Star Wars is in a very exciting era of rebirth not only for its movies, but also its novels, comics, and of course video games. For many, faith in the franchise ended with the release of the much-loathed prequel trilogy. The release of The Force Awakens last year proved to many fans that Disney are capable of helming the beloved franchise and steering it into a new and exciting direction. Additionally, spin-off film Rogue One has demonstrated their ability to tell compelling stories outside of the main saga films by introducing new elements into familiar time periods. Longtime fans of the franchise know that Star Wars also has a rich history in video games, but that well has been running fairly dry in recent memory. The future of Star Wars is bright, and we’ve only gotten a small taste of what to expect from its video games.
Letting Go of the Past
A dry spell followed the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983. There were no more new movies, hardly any books and seemingly not much to look forward to in Star Wars. A few arcade games were released in the 80’s which helped fill the void, but it wasn’t until Timothy Zahn published his first novel in the Thrawn trilogy, Heir to the Empire, in 1991 that the Expanded Universe (EU) really took off and changed the franchise forever. A sequel to the original trilogy, Zahn showed us that there were still more Star Wars stories to be told. Following that came a slew of acclaimed novels and the beginning of what are now considered to be classic Star Wars video games.
Dark Forces, the X-Wing series, TIE Fighter, Rebel Assault, Shadows of the Empire, and Rogue Squadron are just a few of the titles that fans went crazy for in the 90’s. Not only were they fun games, but they offered new storylines in the galaxy that had become so close to our hearts. The release of the prequels opened up the universe to even more stories such as Jedi Starfighter, Bounty Hunter, Republic Commando, The Force Unleashed, and the highly-praised Knights of the Old Republic.
Since Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilm in 2014, they have rebranded all of the previous Expanded Universe material as “Legends”. Essentially, all additional media outside of the films has been “erased” from canon — a controversial move among many hardcore fans. All future Star Wars content now goes through a story group so that it fits into place with the events of all films, novels, comics, and video games. This shift is known as the New Canon.
For fans, one of the hardest things with the changeover to Disney was the “elimination” of the old EU. However, it appears that LucasFilm are taking their feelings into account by slowly canonizing old EU characters such as the appearance of Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels and Dark Forces’ Jan Ors being loosely reinterpreted into Rogue One protagonist Jyn Erso. It is important to note that the story group at LucasFilm are doing their very best to move the franchise forward into fresh territory while staying true to fans of the old EU. We must let go of EU mentality and allow room for the bright future that lies ahead with the New Canon video games.
How The New Canon Factors In
For Star Wars video games, the New Canon is a godsend. It allows for storytelling that holds weight in the universe. As with any novel that is released from here on out, characters and events from all forms of Star Wars media have their place in the overall timeline. This means that fan-favorite Admiral Rae Sloane from various New Canon novels has the potential to appear in one of the upcoming films, video games, or television shows. This means that Poe Dameron could someday have his own spin-off game which could help fill in his back story. Whether it’s filling in the gaps between films or stepping into the shoes of an Outer Rim bounty hunter, the Star Wars universe is rich with stories to tell.
Other than Battlefront and Lego The Force Awakens, we don’t have any big Star Wars games to play since Disney took over the franchise. The distant future holds two important releases: Visceral’s third-person action game and Respawn’s third-person shooter. Judging by the information released about these games, they are still a very long way away. I personally feel that these games will have an immense impact on the future of Star Wars games and set the bar high. Visceral’s game is being written by Amy Hennig, formerly of the Legacy of Kain and Uncharted series. One can only assume that her new game will be treated with the same amount of care. Her knack for fantastic cinematic storytelling should fit in greatly with the Star Wars universe.
A lot hinges on the success of these two titles, both in gaming and for the franchise as a whole. Perhaps Hennig’s story is revered and even goes beyond the game — someday there could be a spin-off film or novel based around it. The question of whether or not it will intertwine with the Skywalker saga films has yet to be answered, but some of the best Star Wars stories can stand on their own.
Oftentimes in Star Wars fandom, there is a hesitation when it comes to bringing in new ideas. The poor execution of the prequel trilogy is largely responsible for this mentality, which has created a barrier in acceptance. Fans may feel betrayed by the decanonization of beloved games such as Dark Forces and Knights of the Old Republic, but this doesn’t mean these stories are lost. In fact, there may even be a chance for them to become canon again. Their core stories may have inconsistencies and overlaps with the current canon, but they can be rewritten and rebooted to fit in.
Why a KOTOR Reboot is Likely
If you’ve ever heard a discussion about the best Star Wars video games, chances are that Knights of the Old Republic is at the top of everyone’s list. It was a fantastic RPG with great characters that played a crucial role in the expansion of the universe. The new era of Star Wars is still very young, and we are only seeing a small glimpse of its future. LucasFilm and Disney know that KOTOR is a revered game. They’ve already “rebooted” one of their highly-praised games, Battlefront, so this one seems like a no-brainer. Granted, a long and detailed RPG takes many years to develop and the LucasFilm story group would have to be very thorough in order to make its plot points canon.
Due to the fact that the game is set long before any of the films, a lot of leeway is allowed in terms of storytelling and overlap with other crucial plot points. Seeing a villain like Darth Revan in this new era of Star Wars would be incredible and fans would go nuts. Set in the era when the Sith are a larger threat, a rebooted KOTOR would allow for new lightsaber-wielding characters and some fantastic story arcs. Additionally, it’s far more likely to have this time period implemented into a New Canon video game rather than a novel or comic, since it is an interactive medium that allows for more action and detail.
The future of Star Wars is bright and we have not even scratched the surface of what that means for video games. Whether it’s a completely new story or a reboot of an old favorite, there is a lot to be excited for in future Star Wars video games. Just like Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy began a new era of video games within the franchise, Disney’s launch of the New Canon is a starting point for a new generation of Star Wars video games.