Yesterday it was announced that EA had cancelled an in-development open-world Star Wars game. Long story short, in 2017, when EA had shutdown Visceral Games, developers of the Dead Space series, they absorbed that studio’s linear Star Wars project into the Vancouver studio and planned to repurpose Visceral’s assets into an open-world experience. With that project now dead it leaves one to wonder why EA still retains the rights to the Star Wars brand at all? It’s no surprise what a travesty Star Wars: Battlefront II was at launch, and the preemptive banding together of the Star Wars community ripping EA DICE’s progression system to shreds caused EA to pull their microtransactions out in shame. Today, Battlefront II is, admittedly, decent to play now that there’s more content to back the game up. Still, it took just shy of a year to finally make the Clone Wars fully realized in this game? It’s evident to see that EA is squandering their hold on Star Wars. Hopefully, the day comes when another developer and/or publisher seizes the rights and does this saga better.
It’s probably easier said than done but, no matter what way you look at it, Star Wars will forever be a beloved series, and one that’s practically guaranteed to make money (Solo: A Star Wars Story may have not performed up to snuff at the box office but look at the home video sales). I’m not entirely sure why EA is just sitting on that pile of gold and not doing anything about it. Yet, it seems like a double-edged sword when you really think over it. On one hand, little to no new Star Wars games released over time isn’t exactly ideal. On the other hand, too many Star Wars games over-saturating the market makes for a breeding ground for shoddy development, unfinished products, or the habit of the developer and publisher to sweep the fault under the rug. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t bear to endure another Battlefront II fiasco again, not to mention the tedious waiting to get a product that feels worth playing through gradual updates.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is being developed by Respawn Entertainment. I’m intrigued, to be honest. The idea of a surviving Jedi Padawan of Order 66 perhaps being hunted down by Darth Vader and the Inquisitorius gives me goosebumps, as well as how it could tie-in with the Star Wars canon. Yet, all the while, with EA likely working Respawn as a puppet, I’ll hold my breath for the time being. That being said, it wouldn’t be a bad thing (on any level) for EA to lose Star Wars. Here’s some entertaining thoughts on a handful of developers who could do Star Wars better than EA.
Putting the less than ideal reception of Fallout 76 behind us for a moment, if Bethesda could strike a good balance between role-playing elements and action, they could have a real solid Star Wars experience on their hands. I’m sure I’d be highly entertained whether it was a single player or purely multiplayer experience. I’d go with the former first for the sake of world building, however. I’m not thinking of Fallout so much as I’m thinking of The Elder Scrolls. Can’t you picture that idea in your head from a narrative experience? You could take the role of a Bounty Hunter, Smuggler, Jedi, Sith, or more factions. The mysticism of the Force could be a driving point to the Force practitioner factions, whereas taking on one more job as a smuggler makes it hard to put the controller down. If concepts and flow from Fallout and The Elder Scrolls were combined this would be a breath of fresh air for the Star Wars mythos. Personally, I’d go the way of a Jedi or Sith. As either faction, I’d have to build my own lightsaber, which could be a pivotal metagame in itself. Jedi would have to take the rite of passage to the planet Ilum to have their Kyber crystal find them. As a Sith, players could hunt a Jedi down, steal their Kyber crystal and proceed to corrupt it into their own red-bladed weapon. How about we reboot Knights of the Old Republic with Bethesda and call it a day?
Bungie, undoubtedly best known for their work on Halo and more recently with the Destiny series, would instantly have my pick if Star Wars needed a new home specifically for the first-person shooter genre. Bungie will soon retain full rights to Destiny and become a publisher in themselves. If they want to explore the possibilities of a licensed series then why not? It’s a pipedream but imagine if Battlefront was rebooted again, but more so to be reimagined from the ground up. Not all of the conflicts in the galaxy focused solely on clones versus the Separatist droid army, or stormtroopers against a band of rebels. Pirates, bounty hunters, spice cartels, and criminal organizations thrived on galactic-wide calamities. That isn’t to say that huge, sprawling team deathmatches would be thrown out the window.
Yet, what if, in between traditional multiplayer modes, you could travel to various planets; each with its own flourishing economy, town hubs, alien species, bounties, lore, and so on? Interplanetary travel could involve real-time lightspeed travel. Loading times could be masked through use of the iconic hyperspace jumps seen in the films. Remember what No Man’s Sky looked like in its alpha build? Take that, but with a healthy blend of what makes Destiny fun to play, held aloft by a huge player base, and it could make for many years worth of gaming enjoyment. Heck, it doesn’t even have to stick to the time period of the Star Wars films. I’d be much more inclined to see what Bungie could do during the time of the Old Republic, the Mandalorian Wars, and Revan’s Sith Empire, canon or not. Better yet, these themes could finally be brought into the existing canon through all-new stories.
3) Naughty Dog
Naughty Dog is a powerhouse in not only game design, but also when you need to bring an emotional story front and center. I think their work on Uncharted and The Last of Us speaks volumes to that testament. Furthermore, it’s not improbable that Naughty Dog couldn’t take on a licensed property. Their good friends at Insomniac Games just proved this with their first licensed game: Marvel’s Spider-Man, which speaks for itself. Naughty Dog could take an iconic story out of any Star Wars era and simultaneously fashion a game that is entertaining to play as much as it gets us to stop and think about its story. A great emotional theme that Naughty Dog has demonstrated is the internal strife of a character, whether it’s a need to prove oneself or the inability to deny who one really is at their core.
Moreover, these themes have a tendency to pour out from the player character and affect the supporting characters around them. Through Naughty Dog, Star Wars would have an opportunity to get real gritty. Revan’s growing unrest with the Jedi Order, to his vengeance on the Mandalorians and adopting the ways of the Sith. Darth Vader’s obsession with satiating the hate in his heart for the Jedi, for causing his wife’s death, being crippled by Obi-Wan, by hunting down Jedi survivors, training his Inquisitorius, and destroying any would-be usurpers to the Galactic Empire are stories I wouldn’t mind seeing from an emotional perspective through Naughty Dog’s eyes.
4) CD Projekt Red
CD Projekt Red, behind the revered Witcher series, would never willingly become a subsidiary to another gaming company. However, if they could be handed the Star Wars license with no strings attached (again anyone is better than EA at this point) and asked to have fun with it then gamers the world over would have a memorable sandbox to play in. CD Projekt Red could take whatever creative liberties they want in terms of game design. Whether it followed a third-person action perspective similar to the Witcher games, or a first-person shooter along the lines of the forthcoming Cyberpunk 2077, the point is that the player’s expectations are what sets up the solid foundation for a promising Star Wars game.
It’s chiefly this reason why CD Projekt Red is a dream come true for the saga. It’s the philosophy behind their game design. For CD Projekt Red it’s creativity before business, and that philosophy has clearly shown in their work given their track record. I understand they tend to take on one large project at a time, but I think the studio makes for a great “what if?” Can you visualize a Star Wars game packed to the brim with an entertaining narrative, hundreds of side quests, lore entries, and new music? All of this would be available on the disc from the start, not to be made available in an update months after launch. Plus the promise of additional free downloadable content post-launch? I’d love to live in a galaxy where CD Projekt Red is telling original Star Wars stories under their own tender love and care.
5) Santa Monica Studio
Santa Monica Studio, who just won Game of the Year for God of War, is yet another strong contender to deliver an emotionally-charged, pulse-pounding Star Wars action game. I know this will sound like a blatant ripoff of Kratos and Atreus, but it’s just for the sake of forming a picture in your head. Imagine a beaten down Jedi Master and survivor of Emperor Palpatine’s Jedi Purge traveling with a droid companion. The Jedi Master lost their apprentice to the purge only to come across a young outcast, who’s also Force-sensitive, several years later. They decide they have a better chance at surviving together and team up. Over time the Jedi Master explains the ways of the Force and undertakes the youngling as their new apprentice. Throughout their adventures, the master can reflect on their successes and failures during their time as a Padawan, make references to the prequels, or share their accounts of the Clone Wars and iconic characters.
From here the story can be fashioned as the player would see fit, perhaps implementing a dialogue tree that can explore the light and dark sides of the Force as well as some morally gray areas. Are the master and apprentice fashioned into an instrument of rebellion, or do they see the failings of the Jedi as a chance to explore the quick and easy path to absolute power? So why Santa Monica Studio? Well, who said the Greek and Norse mythologies couldn’t be left up to interpretation? Look what they’ve done with those beloved fantasies. Why should Star Wars be any different?
Those are my picks for some gaming studios that could do the Star Wars brand some real good. From the looks of it, you can probably tell that I’m ready for something driven more by a narrative focus instead of another multiplayer game. I’m ready for something much more open-ended than what we’ve gotten from EA in these recent years. What game developer would you like to see give Star Wars a try? Thanks for taking the time to read. For more gaming news, reviews, and opinion pieces make sure to come back to Mammoth Gamers!