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Classic Star Wars Games and TOR

Star Wars: The Old Republic Columns - By Michael Bitton on July 06, 2011

Classic Star Wars Games and TOR

With The Old Republic still just out of reach my Star Wars itch has become almost unbearable as of late, and the same can be said for my friends, which is why we’ve started playing some old Star Wars favorites in a futile attempt to fill the void that only The Old Republic can hope to eventually fill.

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Rekindling my love for my favorite Star Wars games has reminded me why I enjoyed them as much as I did and in true grognard fashion also gave me some additional clarity as to why I find many modern games (especially Star Wars ones) unsatisfying. What it also did was get me thinking about some of the features or aspects of these games I’d have loved to see in The Old Republic. Let’s keep in mind that this is purely a “wishful thinking” exercise and isn’t about whether or not these are or aren’t at all realistic for the game. Below I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Star Wars games and what about them I’d have loved to see in The Old Republic and I hope you’ll join me and share some of your own!

Let’s (sort of) get the most obvious one out of the way…

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II

You’re goddamned right. Developed by BioWare’s B-team Obsidian Entertainment (does the B also stand for Bugs?) I found KoTOR II to be the vastly superior game, despite being unfinished and riddled with bugs. Don’t get me wrong, I love BioWare; the first epic PC RPG I ever played was Baldur’s Gate, but I’ve long held the opinion that Chris Avellone and his team at Obsidian sort of tell a better story, and that’s why KoTOR II sits here on my list.

Say what you want about the sequel but KoTOR II explored BioWare’s much loved alignment system far deeper than the original game did. Not only did your decisions matter this time from a gameplay perspective, but the introduction of the Kreia character helped in making you consider the consequences of your moral decisions far more deeply. This was also the first Star Wars game since the Jedi Knight series to really make you think about the “gray” path (bit more on this later). Kreia didn’t fit into the neat Dark or Light columns and so thinking outside of that paradigm felt better supported by the game’s story and its characters this time around.

Speaking of characters, I found the companion system in KoTOR II a bit better as well. For one, you could actually take and mold your own apprentice to some extent (especially with the introduction of Handmaiden and Disciple). Slowly unraveling the murky history of the cagey Atton Rand and then using that earned trust and friendship to manipulate his emotions in order to turn him to the Dark Side and become your new apprentice? Priceless.

I’d love to see The Old Republic’s story explore these gray areas a bit deeper than the original KoTOR did and I’m hoping our companions are a bit more malleable this time around.

Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

The Jedi Knight series also challenged the Dark vs. Light paradigm, though not ever going all the way. You see, Kyle Katarn is a Jedi through and through, but he’s danced on both sides of The Force and never viewed its use the same way as Luke Skywalker might. To Kyle, the use of Force Lightning to harm your opponent wasn’t inherently a Sith thing to do, it was what you did with your knowledge of The Force that mattered, not what techniques you employed. I say the series never went all the way because while Kyle Katarn himself challenged us to look at certain aspects of the Dark Side vs. Light Side in a new way, you did ultimately choose to go down the Dark or Light path in the end.

With that said, I listed Jedi Academy here and not any of the other games in the series more for gameplay over story reasons.  My friends and I have been playing this a lot lately and for good reason! Server populations are still pretty active, the game still feels fresh (even if it doesn’t look it), and it’s just tons of fun. There are a bevy of weapons to choose from, many lightsaber moves and combos, and even several lightsaber styles. Combat in Jedi Academy is acrobatic and there is a decent amount of interactivity with the environment (I love running up a wall and flipping backwards behind an opponent). Wouldn’t all this have been awesome in The Old Republic?

TOR’s combat is more the traditional MMO fare (though a great deal more cinematic and heroic), but what if it were more like Vindictus? I think an action-based design similar to Jedi Academy, Vindictus, or even TERA could have worked here.

Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance

Rut-roh! I’ve entered the dreaded “space combat” territory. It’s no secret: I’m not at all a fan of the direction BioWare has gone in with space combat in The Old Republic. However, my stance has softened a bit in recent months as it appears BioWare is quite open to expanding much further on the space offering post-launch if the feedback is there to drive that development.

With that said, instead of focusing on the negative here, I’d like to focus on the positive with one of my favorite games in the Star Wars space shooter (sim?) line of games: X-Wing Alliance. Most people will cite X-Wing, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, etc., but this game never seems to get any love and I’m not sure why. The original games were great but XWA kicked things into overdrive with way more ships, top notch graphics, great gameplay, and an engrossing and cinematic storyline that really placed you deep into the struggle between the Rebellion and the Galactic Empire.

I don’t feel that following the X-Wing Alliance example runs counter to BioWare’s choice to make every aspect of their game cinematic and story driven either, in fact, as I outlined above X-Wing Alliance was dripping with a deep and cinematic storyline. Ultimately, I’d have loved to see an additional space layer of class story for all the classes in the game, driven by the depth and breadth of gameplay options (maybe simplified just a teensy bit for the non-sim crowd) found in games like X-Wing Alliance. I simply feel the “Star Fox” approach went too far in the other direction. 

X-Wing Alliance didn’t have you floating around in space mining asteroids or simply not doing anything, either.  I’d simply like to see the freedom of movement and deeper ship and combat systems accompany the story-driven and cinematic space component. I fully realize that the above suggestion would probably have run BioWare’s development costs for the game even higher than whatever obscene amount people have been throwing around and that instead of 2011 “Soon” would mean 2014 or something equally nutty, but a guy can dream, right?

So what are your favorite Star Wars games and what would you have liked to see from them in The Old Republic? (Don’t worry about how realistic your wishes are. Go nuts!)

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager.