Spoiler Warning: This article contains light spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, though no in-depth story detail. You've been warned.
The Last Jedi is out this weekend, and a new chapter has unfolded in the canon Star Wars universe. Director Rian Johnson's particular take on the series manages to follow-up on some of the groundwork laid down by J.J. Abrams with The Force Awakens, while departing rather drastically from that same starting point. The film ends with a feeling that Johnson is ready to depart from the established new canon. And it's time for the video games to follow.
Looking back at the Star Wars games that have come out since Disney bought the series, the most recent games wield the Star Wars brand like a clumsy hammer.
The mobile titles rely heavily on nostalgia and mostly retread the events of the older films. Likewise, Star Wars Battlefront is closely tied to the established Disney canon of films, and only those films. Even Star Wars Battlefront 2's original story plays directly into the new trilogy of films.
There are no games like Knights of the Old Republic or Jedi Knights in the new Star Wars video game canon mainly because the current slate of games have to help prop up Disney's efforts to build a new universe. This leaves the current Star Wars games feeling creatively constrained at best, and at worst, advertisements for whatever new Star Wars film coming out next.
Without spoiling too much about the film, The Last Jedi spends its runtime hellbent on tearing down audience's expectations about the Disney Star Wars universe. Killing the past is a repeated theme throughout the film, and by the end it's clear that Johnson wasn't bluffing. The Skywalker legacy, which has driven much of the plot of the two most recent films, is deconstructed entirely in The Last Jedi. And without the dogmatic worship of the original trilogy, The Last Jedi paves the way for stories elsewhere that built up most of the now de-canonized Star Wars Expanded Universe.
There are of course casualties. Back in the day, games like Dark Forces helped fill in the blanks in the Star Wars universe that Disney would later fill with films like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Rogue One and Dark Forces are by canon incompatible with each other.
Then there will be games like Visceral's now cancelled "Project Ragtag," a game that seemed poised to explore a broader Star Wars universe before its ill-fit with EA and the current Star Wars trilogy ended up killing it in its tracks. While Ragtag's proposed story, which apparently focused on a team of rogues led by a Han Solo-type, wasn't the sole reason for its demise; one has to wonder if Ragtag might have survived if production began after The Last Jedi.
With the release of The Last Jedi, it's easy to see now how future Star Wars stories and games can start branching away from the adventures of Rey, Finn, Poe, The First Order, and The Resistance. Johnson cleverly introduces a whole new network of planets, organizations, and characters that can easily be branched off or explored. While yes, any future Star Wars spinoff games will exist solely in the framework of Disney's new universe, there's still enough teased in The Last Jedi that new and old fans of Star Wars would happily explore in some future video game installment.
Whether you end up liking The Last Jedi or not, the film confirms that there's a bigger universe in Lucasfilm's galaxy far, far away. For the first time, I can finally see the massive scope of the Star Wars universe that was stripped away when Disney wholesale cut away the Expanded Universe. And I'm excited.
As it stands, the list of canon Star Wars games deserves an upgrade. If Disney wants Star Wars to maintain its relevance, the company has to understand that it can't trade on the past forever. That's probably why Johnson was handed the reigns of a new trilogy of films. Considering his work on The Last Jedi, Johnson's expanded role makes sense given how trigger happy the director seems to be at stepping away from the old universe. Disney will need to support this itchy trigger finger, by not continuing to push out Expanded Universe content tied so closely to the film and the grander cinematic universe.
Likewise, hopefully Disney will learn to empower game developers to have freedom like Johnson. In time, I want to see Star Wars' portfolio of canon games match the scope and creativity of the ones prior to the Disney purchase. And with Johnson's latest film, it finally feels like there's an opening for this to happen. The freedom is there for game developers' taking; the freedom to take the new Star Wars framework to build a vast new universe that feels truly, well, expanded.
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