In the 1990s space sims were hot, and some of the best were part of the Star Wars: X-Wing series, but for some reason in the mid-2000s AAA space sims just about disappeared.
With sci-fi as a whole being en vogue right now and the apparent demand for space sims, a AAA title could make a killing. The release of The Last Jedi and Disney's plans for the franchise mean Star Wars is hotter than ever. Instead of another FPS game the next title set in the Star Wars universe should be a reboot, remake, or continuation of the Star Wars X-Wing series. Here's why.
The Series Didn't Affect the Canon
While the X-Wing series wove its story around the movie canon, it never quite touched on it in a way that directly influenced it one way or another. After the disappointments with Battlefront and Battlefront 2, this is really what the next Star Wars game needs. Instead of leaning on existing material, we need a narrative that can branch out where it needs to for exciting gameplay.
Star Wars: X-Wing gave us an opportunity to try out the iconic fighters of the Rebel Alliance. This time, though, we didn't have to do it by running down a Death Star trench yet again as Luke. It let us actually be our own character, and it felt like we were actually influencing the Galactic Civil War instead of just playing the role of another character.
Instead, you were just another pilot (albeit a good one) in the Rebel fleet. Star Wars: TIE Fighter and X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter: Balance of Power gave us one of the first opportunities to play as an Imperial soldier, and put us in the seats of the fragile but deadly TIE series of starfighter. Like its predecessor, TIE Fighter put us in a role that we could attach ourselves to instead of an iconic hero or villain. It has one of the more interesting plots of the Star Wars games and didn't chicken out like Battlefront 2's campaign did with Iden Versio.
X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter was more multiplayer-centric, but a later expansion, Balance of Power, added a Rebel and Imperial campaign. Few other multiplayer games had the kind of full-range freedom you see in this game. Going head to head against your friends as either the Empire or the Rebels is fantastic, and there were even cooperative missions you could take on together.
Just when the series could have been getting stale, all the features and facets of the three games were combined with a stellar original story to make Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance (GR Review). This game has you playing as Ace Azzameen, whose family is sympathetic to the Rebel Alliance. Eventually, the Imperials catch on, and Ace fully defects to the Rebels, and you control him on missions that touch lightly on existing Star Wars canon. You take part in the theft of the Imperial shuttle Tydirium, assist Dash Rendar in the capture of the Suprosa to get the plans to the second Death Star. The game goes out with a bang (literally) as you assist the Rebel fleet during the Battle of Endor.
Also: Remember Star Wars: Rebellion? A Real-Time Strategy Game That Put the Whole Expanded Universe at Your Fingertips
Since Disney is so wound up about controlling the new Star Wars Expanded Universe, a new X-Wing game would be a perfect way to let us experience what it's like to be a pilot for the Empire or Alliance without actually affecting any plans they have for the canon. Even just regular missions like taking down a Star Destroyer or Rebel Cruiser take on massive proportions when you're flying as part of a squadron in an X-wing or TIE fighter. Since the series is a space sim, even the mundane becomes vital since you don't get to rely on arcade-type shooting and gameplay to make you into a superhuman.
People Want Space Sims, and There's Little Competition
You just have to look at one game to see that people are clamoring for a new space sim: Star Citizen. Almost two million people have raised $173,592,156 to fund the game, and those numbers translate to a lot of fans that just want the chance to dogfight through space.
The only AAA level space sim that's on the market right now is Elite: Dangerous, but it lacks the thrill of the X-Wing series. It plays much too slow to sate that thirst for interstellar dogfighting that fans of TIE Fighter, Wing Commander, and Freespace have. The rest of what space sim fans have to choose from are either hit-or-miss (mostly miss) indie titles and classic PC games.
Genre Fatigue is a Very Real Thing
Arguably the vast deluge of space sims in the late-1990s/early-2000s is what killed the genre, but genre fatigue now might be its saving grace. People are getting tired of the same old FPS and action adventures that are steadily releasing. Even if a game is well made, if it plays exactly like the big hit from a few months ago, the experience is going to suffer.
Especially with multiplayer games, I'm just exhausted when it comes to first-person shooters and MOBAs. The one part of Star Wars Battlefront 2 I really liked was the Starfighter Assault mode, just because it felt different. Imagine instead of leveling for guns and grenades like Call of Duty, you could be getting decals and new weapons for a TIE fighter or an X-wing. You could switch out systems and augments, or earn variants with different capabilities. The possibilities are endless, and even though the upgrade system would probably be similar to what we see in Battlefield and Call of Duty, it would feel fresh.
I Like my Star Wars in the Stars.
Star Wars is huge, and it's been depressing to see the video games go from great, to non-existent, to mediocre over the span of the last decade. It would be great to see EA or another studio try to rekindle the magic that the Star Wars: X-Wing series had with a new title.
I love space sims, and I'm glad the genre is slowly making a comeback. However, a AAA, licensed game could give it the shot in the arm it really needs to become mainstream again.