I am not a pessimist. I often like to look on the bright side of things and hope for the best, especially when it comes to new game rumors and especially when those rumors pertain to the Star Wars universe. A little while ago word got out that EA might be working on a massive new, open-world Star Wars game for release in the near future. Now while on paper that sound awesome and might turn out to be a solid game in the end, there are a few things that bother me about the idea of an open-world Star Wars game. At first I thought I was just being negative based on how poor the last two major games from a galaxy far, far away were but after a few days of thinking about it, I now think that it’s just a bad idea to try to make an open-world Star Wars game.
So what could be so bad about an open world Star Wars game? Obviously the franchise is known for its massive narrative lore that includes everything you could possibly want to be. From a fighter pilot, to lightsaber battles to podraces and everything in between the Star Wars universe has it all. And that’s part of the problem. A game that does not focus on one set element is doomed quickly become a jack of all trades, which in the gaming world is just another way to describe a game that does a lot of things, but none of them particularly well. That’s why the best games in the franchise are the ones that lock their focus onto one key element and maximize its potential.
Even the Star Wars games that give you the most variety in terms of gameplay – like Shadows of the Empire and Knights of the Old Republic – have a set focus on their key gameplay elements and story. And that’s the next point I wanted to bring, that an open world Star Wars game would hurt one of its biggest assets – the story. The narrative of the Star Wars universe is one of the most rich and well-defined in all of fiction and taking away some of the direction to focus on a more open-ended experience seems like the wrong direction for the Star Wars brand. I’m not saying that I want a Star Wars game that locks the player down a set, unmovable path but again, giving too much choice can muddy the experience and take away from what is (almost) always an amazing sci-fi story.
The last point I have in this rant is the track record of EA when it comes to Star Wars games, in that it hasn’t been very good. Whether it be the cancellation of Visceral’s very promising title to the flubbed launches of both new Battlefront titles almost everything that EA has done with the series (other than BioWare’s The Old Republic) has been a mis-queue I’m not saying their developers aren’t talented, quite the opposite, they are some of the best in the business, but it really does feel like EA have a sort of curse when it comes to the franchise, so maybe trying to take one of the most complex, risky and high-value genres in all of gaming just seems like tempting fate.
I want to be 100% clear on this, I really think an open world Star Wars game could be good, but I just doubt it will be great. The franchise is at its best when it is focused and let’s you, the player, live out your fantasies of being a bounty hunter, fighter ace or Jedi (or Sith) in a fairly linear fashion. Trying to make that work in an open world setting just doesn’t seem like a good idea. Of course, I would love to be wrong and if EA is really working on an open world Star Wars game for it to be a hit and redeem the publisher in the eyes of the fanbase, I just don’t see it happening any time soon.