Looking Back at the Games of LucasArts: Episode II

A Look Back at LucasArts Games: Episode II

In the short time since we posted the first part of our LucasArts retrospective, Disney has unfortunately applied the one thing that it knows about videogames to the company: full-scale layoffs and product cancellations. Nevertheless, this remains the perfect time to revisit the games of LucasArts.

Making great videogames is no small task, and Disney has elected to punt on nearly the entire endeavor. “Disney Infinity” has slipped from June to the end of August and missed the proposed ‘Monsters University’ release tie-in. Considering that Disney has cleared the decks of several Lucas property-related productions in preparation for a new ‘Star Wars’ trilogy, the closure of LucasArts is not a surprise.

Unlike many developers, however, LucasArts was in business for over thirty years, and in that time made so many memorable games that I was forced to break the list in two even while glossing over several great games.

The last ten years saw the company focus almost exclusively on ‘Star Wars’ titles, and just as I was tricked into thinking that ‘Attack of the Clones’ would be a great movie, the potential for great ‘Clone Wars’ videogames was, for me, never properly realized.

Knights of the Old Republic

The best ‘Star Wars’ game has to be ‘Knights of the Old Republic’. LucasArts worked with BioWare to create a whole new era, and BioWare made players feel the power of the Jedi as an ever-present arbiter, even in a galactic war. Once again, however, the success of the first game caused LucasArts to greedily push forward too quickly with the sequel, which Obsidian was forced to ship basically without much of a third act story. The less said about the ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’ MMO, the better.

Star Wars: Battlefront Series

Ironically enough, ‘Star Wars: Battlefront’ was a collaborative work between Pandemic Studios and LucasArts. The idea was simple: Take the runaway success gameplay of ‘Battlefield 1942′ and apply it to ‘Star Wars’. The series was immensely popular for a short time. Unfortunately, Pandemic partnered with BioWare before both were bought by EA. Pandemic closed in 2009. LucasArts turned to Free Radical for ‘Star Wars: Battlefront III’, but stood by and let both Free Radical and the project die. Rumors from ex-employees have sworn that the game was nearly complete, and was supposedly under production again with a fresh start when Disney took over, effectively leaving the series in a permanent limbo.

Lego Star Wars Series

‘Lego Star Wars: The Videogame’ managed a number of feats, not the least of which was combining two clunky videogame licenses into something excellent to play with the family. That the first game was based on the frigid prequels makes the achievement even more remarkable. The series really hits its stride with the second game, which was based around the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy, before bottoming out with the first ‘Lego Indiana Jones’ games. What’s worse is that developer Traveler’s Tales was snatched up by Warner Bros. in 2007, a move that must make even Lucasfilm parent Disney sting slightly.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed I & II

The role that Jimmy Smits was born to play, Senator Organa, finally came to some interesting fruition, but unfortunately was wrapped in the promising but ultimately disappointing ‘Star Wars: The Force Unleashed’. With an interesting story about Vader training a secret apprentice, top notch visuals and (at the time) fresh gameplay ideas, ‘The Force Unleashed’ was the last significant work shipped by LucasArts. In a game where players got to fight Darth Vader, pull down a Star Destroyer, and even fight from within a Sarlaac, the title was riddled with bugs at launch. The trouble that LucasArts had in producing a sequel, which then failed to generate the response of the first game, has its root in a dozen different issues, and the relative failure doomed the series.

Sadly, with LucasArts demise, it seems that we are robbed of future grand scale ‘Star Wars’ games, the most obvious of which is ‘Star Wars: 1313′, which was only just announced last June.

Finally, it’s important to point out that there was more to LucasArts than just ‘Star Wars’ games. My personal favorite LucasArts title, ‘Outlaws‘, was released in 1997. The western FPS built on ‘Dark Forces’ tech remains exemplary in its design and feel, but seems to have never breathed hope of a sequel. LucasArts couldn’t even finish a planned expansion, though what was finished was eventually released for free.

11 comments

    • Bet on the cancellation. Aside from what will be leaked out through production images, 99% of what it’s been produced will be locked down and never seen again. Epic will get the changes to the CodeBase as part of the engine licensing agreement.

      As far as progress though, The project has been effectively dead since Disney’s acquisition. They probably had a finished vertical slice- One level of say 13 planned levels. But with a project and talent freeze the team was probably just spinning its wheels.

  1. Oscar

    Can’t believe you skipped all of the earliest games. LucasArts was birthed from Lucasfilm Games. They started with a handful of releases for the early-80′s Atari home computers. Ballblazer, Rescue on Fractalus, Koronis Rift, and The Eidolon were all incredible at their time in terms of technical achievement, gameplay innovation, and art design. There were very few releases since those early days that were anywhere near as groundbreaking.

    • Describing LucasArts has really been like tugging on a thread, which it is partly why it is a shame that so many people see the company’s recent failures as a fine reason for Disney to quit on the endeavor.

      There is an article on Kotaku stating that nostalgia when it comes to LucasArts is worthless as it has little to no commercial appeal, which is an untenable position as far as I am concerned.

      • Anybody that says the nostalgia for lucasarts is under 30 and should have his scrawny hipster ass flushed out of the nearest airlock.

        With that said I would love, LOVE some remastered or rebooted versions of the classics, They should just give the Scumm based licenses to telltale as far as i am concerned as there is no better steward for that type of gameplay right now. Guarantee they would do great things with those stories and bring a lot of new fans to Indy, etc.

        But with a new company comes a whole new Bureaucracy and we are only seeing the beginning. Here is hoping however that the minds in charge of Star Wars for Disney are as competent as the ones in charge of Marvel.

        With JJ Abrams Directing the new movie, I have a “Good” feeling about this!

      • William Henley

        No, any industry that suddenly grows lax and lazy or comes under bad management deserves the ax as much as any other. The question is, will they license out their properties to others.

        Like, no matter how great Twinkies and Ding Dongs were, bad company management and an idiotic union can drive a company into the ground. Others are looking to acquire licences to their products, and hopefully the Twinkie will be back on the shelf soon.

        I see Rim as the next big company to go down. They had a great idea – 10 years ago, but failure to innovate in the highly competative smart-phone market means that the company should have failed by now. Sell all your stock now, I don’t see the company lasting much longer.

        THQ no longer exists. Sierra Online is all but gone. Sega no longer makes hardware.

        Nostalgia has no place in a business world. You either stay relevant and innovative, to return profit to your shareholders, or you eventually get bought out or shut down or liquidated.

  2. Owww, Brian, don’t make me jealous. I have loved the Outlaws DEMO since 1997, but I have never been able to buy the full game. It’s never in any bargain bins. It has never been rereleased in a budget version. It’s just impossible to find (and don’t point me to eBay, with horrid costs to import an American copy :)).

    • Hey, I walked to CompUSA back in the day to get my copy, which you may know contains the game’s soundtrack in mixed data/CD music format.

      That said, I recall playing the demo a few times (it supported multiplayer) before walking to the store. When the cutscene plays at the end and the stereotypical villain laughs at you as he dies, it really can be galling to not be able to continue the story.

      I last played the game about two years ago on windows XP, so I know it is still playable. Maybe GOG can work some magic and get Disney to let it out of the vault.

    • William Henley

      How much does it cost to import from Amazon?

      http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=outlaws#/ref=sr_nr_n_24?rh=n%3A229580%2Ck%3Aoutlaws&keywords=outlaws&ie=UTF8&qid=1365343743&rnid=2941120011

      Used copies starting at $3.50 for a jeweled case, so I imagine a flat padded envelope shouldn’t cost more than a couple of bucks for international shipping.

      We used to play this in the computer labs when I was in college. I THINK it was Outlaws that I did this with, but I rememeber one game, I would cheat, by sitting up two computers on either side of me in “follow” mode, so I could see where the other people were hiding.

  3. Here is hoping, GOG is a great resource for Classics and you get a lot of extras with the old games including many of those great soundtracks. Unfortunately some are recorded Midi, which sounded great compared to our SB cards but which now sound as dated as Wang Chung.

    Here is hoping this will open a new era of nostalgia driven releases via Disney. They are known for rereleasing their old movies. Now they need to do it with video games.

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