We’ve seen it all before when a franchise is taken from its native form, its narrative “adapted” and the characters changed to fit a different (and sometimes alien) medium. And we’ve seen it not just in books to films, but from films to books. Or books to games. Or radio shows to TV shows. Or even music covers. There’s always that niggle that something isn’t quite right. The characters aren’t really who they were in their native form. And only few characters can cross that threshold. Lara Croft, for example, is not the same Lara Croft in the games as she is in the films. Agent 47 is by no means the same guy that he is in the games. Harry Potter and all his chums again fall under the same category. Even Bilbo Baggins isn’t the same to me in the films as he was in my minds eye as a child reading the books. Or even as an adult, for that matter, when I went back to them.
But Star Wars, from the first time I saw it at Star Wars Celebration earlier this year, hasn’t ever given me that feeling. DICE will tell you it’s because they’ve studied and know the universe well. DICE will tell you it’s because they had unprecedented access to all the archive material at Skywalker Ranch. DICE will tell you it’s because they care about the franchise. And DICE wouldn’t be wrong. And you can tell.
From the moment you see the title screen you know you’re in for a treat. The level of detail on the animations leading up to the menu screen are enough to make anyone with any Star Wars love wet themselves a little. And then there’s that music. Oh, the music which transports you back to your childhood and trips something off deep inside you that you forgot even existed.
What’s most impressive is that it doesn’t stop at the title screen. Playing this game will take you back in time. What’s impressive is that you get goosebumps not just from that emotive soundtrack, but seeing a Tie Fighter, or a Storm Trooper just in the the world you’re running around in. And then there’s that moment of fear when you hear “Darth Vader is close, be careful” or “Commander Skywalker is on the field” and you literally shit yourself with fear, but piss yourself with excitement. You can’t help but run full pelt towards your hero. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a rebel running to your death just to get a glimpse of Darth Vader, or a Storm Trooper crashing through the environments just to get a look at Luke. And when you do, oh my goodness. And then you play as them and your head does this weird thing where all your first person shooter skills just fall out. For a few minutes you’re just mashing buttons in awe that you’re controlling Han Solo or Boba Fett or Vader or Skywalker.
But just playing the characters, as impressive as they are, isn’t enough. And it’s here one could worry that all the environments from the Star Wars worlds could ruin the perfect fantasy you’ve built up in your head. But it doesn’t. It’s beautiful. And combined with the heroes, the vehicles (which, by the way is a whole different topic - and one that doesn’t disappoint), the sounds, the music all make for an amazing experience. Moreover, the game is very well balanced, something which I assume would have been hard to do. The last thing you want as a gamer is to be overpowered by the Heroes. Or for one hero to be more powerful than another. But again, DICE has not allowed that to be the case.
Lína Ingvarsdóttir, senior producer, said the studio wanted to make sure the players were immersed in “their own Star Wars fantasy” and that you felt you were part of that world. You do. And it sends shivers down my spine.
So, we left today having had epic 20 vs 20 battles, we’d flown Tie Fighters, X-Wings and A-Wings. We’d manoeuvred AT-ASs and zipped through forests on Speeders. We’ve played as Darth Vader, Han Solo, Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leah. Tomorrow there’ll be more. Tomorrow we take to the skies in full on dogfighting pleasure. Tomorrow we do more missions and explore more worlds. Tomorrow. All tomorrow. And I can’t wait.