Star Wars Saturday: Video Games

Star Wars has created a great many secondary properties, like TV shows, books, and video games. Well, today I want to talk about the video games, because to me, that’s some of the best stuff that has come out of the franchise as a whole. The immersive experience that video games are known for blend seamlessly with the overpowered heroes that Star Wars is known for.

Most video games seem to have a hero that, somehow, overcomes all odds and all comers and wins the days. After all, a great many get to cheat and make use of save and load mechanics… But then, some don’t need that. Some are Jedi.

There are a great many Star Wars games, and I’ve only played so many of them, so rather than list only a few favorite games, let me explore and remember fondly some of the types of games that Star Wars has made great over the years.

The Lego Games

First and foremost, it’s worth mentioning that Lego now has a huge number of somewhat-similar, but totally different franchise, video games. Most are movie tie-ins, though some are just based on the general fictional universe, like the Batman ones. At this point, they’ve gotten so good at their storytelling in these games that they’re producing movies based on them.

No, not the Lego Movie. Although they did make a game of that…

But where did this all start? With what fan-beloved franchise? None other than episodes 1-3 of Star Wars. Wait, the new trilogy? Not even the original? That’s right. The mechanics blended beautifully with Lego manipulation, with the Force helping you build Lego objects and move them around the environment (something which they haven’t done as well in-world since except in the Harry Potter games).

The new trilogy also meant that you basically spent the whole time as Jedi – meaning you were also crazy powerful and nigh invulnerable. The Lego Games are great co-op games in part because this has persisted – you don’t die in the games, just lose coins and respawn. And you can pick the coins back up. The nigh-invincibility made the most sense with the Jedi.

Regardless, this was a strong game, which not only spawned two more Lego Star Wars games, but a whole host of other Lego games. They started strong, and are still riding that wave!

Vehicle Games

Also from the Wookiepedia.

Also from the Wookieepedia.

One of the things that Star Wars has in droves is cool land and space vehicles. And one thing they have made plenty of games for are vehicle games and simulators. I would be remiss if I did not mention the X-Wing simulator game, one that Gene’O still remembers and loves. I remember playing the Podracer one as well after episode 1 came out… almost like they included that ridiculously long scene so that they could make a game of it?…

I’m not much of one for racing games (nor the Lego racing mini-games…) but I remember loving the vehicle sections in some of the Star Wars games I’ve played. Such a variety, and they all do different things. Really just great from a video-game perspective.

Roleplaying Games

Of course, playing through the movie plots like in the Lego games is one thing… and simulating the vehicles is another… but the wide world of Star Wars really is ideal for an incredibly immersive experience, and where you get that is in the roleplaying games.

Actually, they made two KotOR games! I've been playing the first on my iPad... need to get back to that! Image from Wookieepedia a third time.

Actually, they made two KotOR games! I’ve been playing the first on my iPad… need to get back to that!
Image from Wookieepedia a third time.

Maybe the best known and most beloved of these is Knights of the Old Republic, a game from BioWare. BioWare is known for story-heavy games, with open-ended elements, lots of character choice and character driven stuff. That all sounds really good, set in a Star Wars universe!

It also lets you play more than just a Jedi. After all, characters like Han Solo and Princess Leia captured people’s imaginations just as much as the Jedi did. It also lets you be good or bad, light or dark side. These sorts of decisions allow for a very unique experience, and replayability.

There have been other roleplaying games – including two different massively multiplayer online games (MMO’s) which have been pretty popular as well. I know people who have poured a whole lot of hours into those, and loved them!

Star Wars: Battlefront

So good. Spent so much time with this in college. Yup, Wookieepedia.

So good. Spent so much time with this in college.
Yup, Wookieepedia.

If you did twist my arm and make me pick a favorite Star Wars game/series, however, it would have to be the Battlefront games. Honestly, I don’t remember much of episodes 2 or 3… and much of what I do remember is from playing the Battlefront games, and fighting on the planets!

In Star Wars Battlefront, you and friends go into a game which is also full of computer bots. Basically, full squads on both sides of a fight. You can be all on the same side, or against each other. Then you battle over control locations, which, once you hold those, give you access to vehicles, and even eventually Jedi.

There were different troopers to choose from as well, so you could be a basic sort of blaster Storm Trooper, or have rockets, jet packs, all sorts of things. Then there were tanks, or space battles where you had to fly from main-ship to main-ship, speeders, AT-AT’s to take down… and eventually, when the battle had been going for a while, the option to spawn as a Jedi came up. And fighting a tank with Yoda is just a fun thing.

!!! Of course from Wookieepedia.

!!!
Of course from Wookieepedia.

Our favorite mode, though, was a battle you could have at the Cantina, where all the options were Jedi. And it’s just a giant Jedi melee, with Force pushes and pulls, super jumping and running, thrown lightsabers, and General Grievous just walking around swinging four lightsabers… It was a blast.

Meaning, what game might actually make me buy one of the new generation of gaming consoles? Star Wars Battlefront 3!

What about you – what Star Wars games have you loved? Let me know in the comments below!

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Let’s Play Planescape: Torment! Episode 4

by William Hohmeister

Last time on Planescape: Torment!

Breaking stuff leads to a level-up, and an encounter with a ghost leads to a vague prophecy!

In case you missed it, Nameless helpfully wrote down Deionarra’s prophecy:

I encountered the ghost of a woman named Deionarra, who prophesied that I would meet three enemies, but ‘none more dangerous that myself in my full glory’. They are shades of evil, of good, and of neutrality given life and twisted by the laws of the planes.

Ep4_Image1She said that I would come to a prison built of “regrets and sorrow,” where “the shadows themselves have gone mad.” Here, I will be asked to make a terrible sacrifice… for the matter to be laid to rest, I must “destroy that which keeps me alive, and be immortal no longer.”

Deionarra disappears, and Nameless discovers Morte can’t see her. So he’s a crazy amnesiac scar monster. Although maybe a skull isn’t the best barometer for reading Nameless’ mental weather. Hey, no one else has talked to him yet, maybe even Morte isn’t real…

MORTE PLEASE BE REAL.

Continue reading

Planescape: Torment, Episode 1

by William Hohmiester

Planescape: Torment is a PC role playing game based on the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) tabletop rules. It came out in 1999, and it is played from an isometric (fancy for “top-down”) view. It is a point-and-click turn-based game set in a weird fantasy universe. I am writing a “Let’s Play” style series about Planescape: Torment from beginning to end.

I learned about it from Jeremy about ten years ago, when we found out we both liked the Baldur’s Gate series of PC games. I know Baldur’s Gate very well, but I’ve never played more than a few hours of Torment. So why not write about Baldur’s Gate?

Because there’s less room for surprise and exploration; because Jeremy once lent me his ancient, battered cd before digital downloads became common, which is a hell of a recommendation; and because of what Planescape: Torment is about.

It is about an immortal with amnesia and his best friend, a floating, talking skull. They have strange encounters with alien species, and the game encourages talking, exploration, and moral choices over fighting. It’s Doctor Who if Edward James Olmos played the Doctor. Which is how I’ll play the game as well, doing my best to make good moral decisions (tempered by a roleplayer’s greed) and choosing to help rather than to harm.

The game is available at gog.com (Good Old Games) for a few bucks, and there are several mods available for free. I’m using some of them to add missing content and to keep the game from looking its age:

  • The Ultimate WeiDU Fixpack – this fixes a number of bugs and helps prevent crashes.
  • Qwinn’s Unfinished Business – restores content to the game, including quests and dialogue, that was abandoned by the developers due to time or budget problems.
  • Bigg’s Widescreen Mod – allows me to adjust the resolution of the game so it won’t appear so pixelated. When I originally installed the game it displayed only a few feet around Nameless. With this mod I get a much broader look at the surrounding area, and a feel for the scope of the setting.
  • Ghostdog’s UI Mod – fixes all the bugs introduced by the widescreen mod and smooths out the user interface for an easier player experience.

Although it’s based on AD&D, Planescape: Torment is a weird game, so I’m going to add some explanation of how it’s played, what certain terms mean, and how I made my character. Thankfully, unlike Baldur’s Gate, the character creation system is simple and easy to understand.

First, here’s my guy:

planescape1_will You could grate a mountain on that mug. Surrounding him are his stats: Strength, Wisdom, Constitution, Charisma, Dexterity, and Intelligence. These are increased by using Character Points (in the lower left) and, depending on what I choose to improve, effect the Armor Class (AC – how hard Nameless is to hit) and Hit Points (HP – how many hits he can take).

I’ll let the manual explain the individual stats, because I miss the times when games came with manuals that added to the story or the world.

STATISTICS:

“There are six primary stats that determine what kind of person the Nameless One is – smart or stupid, strong or weak, agile or clumsy. I have 21 character points to increase them. Though some control his mental faculties, they do not affect his morality or alignment.

  1. Strength (STR) – This makes you a good fighter. If you want to be a real meat grinder of a warrior – raise your Strength score.
  2. Constitution (CON) – This stat makes you tough to kill, almost always a plus considering how many people are trying to off you. One other bonus of a high Constitution is that you’ll regenerate faster.
  3. Dexterity (DEX) – This stat determines how difficult you are to hit, as well as how fast your reactions are. If you want to get the drop on your foes before they raise the alarm, high Dexterity helps.
  4. Intelligence (INT) – The smarter you are the more witty things you can think of to say. Having a higher Intelligence stat gives you more dialog choices, access to more spells, and a better chance to regain memories.
  5. Charisma (CHR) – A high Charisma stat means that people are more likely to listen to you, and even believe what you say, you’re so convincing. A high Charisma allows you to successfully bluff people more frequently.
  6. Wisdom (WIS) – The ability to absorb lessons from what’s happened to you is largely a function of Wisdom. You’ll gain experience points faster if you’re wise enough to learn from what you’re doing. A high Wisdom also gives you a better chance to regain lost memories.”

Okay, but how do I know what to pick? The obvious solution is to be a beefy strongman, since Nameless always starts as a level 3 Fighter, but only a level 1 Mage and Thief. He also can’t use his Mage or Thief abilities until he finds a teacher. But the manual has a bit more to say about this world and how we can best get along in it.

CHARACTER AND GAMEPLAY

Nameless is not a typical role playing game hero. The manual has something to say as well:

“In Torment, you take on the role of a scarred, amnesiac immortal in search of his identity… death serves to advance the plot and is even a tool for solving seemingly impossible problems… your actions throughout the game define your character’s development and even have the power to shape the world around you. You will find yourself gaining skills, new classes, and special abilities depending on your style of play… gathering memories is just as important as gaining experience, talking to the dead can yield more than talking to the living, and the most dangerous of enemies may be the only ones you can trust.”

Okay, that clears things right up. Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, in that order, seem to be the most important stats. I need them to solve the puzzle of Nameless’ identity and purpose, and to get more people on my side and helping me. I also want Constitution since I’m otherwise a weakling.

All the actual mechanics of the game – from dice rolls to saving throws – occur off-screen, so I mostly don’t worry about them. Let’s take another look at Nameless, with his now-completed stats:

planescape2_willIf you can’t see them in the image, the stats are:

STR = 9 – easily bullied
WIS = 14 – not Yoda, but nice
CON = 12 – wears a cup
CHR = 14 – ugly, but friendly
DEX = 10 – falls prey to the family cat
INT = 16 – full-ride scholarship
AC = 10 – the broad side of the barn
HP = 26 – bleeds easily

I thought for a long time before deciding to sacrifice a higher wisdom for constitution. I’m almost helpless physically, and I don’t know where to find someone to train me to be a wizard. Until I do, expect a lot of running away or bargaining.

That’s all it takes to begin a game. Next time, I’ll recount Nameless’ first adventure. If you have any questions or comments put them in the comments below, and if you have any spoilers put them back in your head and keep them there. No spoilers, please.