A lost decade: EA’s time with Star Wars exclusivity

Screenshot of Star Wars Battlefront II. Image via Lucasfilm/EA.
Screenshot of Star Wars Battlefront II. Image via Lucasfilm/EA. /

I think I speak for the majority of gamers who let out a collective sigh in 2013 when EA announced they would be the exclusive publisher of Star Wars games for the next decade. I, like many others, began to question why I thought this and I came to the realization that gaming is a business. EA made it a mission to take everything great about gaming and monetize it through the lens of fan service. This mindset led to the last decade of questionable games with a few good ones sprinkled in — particularly when it comes to the famed galaxy far, far away.

Battlefront was woefully disappointing and I can’t tell you how bad it was. The first game was an absolute disaster as EA hurried it out before the release of The Force Awakens. The original Battlefront is one of the best multiplayer experiences on the older consoles and it’s not even close. DICE along with EA created a game that not only was highly disappointing as far as the heroes go, but completely lackluster in the gameplay department. The game lacked soul, heart, and any kind of exciting content. Not to mention the complete throw away after the movie came out and the slow walk away they did as they started moving on to other projects.

The second game was even worse. Battlefront II released with so many bugs I quit playing it and never went back to it. In fact, I bought it digitally because I knew it was going to be horrible at launch and ended up getting my money back.

Last year, I bought it again for $4.99 when it was on sale and played through the ridiculously short campaign and thought it was dull and boring. Iden Versio is a great character in the book and Inferno Squad is such a great force to be reckoned with. However, the inconsistency in the story and the breaks it had along with the action that seemed ridiculous at times made for an experience that was memorable for the wrong reasons.

Another big issue fans had were the microtransactions and the whole pay to win thing EA attempted to push, much to the chagrin of the fans. Not to mention Iden is a hero for the Empire in the multilayer despite being an Empire operative for all of 45 minutes in the six hour campaign.

The most forgettable game of the bunch is Star Wars: Squadrons. I never played that game all the way through, but I can say from the reviews and how buggy it was, I’ve never wanted to nor will I. Squadrons was a game that had a niche group of players and the sales reflected that. Sure, the game was reviewed great, but so was Battlefront and we all know how that turned out. The one thing that game had going for it was playing as all the different factions and giving the VR experience that at the time was one of a kind. This, however, doesn’t take away from the lackluster story and the blundering and clunky controls. Again, EA gave us another game that fell flat. Squadrons was fan service to those who still liked Tie Fighter and a great way to introduce VR gaming to the Star Wars universe.

I won’t even mention Galaxy of Heroes which is an abomination full of microtransactions.

It wasn’t all bad thanks to Star Wars Jedi

Then came the Star Wars Jedi games, and this is where we get into the games that are very good. Fallen Order I slept on for far too long and I still regret it. I picked it up at the end of last year and played through it and I can only describe it as “Dark Souls combat set in a Star Wars universe.” Fallen Order took everything great about story, combat, and even gameplay and combined it into something fun and enjoyable. Cal Kestus is one of the best Star Wars characters and the gameplay gives us that as well. As you progress through the game you get better skills and can play the game how you want. You can ignore your force powers and purely focus on melee and your lightsaber, which is what I did on my first playthrough, or you can do both, which is what I did on my second playthrough. Kestus became one of the most likeable video game characters overnight. However, even then, these games exist because people like Dark Souls not because it’s a game that pushed any particular thing forward for technology.

EA didn’t deserve Star Wars, and the Star Wars IP was basically killed when Lucas Arts was shut down. The old saying that Hindsight is 20/20 is true. Games like The Force Unleashed still stand up today, despite the woefully short campaigns. Disney purchased Star Wars for $4 billion and effectively needed a sure fire way to make money off the IP and EA backed the bank truck up and laid down a giant check. When there is no competition, why make better quality games? Even before the deal was inked, EA hardly did anything that would’ve led you to believe they could handle a narrative driven game. Every game EA made had one thing in common: they all had great cinematic trailers and were presented well but were woefully disappointing.

At this time Battlefield 4 was still an abysmal mess and they were recovering from that launch and games like Battlefield Hardline were pushed aside due to lack of narrative issues; Madden and NBA Live were absolutely horrible at this time as they just updated some of the visuals a little bit and added few new features and called it a new game. The only game that was halfway decent around this time was Titanfall and EA managed to kill that franchise after the second game killed it.

In its prime, Lucas Arts was the best game developer, for Star Wars that is. They gave us games like Battlefront and Battlefront II with the likes of The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed II along with Knights of the Old Republic and what many regard as the best RPG of all time KOTOR II.

Could we see a resurgence of the good ‘ol days of Star Wars gaming? Who knows, but what I do know is that EA completely wet the bed on their exclusive deal and gave us what many deem to be terrible games outside of the Jedi games. One can only hope that now that the market has been there for single player Star Wars games, other developers and publishers like Ubisoft can lift the bar higher than what EA did for themselves.