A renaissance of Star Wars gaming could be on its way

Star Wars™: Squadrons. Image Courtesy of Electronic Arts (EA)
Star Wars™: Squadrons. Image Courtesy of Electronic Arts (EA) /

With the announcement of Lucasfilm Games, it looks like we’re on the precipice of a new, much better era for Star Wars video games.

Star Wars fans are suddenly very excited for the future of gaming in a galaxy far, far away. Just the other day, StarWars.com announced that Lucasfilm Games would be the “official identity” for Star Wars video games going forward. The newly christened branding operation will work with across across the industry to bring the franchise into “a new and unprecedented phase of creativity.”

They quickly made good on that promise by announcing a brand-new, open-world game set in the Star Wars universe in partnership with Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment, best known for their work on Tom Clancy’s The Division series.

Fans have been waiting for an open-world Star Wars game for some time now, but developers have yet to deliver. Over the past several years, EA has been in charge of making Star Wars games, but their efforts met with a lot of criticism. The reboot of Star War Battlefront in 2015 failed to meet expectations, and the sequel in 2017 set off a firestorm of controversy over its online progression system, which required players to pay money for in-game advantages and character progression.

However, things seem to be turning around for EA, as 2019’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was released to critical acclaim. EA also overhauled Battlefront II’s multiplayer progression system, getting rid of its pay-to-win practice and gaining new players in the process. Plus, Star Wars: Squadrons received fairly positive reviews upon its release in October 2020.

So, it is safe to say that Star Wars gaming is on the rise again, with that open-world game being particularly exciting. With its skill trees and exploration of different planets, Jedi: Fallen Order gave players a hint of what that might look like, although obviously an open-world game will be much less linear.

Fans have been clamoring for another game like 2003’s Knights of the Old Republic updated for this generation of gaming: an open-world role-playing game where you can customize your character, explore vast worlds in different parts of the galaxy, and determine the fate of the story and the characters you interact with throughout the game. It’s perfect for the Star Wars universe.

Canadian game developer BioWare created the Knights of the Old Republic series with this in mind, but since its debut nearly two decades ago, gaming has changed quite a bit. In 2007, BioWare released the sci-fi RPG Mass Effect, which drew heavily from their work on Knights of the Old Republic but presented on a larger scale. This new title had more planets to explore, more options to customize your character and personality, and more opportunities to affect the game’s universe that had consequences in the sequels to follow.

Ubisoft now has the opportunity to create something like this for the current generation of gaming. Judging by the developer’s track record, this could be a good thing. Franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry have great games with rich and sprawling open-world environments, compelling narratives, and fun and engaging gameplay. On the other hand, they’ve also had their fair share of flops. Whether it be stale or repetitive gameplay, failure to deliver on promises, or releasing unfinished messes, Ubisoft has encountered many problems with its recent titles.

Still, Ubisoft could surprise us all and craft a compelling adventure enjoyable for all Star Wars fans. Even if they don’t make the RPG gamers are hoping for, there could be an opportunity for another developer to make that type of game. Lucasfilm Games seems open to working with many studios, as LucasArts did in the past. In fact, they also announced an Indiana Jones game from Bethesda and MachineGames. So Lucasfilm Games are clearly willing to experiment and explore outside their comfort zone, with EA no longer having sole control of the Star Wars license.

And we could be seeing a ton of games that tie in to the recently launched High Republic book series, which explored the period preceding the prequel trilogy, when the Jedi were at the height of their power and influence.

We could be witnessing the renaissance of Star Wars video games thanks to this new Lucasfilm Games division. The galaxy is the limit as more developers sign on to make more adventures in the universe that we all know and love. May the Force be strong with this new era of gaming.

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