Can Star Wars Video Games Rebound from the EA Deal?

Photo: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in-game screenshot.. Courtesy EA Press
Photo: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in-game screenshot.. Courtesy EA Press /

Star Wars video games have historically been known for having some of the best storylines and gameplay, but as of late, they have been hit or miss. LucasArts studios have created some of the best gaming experiences, including Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2, and fan favorites Battlefront and Battlefront II. However, the game they are best known for is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, an RPG on the original Xbox that gave way to modern RPG gaming.

In 2013 EA and Lucasfilm signed an agreement that made gamers moan. The deal gave exclusive rights to the Star Wars IP to Electronic Arts to publish Star Wars games, but it excluded the LEGO Branded games. At this point, EA has created games full of bugs including Battlefield 4 at launch. But “buggy games” aren’t the worst that EA has done.

The business of video games and the effect it has on quality games

EA has also created a world where quality games are the outlier, not the norm. This has led to many gamers letting out a sigh of relief that the EA Star Wars deal has ended and opens the Star Wars gaming world to possibilities of other publishers giving us (better) games. The past 10 years have seen games to varying degrees of quality, most notably the Jedi series from Respawn.

But there’s a reason why those games are so good. For those unfamiliar, Respawn was founded by legendary game developer Vince Zampella. Zampella is best known for taking the Call of Duty franchise to the heights it is today. Eventually, he would leave Infinity Ward (developer of Call of Duty) under murky circumstances, mostly due to Infinity Ward (allegedly) not wanting to ponder up money due to the success of Zampella’s hard work. After the lawsuit was settled, he formed Respawn Entertainment. Respawn would go on to develop Titanfall and Titanfall 2 which are some of the best multiplayer games ever.

He was the lead multiplayer designer on Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, both are cult classics in the gaming industry and are part of what’s called the “Golden Age of Gaming” between 2006 and 2010. Games in this period were some of the best and didn’t need a day-one update and didn’t rely on graphics scaling by manufacturing companies. Games during this time were the first Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield: Bad Company, Dead Space, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and of course, one of my favorite game series, Dark Souls. These games were presented in a way that gave us a day-one experience that didn’t require massive updates for graphical quality or any extra hardware to run. Most importantly, they were made by people who loved games.

Now that the exclusive deal has expired, where does this leave the Star Wars IP?

As of right now, no one has an exclusive right to the Star Wars IP. The latest game announced has been Star Wars: Outlaws, for which I have my reservations. Ubisoft, for lack of a better term, has become just like EA. Their games have become largely open-world and have become more of a “pay-to-gain” model, meaning you pay for skins and weapons instead of naturally unlocking them. Not to mention the buggy launch of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. Most reviews of the game had the same thing to say: it’s great, but buggy and nearly unplayable. This is also compounded by the PC ports of the games, which are second thoughts as well. Jedi: Survivor is a great example of this. The game ran great on the consoles, but for those who own a PC, the game was less than stellar.

As a huge fan of Cal Kestus and his story, I played Jedi: Fallen Order in between my playthrough of Dark Souls III and Elden Ring. It was a nice change of pace to the brutal combat of those games, but it also gave me a fresh story in a universe I adore. Fallen Order was easily one of my top 5 games of the decade between 2010 and 2020. The more information that came out about Survivor, the less faith I had in a day-one purchase. The majority of the reviews on Stream were absolutely roasting the game for its poor optimization and performance. This would be ok since the PC gaming community has for years created the obnoxious slogan of “PC Master Race,” leaving console players to feel like second-rate members of the gaming community so many console players were telling the PC players to cry them a river. All of this prompted EA to release a statement on Twitter (or is it X now?) regarding this.

The statement which unironically admits they didn’t do proper play testing on higher end PC’s, mostly those using the 40 series of GPU’s and the Intel 12gen and Ryzen 7 CPUs, they completely ignored that player base and admitted to it. I’m not one to spend thousands of dollar on PC equipment but for those who do, they do expect a certain level of quality. The same way if someone purchases a Bugatti, they don’t expect to find plastic panels all inside. I’m running a modest PC that will play games at 1080p and around 40-75 frames a second depending on the game.

So who should make Star Wars games now?

There are a few that I would love to see. The first and what think is the most obvious choice is FromSoftware. FromSoftware has a long track record of developing games that put combat first. The Dark Souls series, specifically Dark Souls III, is a pinnacle of combat. Then came Elden Ring which blew it out of the water with an open world game that doesn’t hold your hand. However, where the issue may be is the story. Star Wars characters all have deep and rich storylines which gives way to an exciting story and uses the many planets and backstories to their advantage. Fromsoft is known for its obscure lore, and its lack of a true story and questlines. However, the combat in their games is second to none. I’d love to see a Darth Vader game during the time between The Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One. Give me hard combat with the ability to parry and plenty of weapons to choose from, as well as playing as a bounty hunter or an Inquisitor.

The second is Visceral Games. Yes, I know, Visceral has been shut down but hear me out. We haven’t had a true horror experience in the Star Wars universe or a survival horror game. Give me a Star Wars game with a horror setting, such as on Genosis or maybe a planet taken over by a virus where there are “murder-floofs” otherwise known as Zombie Ewoks. Visceral has been known for their incredible sound design and out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to suspense. Even going back to the original Dead Space, the sound was one of the best parts of that game.

Bethesda could be another game publisher that could step in to give us a true Star Wars experience. Bethesda is the famed publisher of The Elder Scrolls series. Those games are known for their sandbox approach and their world design that connects everything together in a seamless way. The leveling system is very easy to understand, and the world is your oyster. I could spend so much time roaming around Skyrim’s world and creating relationships with characters that could help me further in the game. Bethesda is now under the Microsoft umbrella of First-Party studios. However, with the recent deal to keep Call of Duty on the PlayStation platform, I don’t see why a Star Wars IP wouldn’t be a multiplatform game.

Overall, the EA decade was largely a failure, and whether or not that was due to greed, lack of passion, or just downright ignorance, I hope we can get quality Star Wars games from now on.