Book Baubles: Star Wars Video Games Edition

Khairete! Mikaius again, bringing you the best Star Wars games of my youth!

Star Wars was my entire childhood. I wasn’t into Star Trek then, I didn’t find Doctor Who until I was 18, and Middle-Earth was a second-hand love. That I grew up in the 90’s meant that I could combine my favourite things so easily at home: Star Wars on the TV screen, on the computer monitor, in my hands with toys and LEGO. Today, in fond remembrance of the child that I was, I’m going to prattle about Star Sars on the computer monitor.

(1) Jedi Knight series, developed by LucasArts (& Raven Software for the last two)

Jedi Knight Collection

The Jedi Knight series, starting as Dark Forces, was a defining force in my childhood. Not only did I love the games, which handled as good as any PC shooter but with great swordplay, but also the Kyle Kataran-books, which are terrible in hindsight. The latter parts of the series, Jedi Outcast and Academy are the best ever lightsabers in gaming for your money. It’s the Jedi as I remember them to be, enhanced knights and samurai, not Force Unleashed, Prequel-fueled bombastic nightmares. They’re powerful and they jump real high, but it’s reasonable Force-powered acrobatics and nimble swordplay. Not sure if multiplayer is still big for Outcast/Academy, but the latter brought in dual wielding and double-ended sabers that were tons of fun to use. Highly recommended, especially if you have friends to set-up some matches!

Easily obtainable on Steam.

(2) Galactic Battlegrounds, developed by Ensemble Studios & LucasArts

Galactic Battlegrounds

I didn’t really have a console as a kid. I mean, I had an IntelliVision, and it was neat and all but it wasn’t cool. PC was where it was at for me: my dad needed them for business, so it meant I’d always have access to a middling PC and some hand-me-down PCs, so I grew up on PC games. Age of Empires blew me away as a kid and is easily responsible for my love of both history and media set throughout history. When Galactic Battlegrounds came out, it combined so many of my interests, it could have easily just given me a stroke! It is an RTS (my favourite!) game, using the Age of Empires engine (oh boy!), with Star Wars (yay!) history (YES!) as its setting. Play through the grand wars of Star Wars, from the Battle of Naboo to freeing Wookies and being Vader!

An expansion pack, the Clone Wars was eventually released. They are now both easily and readily available (thank you, Disney!) on GoG.com as the “Galactic Battlegrounds Saga”!

(3) Empire at War, developed by Petroglyph Studios

Empire at War

Wow. Just wow. This game takes Galactic Battlegrounds and just about makes the concept perfect. There is a pedigree to this game, developed by Petroglyph, the studio founded in the collapse of Westwood under the villainous Electronic Arts. It isn’t a perfect game, by any means, but it takes a great concept and just runs with it headlong into funtimes. The basic premise is a Galactic Map (think Risk), on which you are either Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire, which is also a third faction the “Zann Consortium” in the Forces of Corruption expansion. Each faction plays a little differently: the Rebels are actually quite stealthy and make their way by stealing from Imperial planets, the Empire on the other hand plays classically, massed and brute force. You can even construct the mighty Death Star, going planet-to-planet obliterating each, supported by fleets of Star Destroyers and being your very own (but successful) Grand Moff Tarkin. Planets can be taken over through land battles, and protected through space battles, both of which allow for orbital bombardment joy. The map runs in real time, so you’ve gotta keep moving, keep fighting, keep researching and keep your enemy on their toes.

For the Zann Consortium, they are a criminal empire and play a little differently. In the Star Wars universe, criminal empires are as powerful and legitimate a force in their sectors/regions as the Galactic Empire. The Consortium is strong and hits hard, but is not as able to take a hit like the Galactic Empire can, and they work on the Galactic Map by obfuscating and hiding things from the Rebels/Empire.

Both games have enjoyable little campaigns, but unfortunately Petroglyph (between these games and Universe at War) has made slightly awkward land battles. They don’t feel quite right: they aren’t broken or terrible, just unpolished. The meat of the game is by far the Galactic Map and the space battles.

If you can, grab it on GoG.com, as the game has a bit of trouble working on modern machines and you can expect full support from them in making it work. Steam isn’t as reliable, but is a totally viable option and far better than having discs lying around. Both are the gold-pack with the expansion included.

Guys, I would recommend the KOTOR games, but I cannot in good conscience subject other human beings to those buggy things. I could never even get KOTOR to run, and KOTORII was half-finished and barely playable, though what was playable was fantastic, and I understand there are restoration mods out there to complete the game. Sorry, but I cannot recommend spending money on those two, despite how good they are when they do function.

As a bonus, here’s a link to the big-daddy on Steam. Disney taking over Star Wars has been a good thing, if for nothing else that they have been proactive in getting the games on digital store fronts from GoG.com to Steam. This package includes the aforementioned KOTOR series and the absolutely delightful LEGO games. Honestly, when you can, go with GoG as their versions are more likely to run on modern machines, they’ll refund you (if they can’t get it to work) and the customer service is better. They also have also have some games (such as the Tie Fighter series) that Steam does not, but Steam has more modern Star Wars games.

As for that lovely encyclopedia from Literature Monday, here’s a link to a more recent version and the original.

(Header image taken from ThatFilmGuy.)

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