What games Lucasarts should be making

Article

posted 8/26/2008 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms:
X Wing/ Tie Fighter 4
Developed by: Totally Games, with help from Lucasarts
Platform: PC
It’s been nearly nine years since X Wing Alliance was released, and while I don’t blame Totally Games for pulling a Duke Nukem Forever on us (they never announced a sequel) it is time for a new game. Alliance was a suitable conclusion to Totally’s trilogy of pure Star Wars awesome. It didn’t quite live up to the monumental proportions of Tie Fighter, which is probably the best space flight sim ever, but at least the story was more cinematic. In between Tie Fighter and Alliance, Totally tried their hands at a multiplayer-centric game called X Wing vs. Tie Fighter. X Wing vs. Tie was a competent multiplayer game, but by excluding a solo campaign, it felt about as half-empty as Quake 3 Arena. Totally Games tried to fix that soon after with a substantial expansion pack, but X Wing vs. Tie never made full use of its potential.


Well guess what, it’s 2008 and it’s time to dust off that flight yoke. In other words, Totally Games should make the Star Wars flight sim to end them all. They’re the only developer who could legitimately give Star Wars the Bridge Commander treatment (several years and spiritual sequels later, and Bethesda still can’t make a better tactical Star Trek game than Totally did). This new game should follow the premise of X vs. Tie, and include two fully fleshed out campaigns, Rebel and Imperial, and have them converge at some amazing focal point. This dualistic gameplay should be based around planetary missions, enhanced squad based AI and a brand new engine. Heck, they could even dink around in the prequels with those wimpy banana yellow Naboo fighters, so long as they do it right.

The superb X Wing books by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston imitated the original games down to the smallest of details—in turn, the new game should be based off of those novels. Just give us a Star Wars flight sim as only you can, Totally Games. You proved with Bridge Commander that nearly a decade later, you guys still have the magic touch. Now do it again with Star Wars.

New Factor 5 project
Developed by: Factor 5, with help from Lucasarts
Platform: Wii
Okay, so Lair wasn’t everything we were hoping for. In fact, it kind of sucked. PS3 fans might’ve been royally let down by Lair, but now that Factor 5 has all of that SIXAXIS experimenting out of their system, they can get back to what they know. After three stellar Star Wars flight combat games, Julian Eggebrecht and his team of arcade-loving developers had a falling out with Nintendo. They weren’t too happy that the Wii was essentially an overclocked GameCube with a goofy controller (I can’t say I blame them), but after a while Eggebrett got frustrated that the Wii’s modest potential was being wasted by lazy developers.

As the old saying goes, if you want something done right, do it yourself, and Factor 5 definitely knows how to do it right. In fact, out of all the games on this list, this one has the best chance of being made. Factor 5 is working exclusively on a new Wii project, with a completely original engine. There’s no word yet on if it’s a Star Wars game, though. Old rumors said that Factor 5 was making a new Pilotwings, while IGN’s big-mouthed Matt Casamassina has practically come out and said that F5 is making the long dreamed of Kid Icarus sequel.

Whatever it is, it’s going to be damn pretty. Factor 5 pulled off graphical tricks with the GameCube, at launch, that other developers still aren’t doing with the Wii. Factor 5’s developers are technical geniuses, and they’re set to put other Wii developers to shame.

Even if this new project doesn’t involve X Wings, Death Stars and (inevitably) Hoth, Factor 5 could still give the Wii some Star Wars material through their previous work. Putting the original N64 Rogue Squadron on the Virtual Console would be a good start. Some bug fixing, framerate smoothing and maybe a gentler learning curve for those casual gamers would buff that old classic right up. Or even better, they could remake Rogue Squadron with the engine they labored over to make the GameCube sequels, Rogue Leader and Rebel Strike. Those games are the most graphically stunning titles on Nintendo hardware, and having the original Rogue done up with that engine would be fantastic.

Packing in a remade Rogue Squadron with the sequels to form an epic “Rogue Trilogy,” with online support and co-op for all three titles? That would be the second coming of Luke Skywalker. It’s too early to tell, but if Factor 5 and Nintendo are on even terms again, we might even get Rogue Squadron 4.


Republic Commando 2: Soldier for the Empire
Developed by Lucasarts, in house
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Despite being a shameless ripoff of Halo and Metroid Prime, Republic Commando was a pretty good shooter. The action was tense and unrelenting, and the tactical teamwork made you feel like part of a larger war machine. I also thought the combat, weaponry and health system was more balanced than Halo. The story did a good job of simultaneously making you a nameless number stamped out by a factory, and an individual with personality. The banter of your clone teammates was a cool look into the daily life of a clone trooper, replete with sarcastic comments about being expendable. Like Bounty Hunter, Commando had a darker take on Star Wars. The game was tragically short, though, and again felt like it had a lot of unused potential.
The logical sequel has yet to arrive, unless you count the cell phone game. Personally, I wouldn’t want a true sequel to follow the characters from the first game—they most likely died anyway (there’s a book coming up where we’ll know for sure). Rather, I want a true stormtrooper game set during the Galactic Civil War. As with Bounty Hunter, Lucasarts almost gave me what I wanted with Republic Commando, but with that nagging, unpleasant aftertaste of prequel.

Commando really emphasized the squad-based gameplay and with advances in AI a sequel could do it even better. Instead of having pre-set positions for your squad mates, rooms could be completely open to strategy. The sequel could add a scan visor similar to the one in Metroid Prime, that would let the player map a room or area for tactical positions. The player could then assign sniping points, grenade bombardments, computer hacks and target assaults from a 3D map. The command system in the first game made it feel like an FPS/RTS hybrid, but the interface was a little clunky.
The sequel could streamline things, let you assign multiple teammates to different targets and even issue orders while you were preoccupied with hacking a console or setting an explosive. There should also be a new health system—it was convenient in the first game that nearly every room had a bacta dispenser, but not very realistic. Maybe a persistent objective would be to acquire medical supplies from enemies and sickbays, and carry first aide kits for emergencies.

As for the story, I’d deliberately avoid the clones from the first game and the camaraderie they had. The sequel should start off with a new batch of troops, drafted into the Empire around the time of Episode IV. It’d be cool and a little chilling to have the tutorial level be a training exercise, where the new trainees act out Order 66 as the clones from Delta Squad, and work together to execute Jedi. This would set the game’s tone of indoctrination and loyalty to the Emperor above all else.

In the first game, your clone teammates were endearing characters that you connected with as the game progressed; I even felt a little sad when I had to abandon one at the end. In the sequel, this brotherhood should be interrupted and avoided at every opportunity by having squad mates die suddenly, or be hauled off, tortured and executed for suspected treason. This would factor into the game’s central theme of moral choice, something the first game lacked. Around the time Alderaan is destroyed by the Death Star, the main character would start to have doubts, and halfway through the game he has to make a choice between the Empire and the Rebellion.

Maybe he’s in a bad situation where he’s trapped behind enemy lines, and he knows that the Empire won’t bother getting him out. Maybe he’s ordered to kill a loved one, or a fellow stormtrooper who also happens to be a friend. Either way, a day in the life of a stormtrooper sounds like the logical sequel to Republic Commando. Timothy Zahn did a great job of exploring this idea in his book Allegiance, so maybe Lucasarts should look to one of Star Wars’ greatest authors for inspiration.
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