Much like Kyle Katarn, my connection to Star Wars was severed rather completely for a long while. Unlike Katarn, it was not due to fighting low-rent Full Motion Video villains or even a traumatic tale of prequel woe. Really, my love for the series/saga/game platform/business venture eroded over the course of the prequels more by the quantity and quality of all the ancillary product. There were a lot of shoddy tie-ins and it made the whole thing less special. Even when people told me “The Clone Wars” was a good cartoon, I ignored it. Star Wars was over and I was fine with that.
That said, I still enjoyed those Force Unleashed games as the pleasant rentals they are.
But like so many people my age, its hard to ignore the work Disney is putting into rekindling Star Wars. There is a vibration in the Force that calls me back to that beloved childhood pastime of space wizards, armored troops, goofy languages and boss starships.
Which, if nothing else, proves Disney was the right custodian for the IP, but that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, I want to focus on the things that bring me back to Star Wars when my interest seems dried up and irredeemably lost: the games. From Dark Forces to Knights of the Old Republic, the Star Wars universe has always been fertile soil for various video game experiences that examine interesting elements of its various worlds. And in recent weeks, that’s led me away from the screens and to a table top.
As it happens, I found myself at Star Wars Celebration for an aborted work commitment and discovered an interesting table top game called Star Wars Armada. Published by Fantasy Flight Games, it markets itself as a game of ship combat and features capital ships like Star Destroyers and Corellian Cruisers in a war game that was instantly compelling as I watched a demo at FFG’s booth in the Celebration dealers’ room. An hour or so later, I was convinced to buy in. It retails for $99.95, but I managed to find it %30 off.
I’ve only played a handful of games and participated in one tournament, so I’m not quite ready to review the game other than to say it’s fun. As one of my opponents at the tournament said, it takes you right back to being a kid and imaging cool Star Wars fights on the playground. The game, and my willingness to play it, is indicative of the way Star Wars games can still access my fond memories of growing up with the original movies in a way the books, cartoons and even the movies themselves at this point no longer can. That seems to hold true for all my Star Wars experiences in the last few years.
Though graphically archaic compared to the Mass Effect series, I occasionally play through both Knights of the Old Republic games. The characters, itinerary of planets to visit and more nuanced look at the nature of the Force are compelling reasons to come back every so often. Darth Revan, the charismatic Sith Lord that sets off the events for both games, is a character worthy of any of the films. In fact, the new film’s Sith Lord sure does resemble Revan.
The second game, though hobbled by a truncated and confusing ending, is such a joy to journey through as a new main character assembles a new Jedi (or Sith) Order to hopefully shed some grey light onto the often black and white way the Force is viewed by either side.
Similarly, I go back to the Dark Forces games for first person fun in the Star Wars Galaxy. When the first title was released, a Doom for Star Wars was an irresistible notion and it still is. That first game made the wise choice of introducing a non-Jedi protagonist in Kyle Katarn and though he would learn to use the Force in subsequent games, it allowed me to see what this universe looks like for a workaday scoundrel. Oh, and it was just a great deal of fun to blast away storm troopers and fight Krayt Dragon on Jabba’s ship.
Even the subsequent games, with Katarn a Force user, offer exciting experiences that are quintessentially Star Wars. There is something really satisfying about Force-pushing dudes off high platforms. And since I tend to play id with these games, going full Sith and force lighting everybody is tremendous fun.
More recent games like Republic Commando, The Force Unleashes and the MMO Old Republic more or less offer similar experiences with modern graphics power and controls. I’ve enjoyed them all to various degrees — yes, even Old Republic. Republic Commando, with its Republic Military focus and fun Call of Duty style first person combat, recalled that initial Dark Forces game. The Force Unleashed is all about satisfying the id with hilarious ragdoll fixes and the first really satisfying deployment of Force Choke. And The Old Republic, when I get to it, fills the gap somewhat for a never planned or released KOTOR III.
It would be disingenuous to say I hate Star Wars. I don’t and I can’t. It offered me so many wonderful hours playing, thinking and imaging that other reality. These games offer me a space in which to do that. Will it ever completely rekindle my love for it like the Valley of the Jedi rekindled Katarn’s connection to the Force?
That remains to be seen.