A Love Letter to the Battle of Endor

Battle of Endor

As I saw this Star Wars tattoo yesterday it made me think: if I was to get a Star Wars tattoo what would I want? (OT only of course) Obviously, since this is hypothetical–let’s go big, insanely big–I’d get a full sleeve of my favorite part of the entire original trilogy: the Motherfuckin’ Battle of Endor. (That’s what ol’ Jorge called it in the original script, you know.)

So here it is: a love letter to what I think is the greatest space battle ever put on film. Star Trek (the rebooted movies) had some fancy CGI and the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica had some great dog fights, but they all owe some of their coolness to the OG BoE.

Setting the Scene

The Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi is the Rebellion’s final assault against the unfinished and supposedly non-operational Death Star II. Because this is the final battle in the last movie in a trilogy, the stakes are insanely high. Plus, the Emperor himself is personally overseeing the construction of the new Death Star–a bigger, more heavily armed battle station that had its design flaw from A New Hope corrected. This battle represents the Rebellion’s best chance to decapitate the Empire and liberate the galaxy. Like I said, high stakes.

The scenes leading up to the battle also help set the scene. You have the briefing where you see multiple species–humans and aliens–working together. Then you see the assembled Rebel fleet with the weirdly compelling Mon Calamari cruisers. And of course, Admiral Ackbar. He speaks for himself.

At the same time you have the commando team on the ground getting ready to sabotage the Death Star’s shield generator. Will they get the shield down in time before the fleet arrives?

It’s a Trap!

It's a Trap!

As you saw in the clip, the answer is a resounding, “Nope!” The Rebel fleet is trapped! Surrounded by TIE Fighters, Star Destroyers, the Executor, and of course the power of that “fully armed and operational battle station.” At the same time, the Rebel strike team is fighting for their lives against the Imperial ambush on the ground too.

Living the Endor Experience

Silliness with Ewoks aside, the battle is incredibly epic with both the space forces and the ground team fighting just to survive. It’s frantic, adrenaline-filled, and complemented by a great score by John Williams.

I can’t tell you how many times I recreated the space part of the Battle of Endor with Legos as a kid. (I even built my own Star Destroyer before the official set was even made. It was multi-colored but it was unavoidable) And then Christmas 2001, my family and I got a GameCube with Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader as one of our first games. I’m pretty sure I let out an undignified squeal when I found out that Endor was one of the final levels in the game.

Battle of Endor

Maybe it’s because I was younger and I’m looking back with some sort of nostalgia filter turned on, but I remember that level being really difficult. The game does an incredible job recreating the scenes leading up to the battle, and then next thing you know you’re being told to pull up because the shield is still up! You’re living the Battle of Endor!

You can watch this video to see the level in action. Whoever’s playing it makes it seem pretty easy actually, but that’s not how I remember it. (Side bar: I might just be bad at video games)

In the first half of the level you fight off waves of fighters and protect the medical frigate. You survive that, and then part two starts.

“Engage those Star Destroyers at point-blank range!”

Imperial Star Destroyer

Yeah… I wouldn’t want to fight those at point-blank range either.

In Rogue Leader, Star Destroyers are fought like so: you take out the shield generators (those dome things on top that aren’t actually shield generators) first, then you take out the reactor (the bulby thing on the bottom), and then you take out the bridge. All the while you have multiple cannons and TIE Fighters firing at you from all angles.

For someone of my skill, I didn’t have enough lives to make it through the level without failing. I beat the level with the infinite lives cheat on. Goddamn it was hard. Despite the difficulty, Rogue Leader’s Endor level is the coolest level I’ve see in a Star Wars video game.

But can it be improved? Yes! I believe it can!

A Hypothetical Rogue Squadron IV

If I was making Rogue Squadron IV, here’s what I’d do. First, don’t do what Rogue Squadron III did. The on-foot portion of the Battle of Endor is cool in the film, but not what you want to play in a Star Wars flight-sim game. Stick to the spacey shit.

Second, embrace new technology and stuff from the Expanded Universe. Obviously, my hypothetical Rogue Squadron game is a PS4, Xbox One, PC game, so with the power available on those platforms, Endor can be even more full and detailed than in Rogue Leader.

That means more of the stuff from the movie can occur. You can fly among the entire Imperial fleet rather than just two Star Destroyers. There are more fighters on both sides. Capital ships on both sides fight in real-time rather than scripted sequences. In my hypothetical game, you’d see Mon Calamari cruisers, Corellian corvettes, Nebulon-B frigates, and more battling against Star Destroyers of all kinds. (Because I believe according to the EU, you had Imperial-class Star Destroyers and Victory-class Star Destroyers present at the battle.)

Star Wars Space Battle

Now let’s address actually fighting those Star Destroyers. Turning to the X-Wing series of books from the EU, why not make it so that the Star Destroyers have shields, represented by a shield meter that depletes as the ship’s take enemy fire? In the book series, X-Wings are able to share targeting data for their proton torpedoes. This allows one ship to get close to a Star Destroyer and get a lock and then share the telemetry data with the rest of the squadron. The fighters then launch their torpedoes at once to overwhelm the Star Destroyer’s shields. Imagine getting to do that in the game! I think that would be incredibly cool.

So how would this work mechanically? Simple. You’d implement an “orders” or “powers” wheel like the one used in the Mass Effect series. Rather than working with the D-pad mid-game like in the existing Rogue Squadron games, you’d hold L2 or something and the game would either pause or slow down. This would allow you to select orders to send to your fellow pilots. These could be things like: Form Up, Attack Separately, Flee, Torpedo Run, etc.

Implementing some of these changes would make fighting Star Destroyers a little easier, and possibly a little more dynamic. Instead of having to get incredibly close multiple times and blasting away at the domes, bubly thing, and bridge with your lasers, you could launch waves of torpedoes before closing in to destroy strategic portions of the Star Destroyer.

Victory Over the Empire

Even if you aren’t the biggest Return of the Jedi fan–I know many people like Empire Strikes Back the most–I hope that after reading my love letter to the raddest space battle out there, you’ll walk away with a little more appreciation for Endor and the Rebellion’s desperate battle against the Death Star and the Imperial fleet.

Battle of Endor, you’ll always be “trapped” in my heart.