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My History With Star Wars Games May 5, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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May the Fourth be with you all. This year, to celebrate Star Wars Day, I’ve been sharing some very personal stories about the beginning of my love for this iconic franchise.  I’ve already told you about my first exposure to the franchise in the form of the Star Tours ride and the first time I watched the films, so let’s talk about the first time I played the video games.

I got my first real computer as an early Christmas present in 1996 and I was able to get the most out of it almost immediately.  My friends recommended I check out games like Quake, 3D action titles that really took advantage of a computer’s hardware.  A year later, my dad was in the process of doing some Christmas shopping and new PC games were at the top of my wish list. While shopping he happened to come across a boxed set of Star Wars PC games called the Lucasarts Archives Volume 4.  He knew I was into Star Wars and thought I would like the gift.  He was not wrong.

Christmas morning, I opened my presents to find a boxed set of some of the finest games Lucasarts ever produced. The bundle included games like Dark Forces, X-Wing, Tie-Fighter, Yoda Stories, and a whole lot more.  I installed all of the games to my Windows 95 PC and played them as much as I could.

I completed every single permutation of Yoda Stories the game could generate for me, and I enjoyed it so much I wish Lucasarts would have released a patch for it so it could have been played on Windows XP and later machines.  As for the flight sims, I could never beat the first mission in X-Wing, but I was able to make it through most of Tie-Fighter.  Dark Forces had great graphics that reminded me of DOOM, but navigating the levels without a walkthrough or map was nearly impossible past the game’s second level.

The archive also included some detailed demos for the most recent Star Wars games at the time. My father mistakenly believed they were not demos when he bought them, but given the low price he paid for the archive I couldn’t blame him for being mistaken.  The archive included a demo for the multiplayer game X-Wing Vs Tie-Fighter, a limited look at the Star Wars Behind the Magic interactive reference, and 2 CD-ROMs including the first three levels of Jedi Knight and its expansion pack Mysteries of the Sith.

If you asked me, nothing could compare to Jedi Knight.  While the special demo only included the first three levels of the game, it included everything from those three levels including the first three FMV sequences.  I can still remember the night I played the hell out of that demo, waiting by the edge of my seat to see what happened to Kyle as he followed in his father’s footsteps to find an ancient Jedi burial ground. When I completed level three, I felt like I only had seen the first part of an epic story, and I had to know how it ended.  I ended up ordering a bundled version of the game with its expansion pack for my birthday the next year.  While the first three levels of Jedi Knight gave players no access to Force powers, the full version of the game gave the player access to The Force gradually, which actually made the game feel more realistic. I know a lot of fans watched Star Wars and wished to become a Jedi, Jedi Knight felt like the first game that actually granted that wish.  To this day it remains one of my favorite games of all time.

Great things don’t last forever and I’m sad to say that the Episode I titles were some of the last games Lucasarts produced directly for the PC.  As the early 2000s ticked away, most of Lucasarts’s game development shifted to games for the home consoles including PS2, GameCube and Xbox.  Sometimes Lucasarts would be forward thinking enough to offer some of their more popular titles on PC, but there was no guarantee of that happening.  Obi-Wan would be released exclusively on the Xbox, even thought it was initially announced as a PC title.  Games like Jedi Starfighter would also never get a release on the PC, despite the popularity of the original Starfighter.

At E3, Lucasarts announced Raven Software, developers of the incredible Star Trek: Elite Force, would be taking one of the best graphic engines available, the Quake III Arena Engine, and making a sequel to my favorite Star Wars game, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast.  When it finally released, Jedi Outcast became my favorite Star Wars game of all time. The graphics were beautiful, the gameplay was solid and fluid, and the story continued the incredible tale that began with Jedi Knight. It had a satisfying conclusion that didn’t need a sequel but could merit one if possible.  It’s sequel, Jedi Academy, was a decent game with fun new mechanics like the double-bladed and dual-wielding lightsaber. However, the fact you can’t play as Kyle Katarn made it feel like more of an expansion pack than a true sequel. Sadly we would never have any more adventures with Kyle, but I’m grateful for all the time we did get to spend with him.

The last great Star Wars game I enjoyed on the PC would have to be Knights of the Old Republic by Bioware.  I know a lot of people consider KOTOR to be the greatest Star Wars game…ever, but I still feel stronger about Jedi Outcast.  I enjoyed KOTOR a lot on the Xbox and on the PC, but its sequel was a massive disappointment.  I remember spending seven hours a day over the course of four consecutive days with the hope the game would tell me anything about what happened to the characters from the last game.  Sadly, KOTOR II‘s abrupt ending would not fulfill that wish.

After the release of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, The Force Unleashed became the last major Star Wars game I considered a disappointment. The game was planned to be a major expansion of the Star Wars expanded universe just like Shadows of the Empire was in the mid-90s, and while it had a fantastic story, its gameplay was buggy and frustrating.  The Force Unleashed II felt like the exact opposite.  It had very polished gameplay, but its incomplete story and abrupt ending upset me, and sadly that short-sighted decision to release the game without a complete story brought a premature end to the once promising franchise expansion.

With the purchase of Lucasfilm came the end of Lucasarts, and with it the cancellation of some extremely anticipated games like Star Wars 1313.  I felt it was the end of an era, because in its heyday, Lucasarts was one of the best PC game publishers in the world. It was truly sad to see it gone.

Hope you all had a wonderful May the Fourth, and we will have all new content for you soon!

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