George Lucas may have gone downhill as a director over the last three decades, but he's remained at the vanguard of special effects and high production values. Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasfilm, and Skywalker Sound are all among the best production companies in their respective fields and now they're all working together to lend their expertise to Star Wars 1313, the first mature-rated game from LucasArts.
"Star Wars 1313 is about being a bounty hunter in the most dangerous place in the galaxy," says game director Dominic Robilliard. The 1313th floor of Coruscant is a subterranean den of vice deep in the planet's core. As for the bounty hunter, he's now a stand-in model for a yet to be revealed character. Given that the title is a reference to CT-1313, an alias of Boba Fett's, (thanks, Wikia!) it's not hard to make a connection to the green grappling-hooked bounty hunter.
But for now we're stuck with a guy who kind of looks like Simon Parkin. He's also an expert in shooting, jumping, and climbing. These common videogame protagonist skills may sound like a missed opportunity for a Star Wars title, but Robilliard seeks to make a game that isn't mired in fantasy. Well, except for the robot assassins and space cruisers.
"There's no force, there's no jedi down here, " he explains. "Our core mechanics are this mix of agile cover combat and death defying platforming. Those two things are designed to connect the player to how much more grounded and relatable this version of Star Wars is."
By downplaying the series' more magical - excuse me, midi-chlorian - elements, it runs the risk of seeming generic. The cover shooting and semi-automated platforming bear more than a passing resemblance to the Uncharted series, while the sci-fi setting would feel right at home in Mass Effect.
Perhaps the combat system will spark more in the full game. Robilliard explains that this will be very robust. "I think the reason it's such a compelling gameplay fantasy is because of all the amazing gear... Getting to play with this expanding tool set of lethal weapons and bounty hunter gadgets and experimenting how they work really is the toy at the heart of our game." Unfortunately, the only gadget we see our hero use is a blaster, as he takes down a squad of enemy soldiers who've recently boarded his ship.
After a bit of shooting, Not-Boba's mentor tosses a foe into an ammunition tube and launches him towards an intruding vessel. This is a mistake as the pair realize they're connected via tether to the other craft, so both ships start going down.
From here our hero scales the burning wing of the crashing craft. The whole thing looks very scripted, but it's not a cutscene. Robilliard was very firm in the studio's belief that nothing will happen in a cutscene that you'd rather do yourself. Occasionally a scripted explosion would toss the protagonist around in a micro-cutscene, but it didn't seem to take control away for more than a moment. Robilliard states that one of their biggest goals with Star Wars 1313 is to create a "truly playable cinematic experience," and these seamless transitions are quite impressive.
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This is made more so by the cutting edge graphics. Running on a high-end PC it looks like it could be an Unreal engine 4 game, though LucasArts confirmed that it's still running on Unreal engine 3. The proprietary motion-cap looks up there with Beyond and the ships look shockingly realistic.
Ultimately, Star Wars 1313 didn't look bad, but it didn't do anything even remotely new or interesting in its brief presentation. If it weren't for the glorious graphics - which really are something special - I'm not sure it would be getting much attention at this early state a state.
It seems as if Nathan Drake stole Indiana Jones' thunder and now Lucas wants to make Star Wars relevant again by adapting to Naughty Dog's model. There's all sorts of potential for Star Wars 1313 to reinvent the oversaturated series, but right now it just looks like a very pretty game in a sea of other pretty games.