic, sneering at his

honor

and

reason

and that smug, holier-than-thou voice. He was an uncool Han Solo. Even playing as the most honest light side Jedi warrior, Carth was too bland for my tastes. I grew to hate him so much, I kept him around just so I could ignore every piece of sage advice and insult him at every opportunity. Carth's voice immediately made me angry. I'd recognize it anywhere, so as soon as he showed up disguised as Kaidan in Mass Effect, I knew that he'd be off the squad. Ashley may be a xenophobe, but she's better than the most annoying man in the universe.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Gathering together the best shooters is no easy task, but if you’re looking for a new PC FPS to play, look no further.

Your favourite game is at number 51.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Ditum)

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.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
PC Gamer
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

I guess I'll be able to immediately recognise the Dark Forces box art until the day I die

Hey cats, it’s hip to like Star Wars again rather than feeling dirty every time it’s mentioned. Of course, once JJ Abrams releases two hours of lens flare and nonsensical deus ex machinas it will be deeply uncool to like Star Wars again, so make hay while the sun shines. Star Wars videogames certainly are: first we get GoG re-releasing a bunch of previously out-of-print titles, and how the latest Humble Bundle is all about games from A Long Time Ago. For whatever you want to pay, you get KOTOR, Jedi Knight 3 and Dark Forces, which ain’t a bad set. There are more games if you want to pay more, but Republic credits are no good out here. … [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Galactic Battlegrounds somehow looks both better and worse than it did at the time

Here is a question: do you like Star Wars? My mate Ian says it’s really good, so I should probably watch it sometime. Then again he also said Mad Men was good and that was just people in old suits frowning at each other. Apparently there are some videogames based on this ‘Star Wars’ too. Given it’s such an obscure movie I guess they’re boring art games in which all you can do is like walk and think and rubbish stuff like that? I bet there are no laser guns or evil cyborgs at all, so I won’t bother playing them. I mean, listen to the names: ‘X-Wing Versus TIE Fighter’, ‘The Old Republic II’. The first one sounds like it’s something to with equations, the second one sounds like it’s an Antiques Roadshow spin-off. Honestly, why do they even bother making these not-games for people who don’t like fun?

Anyway, like six of these old hipster indie games have just been re-released on ‘Good Old Games.’ I guess that’s an ironic title or something? They are old though – in fact, three of them are so old that they’ve never been released for download before. I guess the hipsters won’t like them now they’ve gone mainstream. … [visit site to read more]

Announcement - Valve
Today's Deal: Save 50% on Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast!*

Look for the deals each day on the front page of Steam. Or follow us on twitter or Facebook for instant notifications wherever you are!

*Offer ends Tuesday at 10AM Pacific Time
Announcement - Valve
Today's Deal: Save 50% on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic!*

Look for the deals each day on the front page of Steam. Or follow us on twitter or Facebook for instant notifications wherever you are!

*Offer ends Sunday at 10AM Pacific Time
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