Lego Star Wars, The Force Unleashed, Star Wars Battlefront. All good games, but none of them have yet to capture my imagination as much as the original Star Wars: TIE Fighter flight simulator released in 1994. TIE Fighter placed the player into the cockpit of not only the empire’s workhorse fighter, but several other crafts as well, including the TIE Bomber, and my personal favorite the TIE Interceptor.
I loved everything about the TIE fighter: the whine of the twin ion engines and the BLAT BLAT BLAT of its weaponry, the cool pilot’s uniform and the very design aesthetic of the craft itself – not a thought toward air resistance (obviously useless in space) or even a perfunctory nod toward resembling anything organic. While piloting the fighters was a blast, TIE Fighter was no mere simulation: this was a deeper look at the Empire itself. Your pilot character’s missions were presented in a more nuanced context than that of his cinematic counterparts. No mere anonymous Stormtrooper, your pilot served an important role in preserving order in a lawless universe. In suggesting a pay-off to be gained for the Empire’s totalitarian rule, Star Wars: TIE Fighter sidestepped what could otherwise be a dubious moral dilemma for some players, as well as brought some badly needed gray area into the franchise’s painfully black-and-white morality. However, much like real evil, your character’s good intentions proved to be the first steps on the road to hell. Successfully accomplishing sorties against pirates and other bad guys led to initiation into the Emperor’s secret society and new, more difficult missions against rebels and other traitors to the Empire. Ultimately, the player found himself enmeshed in the Empire’s evil web and another pawn in a greater war against freedom. This was a mature take on the Star Wars universe, and perhaps that’s why we’ll probably never see it again.
Despite the game’s cult following, there’s been no indication from LucasArts that the game will ever be revisited. There’s certainly an audience for it, but is this the one that Lucas is courting? Perhaps these are the same graying Star Wars fans that found so little to be desired in the Star Wars prequels; an audience for which Lucas seems to care not at all, having apparently chosen to devote the rest of his career to producing vehicles for selling toys and other children’s products.