Tag Archives: Star Wars

Star Wars Games: Episode I

I’ve dabbled here and there talking about Star Wars games on this site, but I haven’t made it clear how important they are.  We take for granted just how good LucasArts was at making video games.  Nowadays we live in the days of Star Wars Kinect and EA using microtransactions and pre-orders to sell us our favorite franchise for triple the price.  In the mid-2000s and prior, though, we had some truly amazing games coming out.

I’m the biggest Star Wars fan I know, and the video games were a huge part of my childhood.  I’ve played so many Star Wars games, and every so often I’d like to talk about them.  This is going to be the first of a few posts where I talk about my favorites.  It’s officially Star Wars season 2017 now that The Last Jedi has come out, and I’m very excited.  To celebrate, I’m going to talk about three Star Wars games I just love.

Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter

Jedi Starfighter is the sequel to Star Wars Starfighter for PS2, Xbox, and GameCube.  It was actually a more recent play for me, the only similar game I’d played was Rogue Squadron for N64.  I’m not the biggest fan of Rogue Squadron, but the formula of flying around in a starfighter is all good with me.  That was my favorite part of Battlefront, for sure.

Jedi Starfighter follows the adventures of Adi Gallia, a hugely underrated character from the extended prequel universe.  I don’t really remember the plot all that well…something about a rogue bad guy looking to unleash deadly weapons of mass destruction on the galaxy who needs to be stopped.  Basically it’s an excuse to fly around and shoot things.

The project was headed up by W. Haden Blackman, who was also a project lead on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and wrote a few Star Wars comics like Jango Fett: Open Seasons.  He also wrote the story, which does a decent job.  It all comes down to a lot of “destroy this” and “protect that” because frankly it’s a game, and story just needs to provide a solid backdrop.  And as a game, Jedi Starfighter is a lot of fun.  Since you’re playing as a jedi, you can use multiple force abilities, like a shield or a lightning burst.  These were a fun add-on to some already good dogfighting, and hearing your companions over the staticky comm channel provided a nice Star Fox vibe.  This is the kind of game that works great with Star Wars.  Nice and simple, and it shows how much goes on behind the scenes in the universe.

Criterion did a great job creating the space combat for DICE’s Battlefront II, so I’d love to see them make some kind of Poe Dameron game just like this one.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

When people say there are no good movie tie-in games, most of the time I point them towards this game.  Episode III is not a very good movie, but the game represents it really well.  It’s not a long game, but it’s essentially an 3D action beat-em-up that tells the story of the film.  It starts with a few missions of the Chancellor rescue, then Obi-Wan’s mission to Utapau, Anakin’s destruction of the Jedi Temple, and finally the confrontation between master and apprentice.

What I enjoy most is that the tone is actually more intense than the movie.  It includes practically no mention of Padme, and Anakin turns to the dark side full tilt, no brooding, no beating around the bush.  You get to live out the destruction of the Jedi Temple that you don’t get to see in the movie, actually fight General Grievous and Count Dooku.  In a lot of ways I like to experience the story better this way than by watching the movie, because it’s all action.

The movesets of each character are also impressive.  Every character has a unique moveset, from Dooku to Mace Windu.  This is especially cool because there’s also a versus mode with about a dozen characters.  There are also five bonus missions where you get to play as Magnaguards, Master Yoda, and even Darth Vader.  Vader and Old Ben Kenobi are also unlockable for versus mode, so you and a friend can fight each other as young and old Vader, or young and old Obi-Wan.

Each character has a moveset that fits their personality.  The dev team spent some time training with Hayden Christiansen and Nick Gillard, the coreographer for the prequel movies, to make sure their work was faithful.  And it shows.  The combat is surprisingly deep, with some pretty complicated button combos.  I used to love playing this game’s multiplayer with friends.

The story mode is also pretty decent.  The climactic moments of the movie are well-realized.  The prequel soundtrack is used at its finest, and I love the combo of James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan and Mat Lucas as Anakin Skywalker.  I think this may be my favorite video game adaptation of a movie.

Star Wars: Bounty Hunter

Now THIS is a big one for me.  I don’t know if I’ve ever said it, but of all the Star Wars characters, my favorite is Jango Fett, the intergalactic bounty hunter.  The DNA template for the Republic Clone Army, possibly my favorite thing about the prequels.  Back in 2003, the geniuses at LucasArts decided to make a video game that tells the story of how Jango Fett was chosen as the template for the strongest army in the galaxy.  That game turned out to be Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, an action-adventure shoot-em-up platformer. My absolute favorite game for the first eight years of my life.

Bounty Hunter is a story of mystery, twists, betrayals, and unnecessary dual gun twirling.  The goal is to hunt down Komari Vosa, the rogue apprentice of Count Dooku.  Its story consists of several stages.  It starts you at a pit fighting arena in the sinister Outer Rim, takes you through the high society of Coruscant, through a breakout from the highest-security prison in the Galaxy, and then to the dusty hive of scum and villainy that is Tatooine, before you finally reach your prey at the Moon of Bogden.  I just love how all the areas look completely different, and how you visit all of the seediest places in the Star Wars universe.

I absolutely love the look of this game.  The third person camera is in just the right place, and the HUD is practically nonexistent.  It shows only your health bar and whatever weapon you have equipped — exactly what you need to know at any given time.  It becomes much easier to take in your surroundings completely without information constantly in your face.  This game is also great because it rarely tells you how to progress through a level.  Sometimes you’ll have to climb a small tower or a rock and jetpack over to where you need to be.  The ability to jetpack around gives you so much horizontal and vertical mobility that the scale had to adjust to match it.  And thankfully, it does.  There are a lot of moments when you barely make it to where you need to go, and those moments are extremely satisfying.  It feels like the world is not built for you to traverse it.  Sometimes that gets frustrating, sure, but it’s also why the whole world feels so damn convincing.

I’m just gonna gush about this game for a minute.  You can light people on fire with a flamethrower.  Whipcord-tying people and neck chopping them is usually an instant-kill.  Roz and Zam Wesell are genuinely cool characters that the movies could ever have done justice.  There’s one late-game level where you can’t use a jetpack because Jango decided it was too heavy and he doesn’t need it.  Freakin’ amazing.  In another one you have to fight your way out of a jail cell with only your bare fists until you reclaim your equipment.  Love it.  There are so many interesting things in this game that are small, but particularly sell it as a movie tie-in.  Actually some of the cutscenes are leagues better than the prequel films.

Star Wars: Bounty Hunter is criminally underrated.  Definitely pick it up if you can find it.  It’s a good example of solid world design and HUD.

My Six Video Game Commandments

I was disappointed recently by a livestream from the team behind the upcoming Middle-Earth: Shadow of War.  Specifically, it showcased the game’s second currency.  In addition to Mirian, the game’s regular currency, there is also Gold.  Gold is used to purchase war chests and loot boxes for the chance of obtaining legendary items and gear.  So how do you obtain gold?  Through community challenges, reaching milestones in the game, and, of course, by paying real-life money.

That’s right, Shadow of War has micro-transactions.  Everyone’s favorite.

This makes me furious, because I wrote a post specifically on why I was excited for this game.  I can’t remember wanting a game so much in a long time.  Now, I’m not sure I can buy it, because I can’t support these practices.

People have covered this controversy pretty thoroughly already [insert], but Angry Joe’s coverage is what I want to focus on today.  If you watch this, hopefully you don’t mind cursing.

If you’re not familiar with Joe “AngryJoe” Vargas, he’s a video game and film reviewer on YouTube with subscribers in the millions.  His biggest claim to fame is tackling corporate scheming in games.  In an era where scheming is more common than ever, he tries to make sure people get their money’s worth from games.

I’ve always admired Joe for this, and he said something in the above video that intrigued me.  He proposed the idea of creating a list of “Gaming Commandments.”  These commandments would provide guidelines for what’s fair to consumers and creators in games.

Joe hasn’t even created his own list yet, but just for fun, I thought I’d take a crack at it.  I’ve been watching his show for years, and I think I could create a decent list based on his wisdom.  Especially for big budget releases.  These are my six standards of quality that just about every game should adhere to upon release so that consumers get what they deserve.

Commandment 1: New Releases Should Provide At Least 1 to 2.5 Meaningful Hours For Each Dollar Paid

I’m taking a risk by including some kind of concrete ratio of time to money, because not all games fall under one umbrella.  Companies have varying amounts of resources, and some games are meant to deliver shorter, more refined experiences.

What I’ve noticed across the board, however, is that even with games like Shovel KnightSuper Meat Boy, and Mark of the Ninja, I felt like I got my money’s worth.  The games around around 10 to 15 dollars, and were so deep that I got at least 30 hours out of each.

Compare this to some licensed games that expect you to pay 30 or 40 dollars for 10 hours of gameplay at the most.  This is called being cheated out of your money.  If a game is fairly short, it should be challenging, deep, and/or interesting enough to make you play it more than once to get the full experience.

Commandment 2: Consumers Should Not Be Made to Pay For Raw Graphical Quality

This one overlaps with the first commandment a little bit.  Some games justify steep price tags by being graphical and visual knockouts.  Take the 2015 remake of Star Wars Battlefront, for example (this one’s gonna come up a few times).   It’s the most faithful recreation of the original Star Wars trilogy ever to be made in a game engine.

The problem is, there are often balancing and longevity issues surrounding all the eye candy.  If a game’s worth is defined by the explosions in its animated cutscenes or how convincing your character looks holding a gun, then priorities are probably in the wrong order.

Commandment 3: Micro-transactions Should Not Affect Paid Singleplayer Games

This commandment was actually the impetus for the list.  Shadow of War is running into this problem right now.  It’s a singleplayer game with a multiplayer component that interfaces with the singleplayer experience.  That multiplayer component allows players to spend money and accelerate the process of obtaining resources.

And this is after players paid $60 dollars U.S. retail for the game itself.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in the virtue of earning one’s place at the top in paid multiplayer games.  Micro-transactions have been getting in the way of that.  They work better in a free-to-play model, where you can spend money to build yourself up, or invest time to do so.  Paywalls are still a problem, but at least no one is punished for playing the game.

DLC and cosmetic purchases are also fine, as long as they’re priced appropriately.  They enhance an experience without necessarily breaking it, and they allow a game to stay relevant.  For example, Elder Scrolls DLC consistently charges the player an appropriate amount of money for the amount of game they get in return.

Micro-transactions are a whole different ballgame.  In big-budget releases, they are almost always a way of siphoning money from people who just wanted a focused, complete game.  Things get especially bad in games like Assassin’s Creed Unity where the player can go into a menu and buy more treasure chests to open.  It adds artificial value without real substance.  It needs to stop.

Commandment 4: No One Should Pay Full Price for Half a Game

I mentioned a moment ago that DLC is great when it’s reasonably priced.  Guess what happens when it isn’t?  Ask Electronic Arts.

EA has a bad habit of charging people money for perfectly extraneous things.  Like the Call of Duty games they release year after year that only seem to decrease in quality.  But another horror story from Battlefront saw them charge for a DLC Season Pass that was, on average, about the same price as the game itself.  This might have been understandable, except the game at launch was bare bones.

What we ended up with was people paying twice market value over several months to get a reasonably complete but mediocre game.

Other games like Killzone and Destiny have used poor DLC models that left players feeling scammed.  Here are some examples of really good and really bad DLC.

Nintendo got this right with Splatoon in a simple way: don’t make people pay.  The game got free new weapons and maps over a period of about 6 months, and the full game proved worth it.  It also didn’t split the player base into people who did and didn’t purchase the content.

DLC is a double-edged sword.  It’s important to give players valuable content if it’s not included in the game.  Otherwise we’re left nostalgic for the days of cheat codes.

Commandment 5: Paying Money / Pre-Ordering to Tip the Scales in Multiplayer Should Be Off-Limits

This commandment is an offshoot of the third, but I’m specifically talking about player advantage.  Multiplayer games often entice players to spend extra money by offering better gear faster.  This method has some problems, like how randomized rewards lead to wasted money and frustration.

The worst offense, however, is when a game offers a head-start for pre-ordering the game.

Not only does this prioritize 1) people who have money to spend on pre-order copies, and 2) people who are able to get to these copies first, but it asks people to take a leap of faith and assume that the game they’re pre-ordering is going to be good.  That guarantee never exists, especially not before release.  On the surface, pre-ordering seems like a harmless gesture to reward brand loyalty, but it’s now usually pegged as making a deal with the devil.

At the very least, pre-order bonuses or special bundles should involve fun, cosmetic additions.  They should never, ever give players an edge in the game itself.  Don’t be EA, who sells the best pistol in Star Wars Battlefront 2015 for 10 dollars so that people can pay to kill 25 opponents for every death.

Commandment 6: Games Should Refine Their Core Software Functions Before Launching

A big problem in the modern age of games is when companies don’t polish their games enough before release.  I’m not saying all games must be bug-free.  Most open-world games would be impossible to get free of bugs.  But if you have a game on Steam that runs online or on PC hardware, it’s really important that it works.

So many games crash at random times and have to be reset.  Too many connections are dropped in online games.  Splatoon has this problem even now, two years after release.  This is why so many companies have paid subscriptions for online play.  It means better servers and more reliable connections.

Crashing is simply a matter of rigorous testing and making sure the game runs properly.  If this is a recurring problem, it has to be minimized before release, even if it means delaying the game.  I’m sure most people will be happy to wait for a game that doesn’t glitch or crash on them.  Patching helps this process after launch, but too many games have been declared dead on arrival because they don’t work right.


I hope this tirade has been helpful to you readers out there.  It’s a far cry from what I normally write, but I felt the need to write it.  I’ve seen too many games get more money than they deserve by complicating their money-making schemes.  What we, as consumers, end up with is a market full of cutting-edge games that pull wool over our eyes.

Thankfully, there is hope that things will improve.  EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II is ditching a lot of broken mechanics and DLC season passes in favor of more content.  If it turns out good, we’ll know that our voices matter.

Meanwhile, if we’re trying to determine whether a game stands on its own two feet, I think this is a good start.

My Thoughts on E3 2017

Critics and online personalities have been saying 2017 is shaping up to be the best year for video games in decades.  E3, the biggest event in gaming, had a lot riding on it.  I went in with few expectations.  E3 is often hit-or-miss, and commentators will usually talk about it in terms of who “wins.”

I’ve fallen victim to this mindset in the past couple years, but I don’t really think it’s healthy.  I wrote posts for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo separately.  But I’ve realized that E3 is an expo, not a competition.  Sure, one company or one game might generate more hype than others.  But the real winners are us, the video game community.  We’re the ones who get to play the great games.  So instead of breaking this E3 down by company, I’m just gonna talk about everything I’m excited for!  And there is a lot of exciting stuff happening.


Let me kick off with the return of Metroid.  I went convinced that Nintendo could rock the E3 boat in two ways: porting Super Smash Bros. to Nintendo Switch, or bringing back Metroid.  Smash is going to wait, but Metroid is back in full force.  And although I’m not a huge series fan, I’m now a believer.  Metroid Prime is now in development for Nintendo Switch, and Metroid: Samus Returns is coming to 3DS on SEPTEMBER 15th.  Now that this series is back, I’m gonna do all I can to support it.


Although Mario games are consistently good, I usually don’t get excited about the franchise.  I was burnt out when Odyssey was announced, and Mario x Rabbids sounded too weird to be real.  Come E3 though, both games really impressed me.  Mario x Rabbids is a fun spin on the XCOM style, and it has the great Grant Kirkhope coming through as composer.

Meanwhile, Mario Odyssey looks expansive, innovative, and fun.  It’s the ultimate Mario playground, and a return to the best 3D Mario formula.   I’m definitely going to give it a play at launch.  All in all, a great showing for the franchise.


Like with Mario, I tend to sleep on the Yoshi and Kirby games, but their planned releases in 2018 are promising.  Kirby on Switch promises to bring back cool franchise mechanics and Yoshi looks clever as ever.  Now I just hope for a revival of Kirby’s Air Ride.


We didn’t see much from the Pokemon Company at E3, but what was announced is the development of a main-series Pokemon game for Nintendo Switch.  This is a huge development.  We got no further details, but Pokemon for Switch is a win in itself.

I also rally enjoyed watching the Pokken Tournament DX Invitational.  I know virtually everyone hates Pokken, but I have something of an affection for it.  I’ll probably be picking it up on Switch.


I’ve always been a massive fan of Spider-Man games.  I played both PS1 games, all three Sam Raimi movie games, and spinoffs like Friend or Foe and Ultimate Spider-Man.  With the recent movie reboot, we got a couple of incredibly lazy games along with them.  Thankfully, at E3 2017, Insomniac Games showed off their new palate-cleansing Spider-Man game.

This game looks incredible.  Despite my distaste for quick-time events, it includes them gracefully and cinematically.  Combat looks complex and engaging.  The world of Manhattan looks vast and varied.  Most of all, navigating the world by swinging looks like an homage to Spider-Man 2 on PS2, the best of the bunch.  I can’t wait for this game to come out.


The first Star Wars Battlefront by DICE and published by EA was one of my worst disappointments.  Battlefront was one of my favorite games as a kid, and I always wanted a revival.  Sadly, although the revival was aesthetically beautiful, it turned out to be a bore.  And a money scam.

BUT, if the new sequel turns out like it looks so far, it will be a huge turnaround.  It has a story mode, an improved class system, more heroes, and generally more content.  Furthermore, DLC will be free so as not to divide the player base.  This game has my attention, so hopefully it doesn’t disappoint.


This sequel to Shadow of Mordor has actually been around for a few months, but I’ve been on the hype train since the beginning.  I wrote a post about this hype train a few weeks ago.  For E3, we’re getting new story content, new characters, and a look at some of the new mechanics.

Combat looks more intense and brutal.  Cinematic scenarios and conquest missions are coming through in full force.  And the plotline of Talion is coming to a head as he confronts the Dark Lord Sauron.  I honestly can’t remember wanting a game this much.


There was a lot of other stuff at E3 that looked neat to me, so I want to mention it.  Fire Emblem Warriors is an idea I had years ago, and to see it in action is thrilling.  I like that it has character switch and strategic mechanics.  Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a big point of love for me, and what I saw at E3 looks like a beautiful successor to the first game.

Days Gone looks like it’ll be the most interesting zombie game since The Last of Us.  Uncharted: Lost Legacy will be an interesting game, especially thanks to its two female main characters.  God of War is finally on deck, and it looks much less over-the-top than its predecessors, which I enjoy.  Bethesda’s VR shenanigans, like Fallout 4 in full VR, looks like an exciting step forward.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus seems like a ridiculous, Nazi-killing extravaganza and I can’t wait.  Anthem looks like a fun, huge multiplayer experience that will hopefully deliver. The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti, Super Lucky’s Tale, and Cuphead are bringing back fun, quirky platforming adventures.  Assassin’s Creed: Origins actually has me really pumped because I’m a fan of the franchise and I like the new mechanics.  Although I’ve sadly never played the first game, Ori and the Will of the Wisps looks like a great sequel and it’s stunning in 4K.  Sonic Forces didn’t get a lot of new info, but we saw a team-up of four legendary villains, which should be cool.  Lastly, Crackdown 3, The Darwin Experiment, Dragon Ball Fighter Z are games I know nothing about, but they look sick.

So that’s where I stand on E3 2017.  Reactions are all over the map, but I’m honestly coming away from it feeling excited.  A major plus is the fact that most of these games are coming out this year, so 2017 should be a great year for games after all.

Star Wars Battlefront: Original VS. Reboot

Disney’s new Star Wars movie Rogue One was an incredible blending of science fantasy and a war movie.  I’m excited that Star Wars is trying things like this.  All-out battle is something the original trilogy never did, and seeing it now reminds me of one thing: Battlefront.  Star Wars Battlefront was one of my favorite games for a long time, part of the golden age of Star Wars games in the early 2000s.

Since I’m feeling in this Star Wars mood anyway, I want to take this time to tackle the differences between the original Battlefront games and the reboots.  The Star Wars Battlefront franchise was rebooted in 2015 by DICE and Electronic Arts after ten years.  DICE’s reboot of the Star Wars Battlefront franchise was intensely hyped up from the moment it was announced, and I was instantly on-board the bandwagon.  I’m a loyal fan of those games since I was a kid, and I poured an unreal amount of hours into Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefront II.  I desperately wanted the franchise to make a return.  So when I saw the amount of care and dedication was putting into the game to make it a grand Star Wars experience, I figured nothing could go wrong.

I was gullible then.

Battlefront promotional art
Star Wars Battlefront promotional art! (Photo: Playstation Europe via Flickr)

The game came out, and the public’s opinion on the game  was highly controversial.  That was honestly predictable, as this game has a mountain of expectations to climb.  Current FPS fans loyal to games like DICE’s own Battlefield would want something familiar.  Battlefront traditionalists from back in the day would crave the classic, more strategic style.  To combine these ideas into a new installment ten years later was a tall order.  But this game could have succeeded.  The elements of success are there, but they’re all out of order.  Speaking as a Battlefront traditionalist, I want to take a good look at what I think EA should’ve done differently and what they should do for a sequel.

So let’s start with the basic layout of what we got on the day of release.  The Battlefront reboot…is gorgeous.  This is the best visual fidelity and sound design that Star Wars has ever seen short of the movies.  From a sensory perspective, playing this game is like being in a Star Wars movie.  But I noticed in a lot of teasers for the game that it seemed to trade on visuals alone.  Closer to release, we found out that there would only be two factions to play as.  We found out that there would be no campaign modes.  Then there were no classes.  Then there were only six distinct planets in the game.

Check out AngryJoe’s review of the game if you want, because he expresses a lot of the same problems I found.

Basically, DICE’s Battlefront fell down a slippery slope, because possibly the biggest complaint is lack of content.  It focused on creating a vivid Star Wars world, and succeeded.  But if you strip all that away, the game is repetitive and poorly balanced.  The bulk of the game consists of running out into battle, taking down some opponents, dying and taking a tumble, and repeating.  It brings back the staples of more powerful hero characters, vehicle combat, and aerial combat.  There was one big problem, though: everything was now a battlefield pickup.  This leads to a lot of spawn-camping to get these powers instead of earning them.

Compare this to the original Battlefront II, the most popular game in the franchise.  I see a lot of flaws with this game, but it had ambition.  It brought in space battles, hero characters, and more maps than its predecessor.  It wasn’t very balanced or polished, but it took a step forward.  The reboot included similar things, but locking them behind timed power-ups made them feel completely inorganic.  The fact that the game further removed campaigns, true space battles, and more makes it nothing more than a distraction.

The flaws go deeper because the game totally emphasizes  online deathmatch multiplayer.  The original teamwork and interesting map layouts of early Battlefront are left behind.  It’s very much a Call of Duty type of game more than a Battlefield type of game.  There’s so much less depth, and the imbalanced progression system makes it feel completely biased toward mass-appeal, pick-up-and-go skirmishes.  This is fundamentally different from classic Battlefront, and while it might sell with a certain crowd, it doesn’t live up to the franchise.

Battlefront 2015 isn’t some kind of broken game.  But it’s clear that it’s priorities lie in a different place than the others.  This game’s focus on looking nice and on featuring only the era being explored in the movies makes it feel like a cash grab.

And that would be all well and good, since the whole idea of the Battlefront games was to be a treat for fans of the movies.  But they had staying power because they were good games full of content that gave players options.  Tens of maps, space battles, and four different armies, topped off with online multiplayer, made for a legendary game.  The new Battlefront games are making people bored after just a few hours of play.

I think the new formula that DICE has created has a lot of promise, but the sequel reportedly coming in 2017 is going to have to bring a lot more to hear to attain the level of respect given the old 2000s standby.  The first game had multiple downloadable content packs, but the game had so little to stick around for early on.  Paying the price of practically another whole game to get the rest of the content is an outrage.  EA published this game, though, so it’s not surprising.  They have a reputation.

For a sequel, since there are more movies to draw from now, we should see more maps from the get-go.  There should also be less focus on unlocking weapons, and more resources put into other modes.  I hate to just say this, but I think it should be more like the originals.  Organic battles.  Diverse locations.  Actual teamwork.  Throw in modes like Capture-the-Flag, campaign missions, and true ground-to-space combat, and you have a game with tons of depth.  I’ll gladly sacrifice the delicious graphics and sound design for an engaging Star Wars shooter experience.