It is a sad day for old gamers like me, and it’s not just a late April fools: the mighty hammer of Mickey has struck as Disney shut down LucasArts after acquiring it in a mega-merger at the end of last year. All of their current projects were cancelled including Star Wars 1313. While it is understandable from a business point of view (they should have been shut down in the early 2000s), but as a gamer it’s really sad to see them go.
Some of their Star Wars games has a special place in my heart, like the Jedi Knight series where you could experience most jedi powers in first person; their great space simulators X-Wing and TIE Fighter; and Empire at War which was an interesting RTS/4x hybrid. For the sake of remembering the good things let’s forget Force Commander with its horrible UI, buggy gameplay and the remixed Imperial March. No doubt that we’ll see more Star Wars games in the future developed externally, which might actually be a good thing considering that the most recent Star Wars games I really liked was the Knights of the Old Republic series, developed by BioWare.
As big a Star Wars fan as I am, LucasArts’ greatest achievement for me lies in their legacy as the father of point-and-click adventure games. They introduced the SCUMM engine with Maniac Mansion in 1987 (then as Lucasfilm Games), which was used in many great adventures to come: from the funny Monkey Island series, though the silly Sam & Max, the legendary Day of the Tentacle, to the more serious Full Throttle, and The Dig, the best point-and-click sci-fi adventure. Even though sales were declining and the adventure gaming era was coming to an end, they came out with Grim Fandango in 1998. While commercially unsuccessful, it had a remarkable art-style and a unique story, I usually consider this 3D adventure masterpiece the end of adventure gaming.
If you want to play the above adventures and happen to have the original files, grab a copy of ScummVM, ResidualVM or DOSBox. Thanks to these great open source projects, these great memories are saved from digital decay.
As for the future of adventure gaming, we can only hope that Disney will outsource the rebirth of some of these classics to Telltale Games, which was founded by former LucasArts employees after Sam & Max: Freelance Police, a sequel to the original Sam & Max: Hit the Road, was cancelled in 2004.