The Best New Star Wars Game Subverts a Boring Franchise Trope (2024)

Star Wars: Hunters, the free-to-play, third-person hero shooter set in Disney’s sci-fi universe, releases on Nintendo Switch and mobile platforms today. It’s a solid competitive live service game, that’s both easy to pick up and fun to play.

Given how saturated the market of hero shooters is, Hunters will ultimately sink or swim depending on how much audiences are willing to give it a shot. Borrowing its settings from one of the most beloved franchises in modern history does give it a major leg up on the competition. But it’s how Hunters decided to exist within the well-documented Star Wars canon that makes it an exciting addition to the established lore. It’s an addition that subverts one of the more annoying tropes in the franchise.

Star Wars: Hunters takes place after Star Wars: Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, following the fall of the Galactic Empire. It takes place on Vespaara, a planet on the outer rim where a cunning business-minded scoundrel hosts a televised spectacle pitting the galaxy’s toughest and smartest mercenaries against one another in a fight for glory. It’s space-Running-Man for the Star Wars universe, something I didn’t know the franchise needed until now.

By the nature of the type of game Hunters is, light on narrative and heavy on combat, it doesn’t really have a way of tying into the major events in Star Wars canon. There’s no General Thrawn on commentary of the game’s Smash TV-esque presentation, or cameos from fan favorites like Bossk the Bounty Hunter. And there’s not a single mention of a Skywalker or Han Solo within earshot.

Without reliance on endless references to the films, TV shows, and games, the 12 characters that make up Hunters’ starting roster truly get a chance to shine. Thankfully, these characters have enough charm, intrigue, and memorable and genuinely cool designs to make at least a handful of them worth latching on.

A brief character description for Rieve, the awesome-looking Dark Side assassin reminiscent of Count Dooku’s Clone Wars-era apprentice Asajj Ventress, reveals that the source of her lightsaber is currently unknown. This little bit of mystery immediately makes her an interesting character who can develop over the course of the game’s future seasons.

The same goes for J-3D1, the hilariously named droid custom-built to emulate the ways of the extinct Jedi. The concept of a force-sensitive droid isn’t completely alien to Star Wars, but J-3D1 provides an opportunity to delve deeper into this concept either in this game or in other stories.

Utooni, a playable hero that is literally two Jawa brothers in a trenchcoat, is ripe ground for hilarity both in and out of the game. The Jawas seem custom-created to star in an animated Disney Plus short chronicling the hilarious shenanigans they get up to during Hunter’s off-season.

Even Sentinel, the heavy gunner Stormtrooper finding new purpose in the galaxy’s unlawful Outer Rim implies new possibilities of what some of the Empire’s infantry got up to after their boss’ sudden demise.

Despite being a much smaller project in scope, Star Wars: Hunters provides more exciting new possibilities for the greater Star Wars canon than Ubisoft’s upcoming open-world game Star Wars Outlaws. It’s not that Outlaws doesn’t look like a fun game. But its first trailer and pre-order bonuses already confirm that main character Kay Vess will cross paths with Han Solo’s frozen body and the imposing space gangster Jabba The Hutt.

Hunters’ restraint in featuring iconic Star Wars characters and moments shares a similar conceit with Star Wars: Acolyte. The new Jedi Order-focused TV series takes place 100 years before 1999’s The Phantom Menace. At least early on, this new TV series seems like it's telling its own story, with new characters set in an under-explored part of the Star Wars timeline.

Disney has made a point to slow down the frequency at which it releases new Star Wars and Marvel stories in recent years, a welcome change. But considering Hunters has been in development since 2019, it’s not likely that the game was the result of any decrees from higher-ups at Disney’s braintrust. After shows like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka, and The Mandalorian retread, over-explained, and muddied Star Wars continuity with additional background, it’s refreshing to see both a new Star Wars video game and a new Star Wars television show step back from the familiar, even if the results are coincidental.

There once was a time when Star Wars’ extended fiction was all about introducing weird characters who also exist in this strange reality that fuses science fiction, westerns, and mysticism into a cohesive world. With new pieces of fiction like Star Wars: Acolyte and Star Wars: Hunters, it finally feels like we’re returning to creators taking an interest in telling unique stories in this storied universe.

The Best New Star Wars Game Subverts a Boring Franchise Trope (2024)

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