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We <3 Star Wars: nine of the best victims of the Expanded Universe cull

Friday, 2nd May 2014 09:09 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The Star Wars Expanded Universe has been given the chop, so it’s time to wave farewell to, well, a universe of beloved characters and storylines. We look back on some of our favourite video game entries in the sprawling LucasArts canon.

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Disney, the new owner of LucasFilm and its games subsidiary LucasArts, has decided to wipe much of the Star Wars Expanded Universe slate. The six films to date remain, but almost everything else – the books, the comics, the toys and the games – are all officially non-canon.

This is heartbreaking news for fans, who will tell you that some of the best storytelling and world building took place outside George Lucas’s remit. However, the House of Mouse has spoken, and hopefully will draw on its own experience in protecting intellectual property – as well as that of its other major acquisition, Marvel – to build a new and beautiful extended canon.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate and reminisce over some of our favourite gaming entries in the now-collapsed universe.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 (KOTOR)

For many gamers, this is the quintessential Star Wars experience – or was, before the march of time took its inevitable toll on the ageing RPG series. The first Knights of the Old Republic was many Xbox gamers introduction to BioWare, and was so fondly loved both by developer and fans that it eventually inspired Mass Effect, one of the great franchise successes of the current era. Obsidian Entertainment’s sequel wasn’t as well-received, mainly because the team ran out of time and shipped it in the traditional “buggy as shit” stage, but KOTOR 2 was still an excellent game and devoted fan effort has returned some of its lost glory.

Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR)

Positioned as a continuation of KOTOR, and a KOTOR that never had to end, Star Wars: The Old Republic turned out to be, well, about as MMO-y as you can get. Nevertheless, it’s packed with interesting ideas and good content, as well as hefty slices of the old BioWare charm, and there’s definitely something to be said about joining the Jedi-Sith war, or whatever it’s called. It’s not to everybody’s tastes, of course, but those who love SWTOR? Man, they really love SWTOR. Definitely a success story, even if EA’s not rolling in as much phat loot as it expected. It looks like this one just might escape the canon cull; cross your fingers.

A friend of mine made this video for me from Star Wars Galaxies. This sort of randomness was entirely typical of its broad and broadminded community.

Star Wars Galaxies

Before there was SWTOR, there was Star Wars Galaxies, an MMO from Sony Online Entertainment that closed down to much sorrow in late 2011. It was a strange beast indeed, to the modern eye; an EverQuest-inspired MMO from the time before World of Warcraft set an apparently unbreakable paradigm. Players devoted whole in-game lifetimes to dancing, for example, and the social aspect of the game was filled to the brim with oddities – and more importantly, treasures. One of its more interesting features was its refusal to let you become a Jedi; you first had to master a certain number of other roles, and not only were these randomly selected for each character, the game wouldn’t tell you what they were till you had one under your belt. Amazing.

Star Wars: Jedi Knight

A third-person action series from Raven Software (now swallowed into Activision’s Call of Duty mill, alas), the Jedi Knight series spans five games and nine years. It also spans both sides of the war, as players take the role of Kyle Katarn, an Imperial soldier who eventually ends up as a Jedi instructor. Before Force Unleashed came along this was the benchmark for Star Wars action games, and remains a rare example of decent Star Wars multiplayer.

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The Force Unleashed was a bit grimdark, but in the nicest possible way.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2

This one is a shining example of transmedia done right. Rather than blobbing a game down in the middle of the Expanded Universe and calling it a day, LucasArts launched a multimedia project spanning books, comics, reference materials and even a role-playing source, with a pair of video games at the heart of it. Significantly less modest than Jedi Knight, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed tells an important story occurring between Episodes Three and Four, starring an apprentice to none other than Darth Vader himself. It’s exactly as bombastic as you’d expect, but also a really solid set of games which arrived at a time when everything licensed was absolute shite.

Star Wars Battlefront

The reason I didn’t mention Star Wars Battlefront when discussing the excellent action stylings of Jedi Knight and The Force Unleashed is that in my mind Battlefront is an extension of the Battlefield series – which means it’s kind of come home now that DICE is in charge of the next one. Developed by a gaggle of studios but kicked off by the late, great Pandemic, Battlefront spawned two core entries and two portable spin-offs. Although both core games were playable in single-player, multiplayer was really where it was at, and despite being third-person – a genre many multiplayer fans tend to disdain – Battlefront is the touchstone for Star Wars with mates. End of story.

Star Wars Battlefront didn’t always look like a dog’s breakfast, I swear.

Lego Star Wars

I tell a lie. Battlefront is the final word in Star Wars with mates where you shoot them in the face; Lego Star Wars is the best Star Wars with mates for sitting on the couch. Some of the best of TT Games’ lauded Lego games, the five or so Lego Star Wars games are the epitome of good, clean, co-op fun – family-friendly games you can settle down to with the kids, but which will bring a smile or a belly laugh when you’re powering through with your drinking buddies. They probably didn’t bring a hell of a lot of new content to the Expanded Universe, as I’m pretty sure nobody ever pretended Lego was canon, but by god are we loathe to leave them off any list with “Star Wars” and “best” in the title, you know?

Star Wars: X-Wing

There’s been a heck of a lot of third-person action adventure so far, but the Star Wars: X-Wing series puts paid to all that. Four games over six years brought us as close as we thought we’d ever get to doing the trench run with Luke and R2-D2, and it’s because of games like X-Wing and its contemporaries that the space genre is exploding again today. EVE: Valkyrie in particular owes a nod to this series, as very few games had ever done dogfighting as well as X-Wing did. Star Citizen’s audience grew up here.

Meanwhile, Star Wars: X-Wing did kind of always look awful – but hasn’t it held up better?

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron

A few years later, we got Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, a more arcade-style take on Star Wars dogfighting for Nintendo consoles. The fanbase of this one tends to be slightly (a console generation or so) younger, and less interested in the old Wing Commander style intricacies – but put aside your snobbery for a moment and you’ll discover a hell of a lot of fun to be head.

Star Wars: Empire at War

Every time Petroglyph Games comes up in video games news we all go “who? Oh, yeah! The Star Wars: Empire at War guys”, and pay keen attention to whatever it does. I feel fairly confident saying this is the only decent strategy game in the Star Wars catalogue, and its setting – during the construction of the Death Star – makes it particularly interesting. As is practically the law whenever Star Wars gives you a choice in the matter, the Dark Side is well more interesting, with a campaign starring Darth Vader on the hunt for Princess Leia.

Star Wars: Rebel Assault and Star Wars: Rebel Assault 2: The Hidden Empire

No, look, I know: FMV games are dreadful and atrocious and you have no idea what this is doing here. But ask gamers over a certain age about old Star Wars games and this pair always comes up, normally accompanied by a pained expression and welling nostalgia. They’re dreadful, yes, but they’re dreadful in a way that inspires a kind of fondness.

There are so many Star Wars games that it’s not even funny. We’ve no doubt missed your favourites, so let us know what and why in the comments. If you have memories of any truly dire Star Wars games, we’d love to hear about those, too.

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10 Comments

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  1. locus2k1

    #10 Shadow of the empire :) an N64 game based on the novel of the same name set between episodes V and VI. Wasn’t the best Star Wars game but I loved that it opened with you harpooning AT-ATs :D

    #1 3 months ago
  2. The_Red

    Story wise and among gaming, I think the only things that will be missed are KOTOR 1 and 2.
    There are some excellent extended universe tales in SW world but outside KOTOR games, the SW titles have had bad to terrible writing. Hell, even KOTOR games have seriously flaws.

    KOTOR1 had a killer ending but general writing was standard BioWare (Sometimes decent, sometimes terrible) while KOTOR2′s excellent writing and characterizations were ruined by an absolutely abysmal ending. Of course both of them had better story than all prequel movies combined…

    #2 3 months ago
  3. Fin

    I would purchase a high-spec PC and Occulus rift if it meant I could play a new version of TIE Fighter/X-Wing.

    #3 3 months ago
  4. Lutz

    Whoever is playing that X-Wing game is bloody crap at it!

    TIE Fighter was truly amazing. Lost hours and hours to that. Like Fin, I could easily see me buying a new PC for a remake of that.

    #4 3 months ago
  5. GrimRita

    SWTOR will probably escape the cull due to contractual issues and the amount of cash EA sank into this white elephant.

    Glad you mentioned Empire at War – awesome game for space battles. dumbed down by LucasArts though(removed diplomacy and micro management stuff) but for me, my very first PC game, will probably be the best Star Wars experience that should survive – Star Wars:Rebellion/Supremacy(UK).

    A UI nightmare but underneath the windowed layers, was a true RTS. Full of sabotage and espionage and other dirty tricks. It remains one of the best RTS games of all time imo. Building a secret Death Star, launching a secret assault on the Rebel HQ or sending Han, Chewie and Lando on a sabotage mission to destroy the Death Star shield BEFORE your fleet arrived.

    You were left wondering if your opponent knew about your assault, or would you have complete surprise? I am yet to see this kind of true tactics deployed in any RTS today.

    I would love to see a new game based on this but I think going forward, the next gen of Star Wars will probably be more character driven and follow a not too similar path to the prequels in it’s build up.

    #5 3 months ago
  6. Darkfield

    This is bullshit, Star Wars for me personally was consistent of KOTOR, KOTOR 2 and SWTOR’s storyline, the main reason I even started liking the franchise. I never liked the 6 movies. In my opinion they were all mediocre at best. Great showcases of technology and special effects, story-wise they did nothing for me. Expanded universe however were brilliant, Lost Tribe of the Sith, and the 3 books that sets the story of SWTOR and SWTOR’s storylines they were remarkable specially on the Sith side.

    #6 3 months ago
  7. GrimRita

    @6 – You just haven’t a clue. Star Wars – the original, changed cinema as we know it today. Had it not been for LucasFilm there probably wouldn’t be digital technology.

    And if you think SWTORs story lines are remarkable, you need your head checked. They are average at best but the way they are told is better than average. The Star Wars story is actually a very sad one, if you bothered to look deeper in to it.

    A good man, turned bad, a friendship destroyed followed by redemption. Sure the acting is shaky but hell, the adventure that is Star Wars will out last any shit made today

    #7 3 months ago
  8. Darkfield

    @GrimRita are you for real? I acknowledged that in my post. I was talking with emphasis on storytelling not how sw’s technological breakthroughs changed special effects landscape in cinematography! clearly you are not acquainted with any of the novels. And what you described is practically the summary of almost every story ever written.

    #8 3 months ago
  9. Mr Sparkle

    Expanded Universe > Episode I-VI

    #9 3 months ago
  10. Inspectre

    I never read any Expanded Universe that felt canon anyway, just some good books pretending to be Star Wars related.
    /shrug

    #10 3 months ago