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Retro Friday: Best of Lucasarts

by Zaid Kriel (Zaid)  Posted Friday, May 03, 2013 1:01:36 PM

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It's old news at this point that Disney, who recently bought the entirety of George Lucas' entertainment empire, decided to shut down LucasArts. It's a baffling decision because Disney's own game development group, Disney Interactive Studios, isn't really known as a hitmaker. Now granted, LucasArts has put out a stinker or two in its time, but the company had a long and distinguished line-up of games that went well beyond Star Wars tie-ins.

The vast majority of the classic point-'n'-click adventure games came out of LucasArts, not to mention some truly excellent space combat simulators, quality FPS's and platformers. From it's inception in 1982, the studio has produced numerous high quality and memorable games, whether produced solo or in partnership with other studios, and looking at their lengthy gameography it's hard to get an accurate listing of what their top games really were, there being so many and the genres so varied. One thing is clear though, their closure is a loss for gaming as a whole and they will be missed.

Since the company produced so many games, over such a long period of time, it's tough to get a solid, indisputable list of their best and this list - despite the title - represents only my favorites. Feel free to sound off on what yours were in the comments

Gladius



Most people don't know that LucasArts made Gladius... actually most people don't even know that Gladius is game that was made by anyone. Gladius' most notable achievement is that it won a couple of "Best Game No One Played Awards" in 2003 or 2004. The game was basically a western take on games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Orge, being that it was a turn-based tactical role-playing game. It tooks place in a fantasy world with a really strong classical Roman motif. The players goal was to build a successful gladiator school and by recruiting and training new fighters to eventually compete in a tournament in Calthas, the capital of the Imperial Empire. Gladius is not a title that LucasArts will ever really be remembered for, which is a real shame, as it was a quality piece of work that was really different from the rest of their output.

Star Wars: Republic Commando



Star Wars: Republic Commando is one of those games that everybody likes. I have yet to meet someone that has played this FPS and that didn't enjoy it. The game centered on a four-man Commando Squad of clone troopers fighting during the Clone Wars, as seen in the prequel trilogy of Star Wars movies. What made the game so compelling was the fact that you had control of the full four-man squad and that proper use of each member of the team was essential to progress. The game offered both a different spin on the usual FPS formula of the time and a new take on Star Wars games in general, discarding Lightsabers, Jedis and X-wings outright. With any luck, some fool at Disney will greenlight a sequel.

Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter



Speaking of X-wings. If you were a space combat sim player, guarenteed you had this game in your collection: Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter was such a pure space sim, that it didn't even bother with a story campaign, focusing almost exclusively on multiplayer... and training scenarios for multiplayer. It was all combat, all the time. An expansion pack called Balance of Power did add a story campaign later, but more importantly it also added 8-player co-op. Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter is nearly 16 years old now, but is still considered one of the best space sims ever made.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors



This game is a classic of the 16-bit era and is the kind of game we're not likely to see again. The game was a top down shooter where you had to rescue you neighbours from the zombie apocalypse. Playing as either Zack, Julie or both, players would run around the neighbourhood shooting zombies with water pistols, fire extinguishers or soda can grenades rescuing their idiot neighbours. These were the kind of people who weren't smart enough to leave the braai lone and run away from a zombie. It was an incredibly simple and straightforward game, that didn't need a complex storyline or gimmick features. Watching the gameplay video above makes it all look rather quaint, but Zombies Ate My Neighbors remains a quality piece of gaming to this day.

Sam & Max Hit the Road



Deciding which point-'n'-click adventure game from LucasArts is the best one is a tough call; their output alone would comprise the Top Ten point-'n'-click adventure games ever list. Personally, I like Sam & Max Hit the Road the best. It's completely off-the-wall nutzoid humour just appealed to me. It's not an objectively better game than Monkey Island, Full Throttle or Grim Fandango, but it's freaky lovable charm is just infectious.

Star War: Knights of the Old Republic I & II



It doesn't feel like these games came out ten years ago, but they totally did. Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel, despite their age, remain some of the best RPG's ever made. They weren't the first RPG's games that allowed the player to be a totally evil person, Baldur's Gate and company had been pulling off that trick  for years already, but they were the first to allow it within a Star Wars setting. Which was a unique way to go, given the series family friendly image. Though I had intended on it when first playing, by the time I reached the end of the first game, I was as Sith as the come and I totally loved the idea that when the credits rolled, their wasn't some sudden redemptive happy ending forced on me. I was evil and the universe suffered for it. In 2003, that was a pretty novel concept.


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