Star Wars is a franchise that is not only worth brazilians of dollars, it is also deeply rooted in both popular and nerd culture. When our society is eventually obliterated by nuclear winter, the remnants of humanity will emerge from their shelters, they will dig through the rubble and find a VHS of A New Hope (or if they’re unlucky, The Phantom Menace) and remember a time when a portly bloke dared to dream of a galaxy far, far away, and then later sold that dream to a megalomaniacal rodent named Mickey Mouse. Wistful nostalgia will soon turn to cold rage as they then recall the way EA/DICE handled the vaunted IP, as they crush the VHS betwixt their freakishly strong mutant hands.
It’s no secret that EA/DICE not only screwed the pooch on their Battlefront reboot, they cheated on the pooch they were married to, which they were also screwing. Both modern Battlefront titles had all the sound and spectacle of a Star Wars-inspired work, but none of the soul; they were the droids that nobody was looking for, and nobody wanted. Funnily enough, when I heard that EA had acquired the Stars Wars game license back in 2013, I was excited for the possibility of what a massive publisher like EA could do with gazillions of dollars and talented development studios underneath it, but the results so far have been less than stellar (because space). So what modern developer could we trust to give the Western space opera the love it deserves? Here are my five picks.
Ask anyone what their favourite part of Star Wars is, and a lot of people will have the same answer: the trade embargo plot in The Phantom Menace. Wait, no. Light sabres. What we need is a Star Wars hack ‘n’ slash that’s fun and flashy and allows us to eviscerate people with laser swords. We’ve actually already had this in the form of The Force Unleashed (back when LucasArts still existed), but a truly awful sequel sounded the death knell for this IP.
So who better than PlatinumGames to reinvigorate the Star Wars hack ‘n’ slash? The outfit have had their ups and downs, but their ups have been that fantastic (Vanquish, Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Mad World, NiER: Automata) that it’s easy enough to pretend like the downs (TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan, Legend of Korra) don’t exist. If PlatinumGames announced they were developing a title under the Star Wars banner I’d be happier than Todd Howard announcing that Skyrim is now available to play on microwaves.
I’m actually a fairly strong detractor of the Uncharted series (enough to put it in my bio below), but Uncharted 4 demonstrated that an old, annoying, sarcastic and smug dog can actually learn new tricks, or at least mature enough that you don’t want to put it down and tell the children it went to live on the farm out of town. The Last of Us is also a prime example of Naughty Dog’s flair for meaningful storytelling, and I think they could easily bring their substantial talent to bear on a tale within the rich Star Wars universe.
The recent success of Star Wars film Rogue One proves that audiences have a thirst for smaller, character-driven stories within the larger canon. The film managed to be a major success with its ragtag band of characters, with nary a light sabre in sight. I think Naughty Dog could really shine in this sort of context, as they have oft proven themselves of being able to craft rich narratives anchored by strong characters. Either that or they could make a 3D platformer starring Jar Jar Binks.
The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural…
CD Projekt Red
This one’s a no-brainer. One of the main criticisms levelled at the first Battlefront games was lack of content. The main criticism with the second was possibly the worst implementation of loot boxes this world has ever seen. CDPR are renowned for their stance on content in games and staunch disrespect for microtransactions and shady pre-order bonuses. Time and time again they have proven that when they make a game, it is a complete game, and any DLC that follows is not something they cut from the base title, but something that builds upon it in profound ways. If CDPR were to make a Star Wars title, then the entire gaming public could rest easy knowing that whatever comes out of their Polish oven (not to be confused with a Dutch oven) will be a fully-baked experience worthy of the Star Wars name. They have also proven they can successfully craft engaging narratives featuring dense political intrigue. Maybe they could even make the duller aspects The Phantom Menace’s plot enticing.
Back in the day, Raven Software’s Star Wars Jedi Academy games (which built off the successful DOOM clone Dark Forces) ruled the roost. Played in first or third-person view and featuring a heavy focus on tight (for the time) melee combat with light sabres, the games also had fantastic narratives and are revered by many. The action also translated well into online multiplayer, and to this day you’ll still find a faithful few still modding and playing the games. Currently Raven Software are being held captive in a basement at Activision HQ, and have a fair amount to do with helping on the Call of Duty series. You might also recall their work as developers on 2010’s hideously underrated FPS Singularity.
Even if it was just a modern remake of Jedi Academy, Raven Software could be trusted to make a solid FPS with tight gameplay and a great story. If they could bring their wealth of experience to bear on a deep and engaging online multiplayer component then it would essentially be a license to print money. However, given that Raven Software were acquired by Activision many moons ago, I don’t see EA enlisting their services anytime soon.
Blizzard could be trusted to develop a Star Wars title because…they’re Blizzard. They essentially have never made a bad game, and the ones they have made are actively supported for many eons after their release. Creators of the most popular MMO on the planet, Blizzard have also shown they can make an FPS (and a damn fine one at that), but the Star Wars license has never had a great RTS, and I’m sure Blizzard are available to fill that void. It may take nine years, but you know that when it dropped it would melt the Internet (or at least Australia’s aging copper network). However, given that Blizzard the developers are a subsidiary of publishing giant Activision Blizzard it’s highly doubtful they will ever turn their hands to the license. Maybe they could work on a game in secret with Raven Software, or perhaps make an unsubtle rip-off called Celestial Body Conflict. I should really stop giving away these ideas for free…