Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is due to release this year. After being announced amidst quite a bit of speculation, the gameplay was recently revealed at E3 to somewhat mixed reactions. My issue was less with the gameplay of this new title and more with the idea of taking on the role of yet another Jedi in yet another game about Jedi in Star Wars. Why can’t we explore the rest of this vast lightsaber-free universe?
Don’t get me wrong, I know the core premise of the entire franchise of movies and games is hyper-focused on these quasi-religious purveyors of the Force, but some of Star Wars’ greatest games left them out as much as possible. The original Star Wars: Battlefront had you taking control of one of a wide variety of nameless and faceless soldiers blasting away in different roles to try and win a battle. Jedi and other significant characters were only a small part of the game and it was wonderful. Even modern Battlefront games have them in limited numbers. However, other games in the franchise left these central characters out entirely.
Star Wars: Republic Commando had you take over a Clone commando squad using tactics and raw blaster power to help the Republic win the war against a host of different enemies. This lets us see firsthand the experiences of characters that were relatively insignificant in an already less significant part of the series. Republic Commando managed to be one of the more notable titles in the history of Star Wars games and stands on its own as an enjoyable first-person shooter even for those not a fan of the movies.
Before that, Star Wars Racer let us say to ourselves “Now this is podracing!”. Ripping through desert canyons in a modern interpretation of ancient chariot racing at ridiculous speeds gave us both a wildly fun and exceptionally challenging experience in the Star Wars universe. Again, without any Force powers or mind tricks. Just good old fashioned floating vehicle racing evocative of classics like Wipeout and F-Zero.
Even earlier was another FPS by the name of Star Wars: Dark Forces. While the main character, without really any foreshadowing whatsoever, becomes a Jedi in the sequel it’s safe to say the first game is free of Jedi involvement. It’s independently designed 3D engine may look like Doom or Duke Nukem 3D, but in my opinion, it is actually more visually appealing and gets to draw on the excellent architecture and design of the Star Wars universe.
That is only a taste of games of the many Star Wars games without Jedi running around. There are more still that featured flying the many ships of the franchise like X-Wing and Rogue Squadron as well as some real-time strategies. These are just some I’ve played and enjoyed. Currently, Star Wars games are becoming much rarer. If you ignore the Lego games and The Old Republic’s continued existence, this entire decade has seen only a small number of dedicated Star Wars games at all. I think a lot of blame can be on the heads of EA and, of course, Disney for letting EA do things as poorly as they have, but when you consider the continued growth of the franchise it makes it all the more confusing as to why they aren’t developing more.
It’s hard to talk about Jedi-free games without mentioning the now canceled Star Wars 1313. From the trailer and the bits of information released about it, it was set to put the player in a much more gritty role set in the depths of Coruscant. The many gadgets and blaster weapons synonymous with the franchise would play a heavy role in this cover based action shooter game. It was going to be a game that didn’t just step away from the Force but took a step into the darker side of the entire Star Wars universe.
That’s really the whole point, though. The Star Wars universe is so vast and is filled with stories of people trying to survive and thrive on worlds that can be as harsh as they are unique. It feels like a waste to focus on a handful of characters that are all part of the same narrative thread. Sure, it’s cool to make use of unstoppable laser swords and superhuman powers, but even in the films, it’s only a part of the overall story. I think it’s even worth noting that climbing back in the pilot’s seat and blasting away at TIE fighters would fit perfectly in this era of space sim resurgence. There are so many ways to succeed in building a Star Wars game, I simply can’t understand why Disney hasn’t sought to explore them and finally satisfy their starving gaming fanbase.