Star Wars Outlaws Fixes The Franchises’ Big Protagonist Problem

Ubisoft recently revealed Star Wars Outlaws, featuring its new protagonist Kay Vess who could just solve a problem that has been plaguing Star Wars games for some time. While Star Wars has long been a franchise with compelling female characters at its core, that has not been the case for its games. While there have been games that allowed players to customize their character’s gender, almost all the Star Wars games with a fixed protagonist have featured men.

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Taking place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Star Wars Outlaws will follow cunning young scoundrel Kay Vess as she seeks to pull off jobs within the criminal underworld. Aiming for a 2024 release date, Star Wars Outlaws will see Kay joined by a cute Merqaal companion called Nix and a former Separatist commando droid ND-5. Steering the action away from Jedi and the Force feels like a breath of fresh air for a Star Wars game, and with a female protagonist, something truly new for many fans.

Related: “Risk It All”: First Open-World Star Wars Game Announced With Stunning Trailer


Star Wars’ New Protagonist: Kay Vess

Star Wars Outlaws Kay Vess and Nix peek though an opening door into the light

Kay Vess is set to become the first female to lead a full Star Wars game, which is long overdue for a franchise almost 50 years old. Previous women in Star Wars games have been companions and the few that have been player characters have been in diminished roles or part of a larger roster of characters. Throughout other areas of Star Wars, there is no shortage of female leads, with Ahsoka Tano, Hera Syndulla, and Jyn Erso all helming their own shows and movies, so it’s odd that Star Wars games are so far behind the rest of the franchise.

Star Wars Games Are Usually Male-Led

Star Wars Male Protagonists Kyle Katarn, Cal Kestis and Starkiller

While there have been over 100 Star Wars games made since 1979, only three have featured women as their fixed protagonists. To clarify, a fixed protagonist is the player character whose characteristics cannot be changed, such as with RPGs like Knights of the Old Republic or chosen from multiple characters. Most Star Wars games with these types of protagonists have the player take on the role of a male character.

Kyle Katarn, Starkiller, and more recently, Cal Kestis are just the more well-known male protagonists that fill the Star Wars gaming roster. But they aren’t alone, joined by original and classic characters as Star Wars game after Star Wars game reverts to the “norm” of having a male lead. Even Revan, who players could choose to be male or female, is now canonically a man thanks to Star Wars: The Old Republic using a male version of the character in its storylines and Drew Karpyshyn’s Revan novel.

This is quite frankly baffling in a franchise packed full of fantastic female characters. Right from the very beginning, Leia was there with Luke and Han leading the Star Wars original trilogy. Padmé joined Obi-Wan and Anakin, fighting side by side with her male companions. However, there is a nasty habit within the Star Wars fanbase of hating anything led by a woman, and the sequel trilogy had to contend with hate hurled at Rey, with many male fans referring to her as a Mary Sue.

This ugly side of Star Wars is rearing its head again, with toxic male fans threatening to boycott Star Wars Outlaws for no other reason than its female lead character. Others are pleading with Ubisoft to allow them to change the character’s gender so they don’t have to “play as a girl.” This behavior is bizarre as it’s not as though Star Wars Outlaws and Kay’s existence will erase all the male leads who have come before her.

Female Leads In Star Wars Games

Iden Versio in Star Wars Battlefront 2

Previous female leads of Star Wars games have been few and far between, with only three previous to Kay in Star Wars Outlaws. The first came in 1998, where players took the role of Mara Jade in the Dark Forces 2 expansion Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith. Four years later, there was Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, the sequel to Star Wars: Starfighter, where one of the player characters was Jedi Master Adi Gallia, who was first seen in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace before later appearing in Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series as well as Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones.

However, both of these women shared their games with a male protagonist – Kyle Katarn and Nym respectively. They were not the leads of full games, with Adi sharing the story with Nym in Jedi Starfighter, a game with very little story as it is primarily a flight simulator game. And despite being a beloved female Star Wars character, Mara Jade didn’t warrant her own game, instead only getting an expansion to Katarn’s series where her sole goal is to find Katarn.

It wasn’t until 2017 with Star Wars Battlefront 2 that players got a woman as the protagonist of the story they were being told with Iden Versio as the player character in Battlefront 2‘s single-player campaign. However, even this wasn’t a full game, as Versio’s campaign was part of a primarily multiplayer game, meaning that many players simply didn’t play it. Versio was the closest female Star Wars fans had come to having a game with a woman protagonist in a long time, only to have it soured by having her be an optional campaign of a much larger game.

Why Is Kay Vess So Important To Star Wars Games?

Star Wars Outlaws Kay Vess smiles while playing sabacc

To have a full Star Wars game telling a story with a female lead is long overdue. There was a point in the development of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order where devs were pushing for a black or female lead only to be told no because Rey was the lead of the sequel trilogy. This bizarre reasoning that Star Wars can only have one female lead character at a time led to the creation of Cal Kestis, yet another male character.

So who is Kay Vess and why is she so important to the future of Star Wars game? Simply put, if Kay isn’t well received, she will be used as an excuse to return to what “works.” Kay is already being described as a female Han Solo, boiling down what little is known about her through the lens of an already well-known male character.

However, if developers wanted a Han Solo game, then Han would be the lead. Star Wars Outlaws will be the story of Kay Vess, a young human woman of color making her way in a harsh galaxy. Described by her Venezuelan-born voice actor Humberly González in a behind-the scenes video posted to Ubisoft‘s YouTube channel, Kay is a thief and a scoundrel who will charm those around her, if only to take all their things.

González points out that Kay isn’t perfect, but always seems to get away with her antics due to her fearlessness, charm, and wit. Navid Khavari, Star Wars Outlaws’ narrative director, explained that one of the key phrases the devs kept in mind during production was: “You live and die by your reputation.” This seems to indicate that Kay is someone who, while trying to find work in the underworld, finds that they like it and can thrive in it.

Unlike Solo, who has plenty of contacts and allies such as Chewbacca, Kay and the adorable Nix seemingly only have themselves to rely on. Hopefully, as more information is announced, fans will learn more about Kay, proving to game developers that female-led Star Wars games are just as popular as their male-led counterparts. Players will have to wait to see how far Kay will go to land her big score and learn more about her when Star Wars Outlaws releases in 2024.

Sources: Ubisoft/YouTube (1, 2)

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