After my complaining that there were too many Star Wars TV series and not enough games, Ubisoft went and made my wish come true by revealing Star Wars Outlaws with an awesome 10-minute, scoundrel-filled gameplay trailer. I’m all for new female protagonists introduced to the universe. Third-person blaster combat — you can’t beat the trademark Star Wars pew pews — will always entice me. And hopping in a ship to dogfight it out against some TIE fighters? Yeah, sign me up for all of that. I cannot, however, hide my disappointment that we’re getting yet another Star Wars game piggybacking off the eras depicted in the movies, particularly when the Empire has a black-clad and cybernetic fist around the galaxy’s throat.
I’ve seen gritty underdogs fighting against the insurmountable might of the Empire so often in Star Wars that I can more or less guess the plot of Star Wars Outlaws. At some point, protagonist Kay Vess will stumble upon something that will eventually help the Rebellion topple the Empire in Return of the Jedi in a subtle manner that does not truly affect what happens in the films. She’ll also run into an iconic character or two. In the trailer we already see a brief shot of Han Solo frozen in carbonite, but if I had to guess, we’ll also see a Lando Calrissian appearance, given her smuggling profession. I’m happy to be wrong if this adventure sticks to smaller stakes, yet I have my doubts with how entwined Star Wars plots are to one another — much to their detriment, in my opinion.
We’ve rarely seen games set outside of the boundaries of Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor begin not long after the events of Revenge of the Sith and feature – you guessed it – a gritty underdog fighting against the insurmountable might of the Empire. Star Wars: Squadrons takes place around the events of A New Hope. 2017’s Star Wars Battlefront II was a breath of fresh air with its campaign filling the gaps between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, but it still features a revolving door of heroes we’ve spent decades with. Even back in 2008, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed — no longer canon — prominently featured Darth Vader in the early stages of the Empire’s rule.
In fact, you’d have to go all the way back to the early 2000s to find a game set in an uncommon Star Wars era, and I think it’s no coincidence it’s also the best game the series has ever seen. Yes, I’m going to talk about how great Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic again, and I will not apologize for it. Taking place 4,000 years before A New Hope, Knights of the Old Republic borrowed its setting from a series of comics that did away with the Skywalkers, Palpatines, and Solos, which brought back that sense of awe I felt when I first watched A New Hope.
Darth Malak was a worthy replacement for Vader, and the twist of your player character’s origin still remains one of the best in gaming history. I sincerely hope the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic remake isn’t canceled, as it looks like the only non-film-era game we’ll get for a while.
It’s such a shame because Star Wars is one of the most imaginative science-fantasy universes out there, with millennia of history to explore, expand upon, or create. I don’t know if Disney has some precondition that developers can’t expand upon the Star Wars mythos by creating games a long long long time ago or simply a long time ago, but I’m getting tired of the same characters — or adjacent new ones — going up against the same old Empire.
Give me a game that predates Knights of the Old Republic by another 4,000 years — the origin of Jedi, maybe. Or how about something far in the future where Jedi have become pure myth or the Sith have ruled for a thousand years with a malevolent fist. The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to Star Wars, yet we’re stuck within a period of time that feels like it’s closing in on itself. Thus, I sincerely hope the next wave of Star Wars games escapes from this black hole of nostalgia.