When asked what his favourite LucasArts game was, James Haresign couldn’t muster a reply: that’d be like picking a favourite child. Instead, he looks back at his fondest memories of the studio, and how they introduced him to games.
There are two ways to think of LucasArts. You can either see them as one of the studios that made adventure games such a big genre, or as a Star Wars merchandising machine. I saw them as both, and I loved each half equally. LucasArts are the people that made me not just play games, but identify as a gamer. Sure there were other games that I played and enjoyed, but it was LucasArts that got me hooked.
When I had my Amiga, it was the first two Monkey Island games that I couldn’t put down. I was hooked on them both. But other than those two, I struggle to think of a single game during my days with the Commodore that affected me as much. And I spent a lot of time staring across at the PC shelves wondering when I would get a chance to play games like X-Wing.
I didn’t. Well, not until I made the switch to a PC myself. Dark Forces, the original Star Wars FPS, was the very first game I bought for my new machine, and Jedi Knight wasn’t long after. And that was me. A gamer.
LAN parties weren’t far behind, only ours didn’t consist of Quake and Unreal, but of Jedi Knight, as we ran about with the rather cumbersome lightsaber controls. Jedi Knight was the one and only time I really jumped into a modding community; adding extra models from Star Wars Expanded Universe to play as, and engaging with whole new single player campaigns that fans lovingly crafted. I even tried designing my own levels – that didn’t go very well, though, and it’s why I now write about games instead.
It wasn’t just the first person shooters that I got attached too. There were the space sims too. While I was late to that party, not joining until the multiplayer focused X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, I did grab a classic bundle with both X-Wing and TIE Fighter.
While X-Wing was just too bloody difficult, I lost myself in TIE Fighter, as you take on the role of pilot in the Imperial Navy. It doesn’t take long before you come to the attention of a secret order working directly for the Emperor. From there the game descends into double crossing and secret agendas, as any game staring the Imperials should, all while you blow dirty Rebel Scum out of the sky. It was Heaven.
I didn’t forget where my love of games originated, though. I managed to pry myself away from a galaxy far far away to dive into the antics of a Police Dog and his insane rabbit pal, tentacles trying to take over the earth and, most importantly of all, Full Throttle. Ben’s journey of revenge and redemption is one I still love, as he manoeuvres the vague future setting that sees biker gangs ruling the roads, but who are in danger of becoming extinct. Even the bike battles were fun, and that’s not something you usually expect from an action mini-game in an adventure title. I still really want a copy of that soundtrack too.
The first ever Steam game I bought online was The Dig, when LucasArts added their back catalogue. It was one of the few adventure games of theirs I’d never played. It was brilliant. Not the usual comedy filled romp you expect from Lucas, but a sci-fi jaunt to an alien world. Probably the game to thank for dragging me back to the PC after my years as a sole console gamer.
More recently there was Republic Commando on the original Xbox, a tactical shooter that is one of the best things to come out of the prequel films. Star Wars games had slid into being very bright affairs, and Republic Commando dragged it back down into the dark, making you respect the clone warriors that had been a joke for so many years. I’ve been silently hoping that one day we’d get a sequel to this to address the massive cliffhanger the game ended on. I guess I’ll finally have to give up on that one.
Speaking of cliffhangers, there’s also Force Unleashed. LucasArts returned to lightsaber duels and seriously amped how awesome they were. As good as the Jedi Knight games were, Force Unleashed nailed the elegant weapon for a more civilized age. The second instalment, with the cliffhanger, didn’t live up to its predecessor, but I still would have liked to know what happened to Vader’s secret apprentice.
I’m not going to pretend that the studio of late was anywhere near it’s heady heights of the nineties, or that a few times along the road it didn’t fall into mass producing cash-ins. But every now and again it would spring back, and LucasArts looked like they might be about to do it again with 1313. And a break from Jedis was something I was incredibly happy about.
I’m going to miss LucasArts. They were a company that meant a lot to me. But when you look back at the Star Wars games, a lot of the really good ones were outsourced. The X-Wing/TIE Fighter series, The two final Jedi Knight/Dark Forces, and of course both Knights of the Old Republic. All third party developers.
Obsidian have already made it known they have plans for more Star Wars, and how many others wouldn’t jump at the chance to craft their own stories in a galaxy far, far away? This could be a very good thing. But what about the adventure titles? I just hope Double Fine, Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert get their hands on them again.