Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds Clone Campaigns
RELEASED 2002 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Ensemble Studios
Clone Campaigns expands Galactic Battlegrounds with two new factions derived from Episode II—the Separatists and the Galactic Republic. As such, the new campaigns actually fold into the middle of the base game, an unusual step for an RTS expansion. The factions, soldiers and vehicles of the Clone Wars never achieved the same iconic status as those of the original trilogy—perhaps there was never any hope of that—and it’s telling just how far their star has fallen. If you were old enough to play this at the time, you probably don’t care too much about getting to play with Galactic Republic AT-TE walkers today. They’re no AT-ATs, that’s for sure.
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
RELEASED 2002 | DEVELOPER Raven Software
Star Wars gaming entered its golden age in late 2002, starting with this—the best Kyle Katarn adventure, a great shooter, and an epochal multiplayer melee combat game all in one. It has a dedicated fanbase to this day, and rightly so. The campaign is worthy of a replay, and even now you can find players to compete against online from time to time.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
RELEASED 2003 | DEVELOPER Raven Software
More than a decade on, this is still the greatest videogame realisation of the lightsaber. The weapon is simulated to a deep level of complexity, with a vast array of saber styles and accompanying force powers. This drove a vibrant multiplayer scene and powered a great campaign that has shades of BioWare in its branching story and Light Side-Dark Side system. No subsequent Star Wars action game has bettered it, and it’s still very much playable today. Even after you’ve exhausted every mission, the simple joy of combat sustains repeated playthroughs.
Star Wars Galaxies
RELEASED 2003 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment
Beautiful, ambitious and broken, Star Wars Galaxies was a deep, player-driven MMO driven by the core talent from Ultima Online. It promised what Star Wars fans had always wanted—a chance to live in that galaxy far, far away, and to be given the freedom to determine what kind of life that was. It’ll be keenly missed.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
RELEASED 2003 | DEVELOPER Bioware
The emergence of BioWare into the modern era was also a huge advance for the quality of Star Wars storytelling. By taking the then-unprecedented step of detaching the story entirely from the era covered by the movies, BioWare gave itself the freedom to rebuild Star Wars from the ground up. And rebuilt it was, with far more character and integrity than had been achieved in a Star Wars game before. It remixes familiar elements in intelligent ways and presents traditional Star Wars themes with rare clarity and focus. Crap minigames, however.
Star Wars: Battlefront
RELEASED 2004 | DEVELOPER Pandemic Studios
Sitting somewhere between the Battlefield series and the console-centric vehicle action games that followed Rogue Squadron, Battlefront is fondly remembered for simulating conflict on a scale that hadn’t been achieved before in Star Wars gaming. It had some interesting new ideas, too, particularly in the inclusion of neutral NPCs on each map. Great in multiplayer.
Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed
RELEASED 2004 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment
Space combat was notably absent from Star Wars Galaxies when it launched, but its eventual inclusion was revelatory: not only a substantial expansion to the underlying RPG, but a legitimate action game in its own right. For the first time, you could own and heavily customise your own starfighter, with each ship deeply tied into Galaxies’ underlying crafting system. Larger ships like freighters had fully explorable, multi-person interiors that could be decorated like any other building in the game, making them unique to the player who owned them. A reminder: this was 2004. Elite: Dangerous was a decade away, Star Citizen even further than that: and these features made it into an MMO that was fundamentally about life on the ground. A high-point for the game.
On the last page is 2005-2011, in which we witness the entropic demise of Star Wars in videogames. There are still some gems to celebrate, mind.