Star Wars is in a bit of a slump despite so much material being put out. The sequel trilogy has been met with scorn by classic film fans to the point some are reassessing the prequels and want to apologize to George Lucas for trying to force him out to “save Star Wars”. The only thing getting any praise from regular fans was The Mandalorian, and that took a hit with the political and possibly personal firing of co-star Gina Carano, due to the rumored in-fighting between Kathleen Kennedy’s group and those within Disney and even Lucasfilm more interested in the classic interpretations rather than what she’s brought to the franchise. Marvel’s comics have been hit or miss while for some reason IDW is handling the kids comics, the High Republic is treated as a joke (you named a rock dude who is just a rock “Geode” and made him navigator of a vessel called The Vessel and DIDN’T expect to be made fun of?), and trying to add elements from the extended universe without knowing why they worked has not been helping either.
Meanwhile, EA has had a few issues of their own. Their Star Wars games have had issues with loot crates, questionable stories, and just not very interesting gameplay overall. It doesn’t help that EA has been moving towards multiplayer, which is actually an industry-wide issue as publishers have been forcing studios to insert multiplayer options whether it makes sense or not. The Old Republic has worked out for them, but it’s a single-player campaign that has interesting stories featuring numerous factions while still needing to be online to play. Once those servers are gone, so is the game. Some of their recent single-player offerings have not been the best in terms of storytelling, but while EA blamed a lack of interest in single-player stories in favor of something like Fortnite, it’s been the story and gameplay at the heart of the problem. They just need to fix that.
In fact, they did. Tonight’s commentary was inspired by a video for the G4TV relaunch where Jirad, aka YouTuber and recent G4 acquisition “The Completionist”, took over the X-Play commentaries from Adam Sessler while he’s away and went over Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a single-player narrative game in which you play a Jedi padawan who has survived past the Jedi slaughter at the end of Revenge Of The Sith and General Order 66. I haven’t been able to play the game myself but I did watch a playthrough that makes me want to play it in the future, and that’s because the story is good. The Completionist however also makes the case that it is this game’s overwhelming success that may have saved…the Dragon Age franchise?
As I said earlier, I haven’t been able to play the game but I did manage to watch PlayFrame’s playthrough of Fallen Order (here’s another link for you) and I really want to. It looks like a fun game and a good story. I’ve discussed before how these kinds of video games can be used as excellent storytelling tools. The trick is, since the players actions don’t radically change the story (though can change minor elements like in many BioWare games) to make the player feel like he or she is part of the story. The actions may not have weight to the world but they should have weight for the player. I’ve seen SF Debris’ various reviews of the Dragon Age games he’s played. They seem to be rather strong narratives, which means they’re just as interesting to watch as they are to play. I can’t get invested in someone’s Fortnite tournament or even a playthrough of Minecraft because there’s no story to it. It’s more like watching sports and I’m not really a sports fan so it does nothing for me.
Jedi: Fallen Order does have a great story and I do agree that BD-1 is more interesting that Gorgu. Heck, I’ll do you one better. I think he’s a more fun droid than BB-8. Once you get over BB’s rolling ball bit he’s not really that interesting when compared to BD-1 or even Chomper from Star Wars: Rebels, but I still wouldn’t mind a life-size BD-1 standing next to my undersized R2-D2 and if I had a droid companion BD-1 would be my choice. I do have to ask how Cal’s lightsaber is that popular when he doesn’t have a set configuration. In fact by the end of the game you may end up with a double-bladed lightsaber after visiting Darth Maul’s home planet. Customizing your lightsaber is one of the fun things about the game. Cal doesn’t so much have his own set preferences but carries what the player likes, based on the player’s own play style. Even if they’re playing Cal as a character and not just a gameplay avatar it’s still based on that player’s view of Cal and what the player thinks he would do. Cal isn’t a cypher because he has his own personality and story, but he’s still influenced by the player, which is what works for this style of video game storytelling.
The industry’s obsession with loot crates and multiplayer is a mistake. I’m not complaining about multiplayer mind you. The Old Republic and other story-based multiplayer games show that you can tell a story that way. I’m not even complaining about loot crates; they’re just used very poorly and don’t do a lot to enhance the gameplay experience while having hopefully no impact on the story. However, to ignore what story-based single-player games can bring to the table is a mistake. Maybe EA won’t make more money off of it outside of DLC (and that’s probably the actual problem they have), but we all come back to an old movie that we really liked again and again, so why wouldn’t we do the same with a story game that we really enjoyed playing? As fun as it is to seek out new stuff sometimes an old favorite is just what we need.