Video Game Thoughts: Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was a 2002 first-person shooter by Raven Software that I played on the PC. My introduction to this game was from a friend. He hadn’t talked much about it at school, but during his birthday his parents got it for his birthday present. Because it was a birthday party, no one got to play it much. In these types of parties we usually switched from game to game so quickly, it was hard to appreciate a new game. I did visit several times later, letting my friend show me everything about it. Money was tight for me in high school, like most kids, so I didn’t buy it. I figured I could just play it at my friend’s if I was ever interested.

Years later, I happened to pick up Jedi Outcast during a sale on Steam, an online store that sells digital downloads of PC games. I had picked out some other games to buy and was about six dollars off from an even dollar amount. I used that as an excuse to get one more game. Jedi Outcast just happened to be the right price. It was interesting playing this game again. I had mostly just watched others play it before. I had some memories of the game but from a different perspective. For instance, I never really understood anything about the story before, but now being able to take my time, I was able to get more into the game.

The graphics in this game were great for its time. The polygon counts were high. The textures were sharp. They even had several nice shader effects like lightsaber trails when the blade hit walls. Much like the original Jedi Knight, the player started as just an Average Joe using pistols and rifles. Eventually, they got to become a Jedi and learn Force powers. Overall, I liked the Jedi system in the previous game more. That earlier game had a skill system. The player could choose which Force power to invest into and how many points to invest into it. In Jedi Outcast, though, players got the Force powers automatically as they completed missions. Basically, there was no player influence in acquiring Force powers.

The developers having control of when players got Force powers did help the flow of Jedi Outcast. Levels could be designed around the character having specific powers. In the previous game the developers wouldn’t know which Force powers players had picked. They had to make the levels generic enough that any combination would work. In Jedi Outcast they knew exactly which Force powers the character had and could make puzzles requiring the use of those Force powers. This made the game a lot more fun the first time through than the original Jedi Knight, but it came at a heavy cost to the replay value. Once I had beaten the game once, there was no reason to play it again. It was the same experience every time. This was very common of games in the 1990s, but these days I expect a lot more player choice in games.

I say these things only to be fair, not because I wasn’t happy with my purchase. For the bargain price I paid, it was more than good enough. I could make more comparisons too, but I will be writing about the original Jedi Knight some day. I want to save some thoughts for that entry. Playing through this game enabled me to relive an earlier time in my life, that is, nostalgia. Thousands of these old games are now available from digital download websites. They see continual business because there is always someone looking for that nostalgia. I think it’s great that we have archives of all these old games. People can read about some classic game they never played and then have the option play it that night for only a small fee.

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