EAmpire Strikes Back: Star Wars Games Go to The Dark Side

EA now owns the rights to make licensed Star Wars games. The good news is that we'll have a new SW game every year from now on. The bad news is that they're all going to be bad.

The EA mothership has kept busy these last few years: dropping probe droids into the depths of the game industry, casting a shadow over all that might challenge them, and making and breaking series (Dead Space/Mass Effect anyone?) left and right. Finally, the video game empire we all love to hate has its hands on the grand prize: Skywalker.

I don’t mean to ruin your day, but this week Electronic Arts signed a deal that gives the company exclusive rights to licensed Star Wars games. Not only did LucasArts give up on life, they decided to screw us all.

It’s been a very interesting beginning to Disney’s tenure as Star Wars Overlord. Scummy…but likable—as if Disney were run by Lando Calrissian.

In the last few months, we’ve heard about a new trilogy (good news), J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan at the helm of said trilogy (awesome news), and a series of standalone films starring characters such as Boba Fett and Yoda (kinda cool?). Most people (myself included) trust Disney and are willing to believe in them when it comes to deciding what’s best for us. I mean, look at what they did with Pixar, a company originally owned by George Lucas.

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When we heard that LucasArts was stepping down from making games, we were relieved, but also afraid that Star Wars might fall into the wrong hands.

Giving EA the rights to Star Wars is the first MADDENING decision Disney has made concerning our beloved space opera. It’s like when Luke decided to join Palpatine in Dark Empire or when Jar Jar Binks decided to exist.

Go home, Disney, you’re drunk.

It looks good on paper. EA has assigned three developers to work on original Star Wars material: DICE, Visceral Games, and BioWare. At this point, you might be sighing in relief; at least EA is tasking their best talent with this assignment. True. But if we know anything about EA games, it’s that they’re always rushed, always about cashing in…$$$$$$$$$$ in other words.

Aesthetics in mainstream gaming are pretty much gone-zo at this point. Nowadays, more of the same is the name of the game. If it weren’t for indie developers, we’d basically be out of fresh ideas. How can this cash cow of an industry possibly be described as art anymore?

A rift has formed in gaming in the same way it has in music, films, and books. There’s pop (basically, every single mainstream game whose gameplay is interchangeable with any other in its genre) and indie (the land of fresh and innovative ideas, but not enough budget or fandom).

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Fresh ideas—a game’s aesthetic—take time. If we know anything about EA, it’s that they don’t like to wait. Cash in on a rushed, mediocre game now instead of waiting for an amazing game later. That’s how you get Mass Effect 3, The Old Republic, and all those annoying Battlefield sequels.

Literally, the only good news about any of this is that the new Star Wars games will run on Frostbite 3, a very, very sexy game engine.

Now, the counter-argument is sound: any Star Wars game is better than NO Star Wars games. You could even say that DICE and Visceral Games (we already know what BioWare can do at their best) might bring something unique to the series.

So, I’ll indulge you. I’ll break this news down for you by developer.

DICE: Land of the shooters, previously pinball and Shrek games. Of the three developers, DICE is the one I’m the least excited about. A Star Wars FPS is inevitable. Many of you might even be screaming BATTLEFROOOOOONTTTT! I mean, why not? DICE already has the multiplayer FPS/vehicle thing down. Thing are even looking bright for standalone FPS games like Republic Commando. But I ask you this: do you really want a Star Wars game that plays like every other FPS in the post-Call of Duty era? Imagine a day where DICE is releasing a game a year a la Call of Duty, rotating between Battlefield and BattleFRONT. No thank you.

Visceral Games: On the other hand, I’m pretty excited about what this studio might do with Star Wars licensing under its belt. Dead Space is arguably the franchise that revitalized sci-fi games in the post-Halo days. It’s undoubtedly why Deus Ex got another sequel, why we’re getting games like Watch Dogs, Remember Me, and Cyberpunk 2077. Non-shooter scifi sells again, folks! You can thank Visceral and their epic sci-fi horror games.

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What can I see Visceral doing with Star Wars? A game like Jedi Knight, the wonderful lightsaber extravaganza of yore. It was the first series to figure out how to bring the Jedi experience to the gamer. And let’s face it, Kyle Katarn is awesome.

Visceral already has the hack-and-slash and third-person elements down. What about you make it a Jedi survival horror game? You know, Jedi crash lands on uncharted planet and must fight through hordes of scary aliens like the galaxy far, far away has never seen. Yuuzhan Vong perhaps? I apologize for my lack of vision, Visceral. I’m sure you’d come up with something awesome.

So what’s the con here? EA likes to poop on Visceral whenever they can…like when they pushed my beloved Dead Space in the completely wrong direction for the sake of attracting “new fans.” What the hell is wrong with having an established fan base? And if you want new fans, don’t take advantage and alienate the established ones. Now we don’t have a Dead Space at all. Happy?

I can’t help but think that Visceral will come up with something awesome and EA will S%&! bricks because it might not make any $$$. More of the same.

BioWare: Not much to say about these guys except Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, the definitive space operas. BioWare usually bring their A-game, but not recently. In the last few years, we’ve played The Old Republic and the Mass Effect sequels and been underwhelmed, if not completely disappointed, by obviously-rushed products. There’s absolutely NO WAY that Casey Hudson, the man behind Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, let the entire ME series unravel in the last 15 minutes of ME3 willingly. There was undoubtedly corporate pressure to finish the game. Hopefully, EA learned its lesson after the ME3 scandal and lets BioWare do their thing.

Trust EA, I do not. 

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