Since Amy Hennig joined Visceral Games as creative director for a new Star Wars video game, anticipation is rising for what could be the first major Star Wars game in years. Fans of the franchise have faced cancellations and teases over the last years, from the cancelation of 1313 to the recent reveal that a Darth Maul stealth game was once in development for the PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U.
Therefore, we’re not picky about the game from Visceral, but there are some qualities that make for a memorable Star Wars game which could usher in a great new story alongside Episode VII.
From the trailers, 1313 looked like it combined action with memorable characters. Even as placeholders, the dialogue and gestures from the characters in the trailer made them feel realistic and amplified the peril of their situation. Star Wars is all about memorable characters, from Han Solo to Darth Revan, and Hennig has written scruffy-looking scoundrels like Nathan Drake before. Visceral Games’ Dead Space may be more about atmosphere than story, but great characters are what will really sell a Star Wars game.
A tie to Episode VII without being an exact replica of the plot
It’s rare that a game which goes through the exact motions of a movie establishes itself as a powerful story. Visceral’s game could take place in connection with the events of Episode VII but not exactly replicate them. It could operate like Shadows of the Empire, one part of a larger franchise project, and create a whole new character, or it could feature a character seen briefly in the movies and flesh that character out in fine franchise tradition.
Action and intensity without becoming gratuitous
One of the greatest things about Knights of the Old Republic 2 is its darkness. The first companion the player meets is a man who once tortured Jedi for a living, and one of the antagonists is a Sith so severely wounded that he keeps his own body from becoming a corpse with only the Force. In addition, the player character can choose moral actions from petty theft to turning to the dark side. Visceral Games’ Dead Space is known for its claustrophobic alien locations and massive gore. In Joe Schreiber’s Star Wars novels Death Troopers and Maul: Lockdown, he toes the line into horror and gore to a degree that sometimes gets more detailed than fans expect or enjoy from Star Wars. That doesn’t mean that the new game’s story shouldn’t have a few scares. We’d love to see horror elements that bring a darker tone to Star Wars games. There certainly hasn’t been enough of that in the past.
There has been a lot of discussion about continuity in Star Wars fandom lately. The rumor that Peter Mayhew might have been cast as Chewbacca is making fans wonder whether the movies might not jive with the Expanded Universe, in which Chewbacca was killed 21 years after Return of the Jedi.
Satisfying continuity does not necessarily mean that Episode VII has to keep the stories from the Star Wars novels intact, or that the game has to connect to the movie. It would be nice if it had nods to the fandom’s years of experience with other games and Star Wars books, though – a mention of Darth Revan here, a twin sun sunset there. It could even be a joke or a mention of a meme; just something to show some self-aware fondness for the fans’ decades-long experience with continuity.
On the other hand…
Star Wars has a lot of repeated themes, from lofty ideals like goodness and family to aesthetic concerns like deserts, seedy cantinas, and people losing arms. It’s unusual to read an Expanded Universe novel without finding a cantina that reminds Han of the one on Tatooine. This sort of repetition can become at best wryly funny and at worst disruptive. It doesn’t seem realistic that a galaxy full of thousands of different star systems would have so many similar bars.
The best Star Wars games have a variety of vistas, from Knights of the Old Republic’s Taris cityscape and broken Malachor V to Jedi Academy’s Yavin IV jungle and the Jedi Knight series’ cultist strongholds. Modern game consoles can deliver beautiful, new landscapes and themes, and with the Visceral team and Amy Hennig tasked to create new worlds for Star Wars, there’s a fair chance we’ll see some.