I like Star Wars. As a kid I watched the original trilogy countless times and the earliest memories of a game I have were about X-wing. I have invested a lot of my attention to the brand, and every time a new game bearing the name surfaces, I tend to get interested. Especially if space combat is involved.
But as it is, Lucasarts has not been kind on the brand. Despite setting the stage for an entire galaxy, filled with alien planets and fantastic adventures, most of the games and novels are centered around the damn movies. I have personally fired the torpedoes to the Death Star’s exhaust port at least three times. And in every game I have saved the galaxy from some threat, most likely the Empire’s superweapon. But most of all, I have been some kind of Jedi. Jumping around, waving the lightsaber, killing Stormtroopers and some variety of Dark Jedi.
The brand is starting to stagnate. Knights of the Old Republic was fresh since it happened thousands of years before the events of the movies. Every character was fresh and new. The ships were never seen before. But still we were Jedi, saving the galaxy and trying to avoid the temptation of the Dark Side. As the finnish saying goes: Wanha!
There is so much to explore in the Star Wars-universe. I have always enjoyed a Star Wars-game where I could play as an Imperial, just because it is a fresh approach. TIE Fighter was a nice change of pace to X-wing and Alliance; Instead of possessing the supership X-wing, armed with four laser cannons, proton torpedoes, deflector shields, hyperdrives, strong armour and a coffee maker, I was put in what is essentially a metal box with an engine and two laser cannons. That’s what Men choose. And in Empire at War I could command an entire fleet of Star Destroyers. The monolithic, evil Empire was always more interesting (and funny) than the ragtag group of freedom fighters.
Then there are the aliens. According to Wookieepedia, the Galaxy contains at least 20 million known sentient species. Yet we always, always, play a human, with the interesting, quirky aliens reserved as sidekicks. Only in Jedi Academy could we change species, but since there were only one voice actor for a single gender, the other species sounded weird.
And finally, the Force. As Yathzee Croshaw once said, there is a silly one-upmanship going on in that department. Since the original Saga, Force has become more and more mighty. Luke Skywalker, a Jedi prodigy, managed to make a few mind tricks and some telekinesis. Darth Maul managed to fight with a double-bladed lightsaber without problems. Mace Windu managed to jump hundreds of meters and rip apart droids with his bare hands. Starkiller could cut AT-ST:s in half, crush them into balls and tear down Star Destroyers from the sky. And now in addition to the normal lightsaber, we have double-bladed lightsabers, two-lightsaber wielders, lightwhips and other silly combinations. Force has ceased to be a mysterious, magical field of energy and has become a ridiculous CGI-particle effect field.
This continued for quite a while after Knights of the Old Republic II came out. Every Star Wars game and animation was uninspired and boring. But then, one day, I realized that I had been playing a Star Wars game without knowing it. The game was none other than Red Faction Guerilla, and the reason was the sledgehammer. In the game, Alec Mason has a simple steel sledgehammer as his melee weapon. And it is nearly the best weapon in the game. With one strike you can send a facist guard bastard flying or detach a huge chunk of concrete from a side of a building. It felt like a blunt lightsaber, and I felt pity for those who were not blessed with such a miracle, those who had to contend with merely assault rifles and shotguns.
That moment inspired me to envision a new and better sandbox Star Wars game that tells a compelling story, gives choices to the player, handles Force in old-school style and treats lightsaber as a god damn lightsaber. Next time.