Star Wars has been under Disney ownership for nearly ten years, so it’s important to look back on each aspect (the films, TV shows, video games, books and comics) and evaluate them. Star Wars has had some excellent videogames before the franchise came under Disney ownership, and unfortunately this hasn’t continued much under their ownership, mostly due to the licence Disney granted to EA. And that was probably the worst decision that could have been made. Since Disney’s purchase of Star Wars, only a handful videogames have been released, with some hitting the mark more than others.
Firstly, the licence. In 2013, Disney granted EA exclusive rights to make Star Wars videogames, preventing anyone else from making any Star Wars games and thus removing any sense of competition. Individually licensing out games would have prevented the stagnation of the titles, but unfortunately Disney didn’t consider that. Also, EA is notorious in the gaming industry for being a greedy company. This resulted in the cancellation of Star Wars 1313 in 2013, a game already in production and set to focus on Coruscant’s criminal underworld. Another cancellation occurred in 2017, when EA shutdown Visceral Games, who were developing a Star Wars game known as Project Ragtag. These cancellations have left a sour taste in the mouth of fans who were excited to play them.
The videogames that did make it to being released have met scandal too. EA published two entries into the Battlefront series, Star Wars Battlefront one and two. The first attempt didn’t have a single player campaign, only a few short practice missions, and otherwise was a solely multiplayer affair. The second Battlefront did have a campaign, and the marketing pushed the fact players would be on the side of the Galactic Empire, until three missions into the game when the protagonist defects disappointing many players. And that isn’t to mention the huge loot box scandal that occurred, where the loot boxes were investigated by Belgium and The Netherlands for gambling. The ability to pay for loot boxes was removed very quickly as a result. To give some credit, EA released free updates adding new characters and modes, which are fun to play.
These two instalments pale when compared to the original Battlefront II. The story, told simply through the eyes of a clone (with amazing dialogue, both the writing and the voiceover provided by Temuera Morrison), starting in the Clone Wars and ending with the Battle of Hoth. This game fulfils the promise of the new Battlefront II, and sees players on the side of the Empire. Galactic Conquest is also a highlight, with players attempting to take control of the galaxy as one of the four factions of the Original and Prequel trilogies. This mode has no replacement in the EA games, which is extremely disappointing.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens released a retelling the story of The Force Awakens in LEGO form. There isn’t really much to say, the game feels like a bit of a cash grab due to the extra padding to levels, such as starting midway through Return of the Jedi and adding several missions that weren’t in The Force Awakens. Having said this, the game still features the hilarious LEGO based humour fans expect, and the levels themselves are fun to complete.
The first full success for Star Wars videogames wouldn’t come until the release of Jedi: Fallen Order. Both the gameplay and story content have been widely praised, taking clear influence from Dark Souls and metroidvanias, exploring new locations but also adding to known ones. Cameron Monaghan wonderfully portrays Cal Kestis, exploring what it means to fail and get back up again. BD-1 is just the cutest droid, being the Star Wars equivalent of a loyal dog.
Star Wars Squadrons is a game that sees players take to a starfighter, as either the Rebel Alliance or the Empire. The absence of both Prequel and Sequel ships is disappointing, especially the former because there are some fan favourite designs, but that’s a minor gripe. The flight mechanics are well fleshed out, and the game was well received, if a little lacking in content. It successfully captures the feel of being a Rebel or TIE pilot, achieving what the game set out to do.
The final game worth talking about here is LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. The delays with this game were unfortunate, though the pandemic certainly played a huge part in that. Turning to the game itself, it’s an amazing nostalgic trip down memory lane, updating LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga’s gameplay but keeping the humour, expansive levels (with a huge open world too). The upgrade system feels a bit redundant, only serving to make the player completely overpowered, but is fun nonetheless. The amount of detail LEGO has gone into as well is surprising, with many deep lore pulls and Easter eggs, showing LEGO truly did their homework.
While there were a few bright spots for Star Wars videogames since Disney bought Lucasfilm, many fans will remember this time period for when EA had near complete control over the franchise’s licence, and the very public scandals that brought. There have definitely been some successes over this period, with Jedi: Fallen Order and LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga being particular highlights. Now that the exclusivity licence has run out, the future for Star Wars games looks a lot brighter.