tl;dr – Empire at War's Forces of Corruption expansion was the last Star Wars game that really felt like Star Wars to me. JFO may well reclaim that title. What do you think on the matter?
Required Reddit note: I do not intend to criticise the enjoyment by others of the games I don't like, just describe my own opinion on the games themselves 🙂
Many decry the advent of EA and Disney on Star Wars games, others think there hasn't been a decent one since KotOR, (or even other than KotOR), or lament the loss of the Star Wars space sim since X-Wing Alliance. Many enjoy the Force Unleashed and many praise Jedi Knight.
As for me, I have enjoyed SW games over the years since getting The Phantom Menace, X Wing Alliance, X Wing v Tie Fighter, and Force Commander in 2000 on our new Windows 98 PC – and also playing Star Wars Trilogy Arcade at the cinema. And I now know that that actually puts me fairly late in some respects, e.g. having not played Super Star Wars or Shadows of the Empire. The earliest SW game I have played is Dark Forces. The most recent SW game that I have tried is Battlefront (EA) Beta which felt like the basis for a shell of a game (and the Tattooine map seemed to be mainly red rock, rather than sand, oddly). And before that, Clone Wars: Republic Heroes which was a joke of a simplistic cartoon game that I sold or returned after buying it.
To clarify then, it is with The Force Unleashed that I put the beginning of SW games not feeling enough like SW to me. Sure, I've always preferred the original trilogy and its paraphernalia but I've enjoyed plenty of Prequel material too, such as Republic Commando or The Phantom Menace. Force Unleashed felt like it wasn't sufficiently connected to the Star Wars reality that I was happy with, presumably because it felt like it attempted an original trilogy feel, rather than the more forgiving Prequel Era to which I am not as attached, and attempted a new story with big impact on Vader and the Emperor and the canon). The most recent games before that would be EpIII (2005, acceptable), and more importantly Battlefront II (2005), Republic Commando (2005 – gosh, a bountiful year), and Empire At War (2006, with Forces of Corruption in 2007, both of which but especially the base game felt like they captured the look and feel and tone, though not quite as well as Force Commander.)
Games like X Wing Alliance, Force Commander (for all the disdain it receives!), KotOR, Jedi Outcast (my favourite game) all felt like they really captured and extended the Star Wars feel and universe, or at least the elements of it that made me like it. And many of the prequel-based games captured the feel of that trilogy or era too. But The Force Unleashed felt diluted somehow to me. Perhaps it's a focus on Jedi, perhaps it was too generic-feeling a story with too big an impact on main characters, but those are views that could be levied upon many of the others I've mentioned that I've liked, I'm sure.
Which brings us onto of course, Battlefront 2 EA's campaign and Fallen Order. I have no interest in BF2EA, and the story looks uninteresting to me. I do intend to play Fallen Order at some point but again – while undoubtedly well presented, and capturing the look of SW very well from the first 15 minutes that I played, the story looks as though it leans too heavily towards a typical hollywood blockbuster or AAA game Naughty-Dog-inspired thing. It just doesn't look like it has the SW feel and charm that I like, even if it is interesting and charming in itself. I've always preferred the storytelling in Thief (1998), to that in The Last of Us – which to be honest I find rather trite – and making essentially a mini SW film in cutscenes is risky business in terms of managing to feel authentic, it's one reason that I didn't want the Sequel Trilogy.
Time shall tell (regarding JFO), and no doubt my prejudice going in will affect things, but nonetheless well before Disney came along, and before the big drought prior to that, there had been a feeling for me that SW games were losing their SW feel. And partly by the fact that they were the the only ones available, and we never saw 1313, it lands on TFU and TFU2 – even if I still quite enjoyed them. I will say that I was very much looking forward to 1313, and it really looked like it was going to capture that KotOR SW feeling of a rich universe that really delivered what I like of SW aesthetically and tonally. Such a shame.
The one franchise which may well be the outlier is Lego Star Wars – the last non-Disney/non-Clone-Wars-animation one was in 2006, but I can imagine the later ones (Clone Wars, TFA, Skywalker Saga) still manage to capture the spirit and charm of the universe that I enjoy, if the first two were anything to go by – the team behind the Lego games seem to bring a sense of humour and attention to detail that I appreciate.
PS. Again, SW: Squadrons doesn't look like it fits the bill. It looks like once again it will present characters we don't know, not give us enough time or reason to care about them and their plight, but then require us to do so to really care about the story and for (**edit, missing word) it not to seem silly, all under the catch-all ethos of "for the rebellion" and "hope". They just look too bland somehow. Everyone knows Biggs, Porkins, et al, everyone wants to play as Wedge and Luke (Rogue Squadron woohoo). Squadrons looks like it falls into the unfortunate situation of the Sequel Trilogy where (unlike even the Phantom Menace pilots whom I remember, "the deflector shield is too strong") the pilots just look and sound like random actors and aren't memorable other than for being Matt Parkman from Heroes. If Squadrons had been about the 1977 lot, or even the Naboo fighters or even the Sequel characters, it would likely be much better. But again, we shall see.
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