As a certain character once said in a famous movie, “do or do not. There is no try.” These words cannot be truer for plenty in life, from our decisions to actions. In the world of gaming, however, there is a certain discrepancy that has claimed many titles that had the full potential to be masterpieces and go against this line. They instead are pushed over the edge by limitations, greed, or exterior manipulation.
Oh, wait. I described gaming as a whole.
Jokes aside, it is good to be back. I know I said I will be back at a more regular pace in the last post, however for now I will say that the next blog post will come when it comes. Sorry for those of you who like to read them, but these definitely take the time to fully jot down. I do promise that every entry will still be worthwhile, of course.
Going back to my previous tangent, you probably already know what today’s subject will be judging by the above image and title. I have mentioned Star Wars in the past, (and one of my friends made a blog post on it in six-week absence) and it is definitely a franchise I quite enjoy. I am not well-versed in its lore, and outside of the movies and the imminent lore surrounding them, these video games are the only other aspect of the franchise I have some greater experience with. Today will mark the first time I will not be solely taking a look at story-related elements of these games, and my retrospect will not be too focused either.
I have played quite a few licensed games, and most are quick cash-grabs to exploit advertising as many of you may already know. Many lack severely in quality, being made with little effort and dedication, only to disappoint and leave fans craving what could have been. With Star Wars, this trend would seem to be natural considering how colossal it is compared to nearly everything else. However, the franchise has shown again from time to time that it cannot only give players endearing content, but also provide some video games that can be considered the best. The range of genres is also impressive, going from first-person shooters to role-playing games to dogfight simulations.
While the header image for this post is eye-candy to catch your attention, (we’ll get to the new Battlefront soon enough) the above image symbolizes what I believe to be the pinnacle of licensed games and something everyone should have the pleasure of experiencing: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. If there are two Star Wars games that I imagine people may feel tired of hearing, it’s this one and Battlefront.
To me, that is an honour for this game to have.
Released in 2003 from BioWare, (also responsible for Mass Effect and Dragon Age) this game is set thousands of years before the events of the movies and follows the Republic in their destructive civil war against a legion of fallen Jedi. You play as a soldier in the Republic, caught in the middle of a raging battle above the urban sprawl of Taris, and here the journey begins.
One thing to love about this game is the freedom it gives you in player choice that affects the plot. It may not be Undertale levels of the entire plot changing upon a wide spectrum of decisions, but for its time I imagine that it must have been quite a deal to go into the path of the Light or Dark sides. This encourages players to replay the game to discover little secrets that come with both sides of the same story, and to venture beyond where you may have progressed to before.
It is Star Wars by the books, being rooted deep in its mythology and looking the part as well while having its unique spin on an already established art style. The music is also phenomenal as well, and the only aspect of the game that may be off-putting is the turn-based gameplay. For what feels like a real-time game, this may kill the game for some and ruin a masterpiece that is otherwise near-flawless in many areas. Dare I say, the story is far more immersive and of a higher quality than all seven movies, but that is another discussion for another time.
I apologize for my gloating, but KOTOR is a gem that I do not want to taint with spoilers. For those of you who have not played it, I would highly recommend that you do. Of course, there is a sequel as well…
Now, this is a very interesting and tragic story. For what The Empire Strikes Back did for the films, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords does for the games, and perhaps even western role-playing games as a whole.
Gameplay-wise, the turn-based system is back and mostly unchanged. Soundtrack-wise, maybe not as spectacular. Graphics… Same as well. So what makes KOTOR II the unsung swan of Star Wars games?
The story. I know I said story would not be too much of a focus, but the story just wins so much here. Has someone ever told you that Revenge of the Sith is extremely dark and amazing for it? This game sits that movie down, and teaches it a proper lesson on how to make a story dark. Isolation. Eerie atmosphere. Grey morality. Hopelessness. Even the Jedi are not entirely cast in a positive light, and the Sith in a negative one. It is a game rooted in a well-established mythology, and questions it by twisting the very core of what makes Star Wars the way it is.
Grey-storytelling is a region that must be done with proper care, or else the blur between good and evil may not even appear at all. This game accomplishes it by pitting you in the shoes of a character who has an uncertain past, while knowing that they were at odds with doing what seemed to be right. Decision-making only propels this game forward: deciding on which path to take through worlds filled with corruption, desolation, crime, and scars of war. If you have not played KOTOR II, it may be the essential game to play if you want your mind to be blown. Make sure you download the Restored Content Modification as well, as this game had the restriction of one year of development time.
This is the tragedy. A masterpiece that did not have enough time to complete, leaving the player to ponder at what could have been. Of course, another tragedy is the lack of a KOTOR III, or my doubts in EA making a Star Wars game with a story as intelligent as this one.
There are many more Star Wars games, but to end this off I would like to focus on one that leaves me worried about the future and how the franchise may spiral down into another exploited licence property for those looking to make a quick buck.
Star Wars Battlefront was released last year, developed by DICE and published by EA. Yes, the game has a very high production quality and looks and sounds the part. As many have said, it is almost as if you are placed into the events of the original trilogy due to how authentic everything looks and more importantly, feels.
Why do I have a qualm with this game? Because despite what this entire blog may suggest, I mainly play games for their gameplay, not story. I am fine that this game does not have a single-player campaign, as I do not feel as if a retelling of old battles is worthwhile, or that DICE has the capability to create a narrative that is both immersive and compelling that upholds the Star Wars license. (Battlefield 3’s story is just… no) Of course single-player content would be appreciated, and not necessarily a campaign. Something in the vein of cooperative missions would have been great, with the option to play with or without other players.
What irks me is the lack of content here. It feels to me as if EA wanted to get the game out of the gate as quickly as possible to coincide with the release of The Force Awakens, and in doing so they made content that should have been available to the game at launch paid ‘expansions.’ (the mishandling of this term is a problem with smaller pieces of DLC) Another problem stems from the name. The game is similar to the original two Battlefront games in terms of concept, but beyond that they are very different games. Whether or not you are a fan of games that are casual, this game is undoubtedly one made for Star Wars fans of all types, and not video game fans necessarily. Through this, I believe DICE has made a game that focused far too much on its presentation, rather than the intricacies that really make you crave a game and keep you coming back.
While you may enjoy this game, it is a lot like iOS: It is very appealing to the eye, yet functionality is something that came second-priority and makes the overall package come down more than it should.
And with that, we come to our close for now. While this is more of a tangent than a true retrospect/review, I do plan to go with these sometime in the future. I also am aware that there are many Star Wars games I missed, and we will definitely browse those at a future date and give undivided attention as well. I apologize for a lighter serving this week, but I am quite excited for the ideas I have conjured up for the future. May the force be with you!
…And I think I may be using that last line again sometime as well.