The following article contains plot details for Star Wars: Rogue One.
This is a strange time to be a Star Wars fan, particularly if you were a devotee of the books, games and comics that sustained the series in the mid-1990s. When Disney axed the Expanded Universe back in 2014, it felt like the final spasm in a prolonged death that had begun with The Phantom Menace fifteen years prior. The EU was allowed to inform small aspects of this new Star Wars, but throughout the noughties its influence sharply waned. The prequels represented the triumph of LucasFilm’s merchandising arm over its story group. How could a Disney-led reboot be any different?
Yet here we are. Rogue One is a tonal u-turn for Star Wars, a return to the look and feel of the old Expanded Universe if not its specific plot beats. We’re back to a Star Wars that feels like a lived-in universe rather than a greenscreened backdrop. Indeed, the movie’s planet-hopping opening act has far more in common with the old novels and games than it does with the other films, which tend to lock in on one or two key locations for their duration.
There’s loads to be said about the influence of the Expanded Universe on Rogue One, and this extends to games too. If you lament the fact that they no longer make Star Wars games like Dark Forces and Knights of the Old Republic, then it’s strangely comforting to see them paid tribute in the biggest Star Wars event of the year. It’s no coincidence, either: former PC Gamer editor Gary Whitta has a story credit on the movie, and he was chief of our US edition the year that Dark Forces came out. This is a movie by people who are aware of Star Wars’ long relationship with PC gaming, and it shows.
Jyn and Jan, Cassian and Kyle
In Dark Forces, the Death Star plans are stolen by Rebel spies Jan Ors and Kyle Katarn. They have a substantially easier time of it than their Rogue One counterparts do, in part because they live in a Doom-inspired maze-world where everybody runs at 20 miles per hour and Stormtroopers can’t really look up.
They’re very different characters, for the most part, though ‘Jyn Erso’ and ‘Jan Ors’ use enough of the same letters to raise an eyebrow. Kyle and Cassian’s fates are very different, but if we ignore Katarn’s later Jedi adventures then their presentation isn’t actually that different: they’re both fringe operatives who work with a single partner, travelling the galaxy undertaking independent missions in a compact starship.
Late in Rogue One, when Jyn and Cassian have shed their Imperial disguises and are climbing the data archive, its worth paying attention to their costumes. Jyn’s gear echoes Jan anyway, and sans jacket Cassian’s khaki undershirt has a strong Kyle Katarn vibe. He’s just missing the ginger beard.
Darktroopers and Deathtroopers
This is a little bit more of a stretch, but Orson Krennic’s elite Deathtroopers have a shade of Dark Forces’ Darktroopers about them—the latter are droids, but the garbled mechanical speech of Rogue One’s black-clad troopers gives them a mechanical vibe even if there are people underneath those uniforms.
Darktrooper-inspired Imperial security droids also appeared in a recent episode of Star Wars: Rebels.
The Hammerhead-class corvette
Your first act in Knights of the Old Republic was to escape from the Endar Spire, a Republic starship with an unusual profile. The design proved popular, appearing in the wider Knights of the Old Republic backmatter as well as in Star Wars: The Old Republic. 4,000 years later, an updated version joined the Alliance in Star Wars: Rebels.
The Hammerhead gets a huge hero moment in Rogue One, swinging the space battle above Scarif for the Rebellion in one of the most daring acts of self sacrifice since Arvel Crynyd crashed his A-Wing into Vader’s Super Star Destroyer and wiped out a starship the size of a megacity. I guess now you know why it’s called a ‘Hammerhead’ in a universe that doesn’t have sharks.
Think about that for a second: a ship designed by BioWare not only appeared in a Star Wars movie, it made a star turn. We might not get Knights of the Old Republic 3, but we did get that.
In Rogue One, General Antoc Merrick is the X-Wing pilot who leads Blue Squadron in the battle over Scarif. In 1993’s Star Wars: Rebel Assault, Merrick Sims is a veteran Rebel pilot who teaches you the ropes in this (ropey) rail shooter. Later in the game, Merrick and the player participate in the Battle of Yavin… as Blue Squadron.
That can’t be a coincidence, can it? It’s an incredibly niche reference, but I guess if you were ever going to pay tribute to this most ’90s of Star Wars CD-ROM games then now would be the time to do it. It’s just surprising that they didn’t pay homage to X-Wing, which came out the same year and is a million times better. If he’d been called ‘General Farlander’, I’d have wet myself. And rightly been kicked out of the cinema.