Video Games

Video Games: Reawaken old forces with these great ‘Star Wars’ titles

A screenshot from the latest “Star Wars: The Old Republic” expansion, “Knights of the Fallen Empire.”
A screenshot from the latest “Star Wars: The Old Republic” expansion, “Knights of the Fallen Empire.” Electronic Arts

As millions flood theaters to feast on the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” hype machine, many may leave the theater craving more “Star Wars.”

Great action films usually stir up my gaming enthusiasm. The “Lord of the Rings” films made me want to marathon a fantasy game, while something like “John Wick” had me clambering for a shooter.

Nothing gets my blood boiling in this manner quite like a “Star Wars” movie. Luckily, there are some great games set in a galaxy far, far away – particularly from the early 2000s – that will keep me stimulated after my Thursday night “Force Awakens” showing.

After seeing the movie, let the excitement flow through you and into any of these titles.

“Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” (2003)

This is the be-all, end-all “Star Wars” video game. Anyone who thinks that a better one exists is a half-witted, scruffy looking Nerfherder.

The story is better than the original trilogy. The final reveal is more damaging than the one at the end of “The Empire Strikes Back.” The characters are deep, the choices are meaningful, and gameplay is a perfect mix of turn-based and traditional hack-and-slash action.

Although it was released back in 2003, the PC version’s graphics still hold up remarkably well. I replay this title every summer, and I believe it to be one of the finest games of any kind ever made.

If for some insane reason you didn’t like the first “Knights of the Old Republic,” don’t worry: There is another. The sequel is nearly as good and has slightly better graphics.

“Star Wars: The Old Republic” (2011-Present)

It may have killed the best “Star Wars” gaming franchise ever in order to create a sustainable cash cow, but the massively multi-player online sequel to “Knights of the Old Republic” is pretty rad.

The graphics are still near the top of the video game heap despite being nearly four years old. Trusted role-playing game developer BioWare is still busy chugging out new content for its MMO, which has enjoyed tremendous longevity. That’s probably because it had the largest development budget of all time at more than $200 million. Electronic Arts and LucasArts paid a handsome sum for the first fully voiced MMO ever made, and it’s worth spending about 80 hours on at some point in your life.

No “Star Wars” title can compete with “The Old Republic” in terms of customization and scope. It offers eight playable classes, each with two advanced class choices. Each class has three different skill trees, so you have a ton of options.

I’ve lost my taste for the genre, but this is probably my favorite MMO ever made. I’m still hoping to see a third “Knights of the Old Republic” get made before I die, though.

“Star Wars Galaxies” (2003-2011)

The original “Star Wars” MMO was fantastic for about two years or so. The extremely complicated, adult-oriented online game got a makeover that dumbed it way down for the masses and utterly ruined it.

In the beginning, players were plopped on Tatooine with no guidance whatsoever. Go on adventures, become a merchant or dance for your supper in the local cantina. It was entirely possible – even encouraged – to play for hours without fighting a single womp rat. It was possible to progress through the entire game without any violence whatsoever, which is so frighteningly rare – even in children’s games.

I remember seeing a Jedi. I wasn’t even aware that you could become a Jedi. The game doesn’t tell you anything. I had to read about it in forums.

One character was able to do everything. There were no classes, only skill trees – similar to the early “Elder Scrolls” games. This allowed for nearly limitless customization. One character could be the world’s best doctor, Jedi, mineral surveyor and clarinet player.

Sadly, it was gutted in favor of a more user-friendly version with classes and quests. The game was ultimately shut down in 2011, but I’ve heard whispers throughout Mos Eisley that a few less-than-legal emulators are available online.

“Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy” (2003)

Wow, 2003 was an amazing year for “Star Wars” games. It’s a wonder that I ever left my house as a 15-year-old.

The final installment of the “Jedi Knight” franchise was its best offering. It sheltered the embattled Kyle Katarn in favor of a young, customizable main character who studies under Katarn and his master, Luke Skywalker.

The single-player campaign is quite good, but the multi-player gameplay – which relies on the fabulous Quake III game engine – is some of the best ever made. Players can use guns, explosives, lightsabers and force techniques to battle each other in chaotic free-for-alls or objective-based missions. The “sabers only” mode is still my favorite online mode – probably ever.

“Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi” (1997)

I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention. Never play this game. It is an abomination. Thank you for reading until the end.

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