Video Game Thoughts: Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II was a 1997 first-person shooter by LucasArts for the PC. Since the first Dark Forces was so successful, the natural next step was a sequel. They took it to the next level this time. In the previous game, the player was always a soldier. They had some cool weapons, but it was always shooting. In Jedi Knight, the player could now become an actual Jedi.

The lightsaber could instantly kill most enemies. The downside was that the player had to get into melee range. Fortunately, they added many force powers to counter that disadvantage. Players could Force Pull enemies’ weapons out from their hands. They could Force Push them over ledges to their deaths. They could Force Choke individual enemies for instant kills. Then there were defensive Force Powers like the ability to deflect blaster bolts with the lightsaber back at the shooter, Force Shield to reduce damage taken from blaster shots, and Force Speed to get into melee range more quickly.

The guns were still available and still useful in some situations. Sometimes enemies were very far away, impossible to attack with lightsaber or Force Powers. Blasters were required to disable them. Some powerful enemies like AT-STs were immune to lightsaber and Force Powers. Only explosive weapons could handle them.

Players still controlled Kyle Katarn in Jedi Knight, but he was now a Jedi. The highlights of the game were fighting enemy dark Jedi. These were the real battles. The game took place many years after the first game. The Rebel Alliance had won. It was now the New Republic. The Empire still existed but was greatly weakened. Several rival leaders were vying for control. One of those leaders was led by Jerec, a dark Jedi who planned to become the new Emperor. He was in search of the resting place of a great, ancient Jedi war, which was said to hold unimaginable Force power for any Jedi that could find it. Kyle had to infiltrate the Imperials, find out what was going on, and put a stop to it for good.

LucasArts did a good job keeping the whole infiltration theme from the first game. Kyle Katarn still felt like a spy sneaking into all these places. The levels were usually much larger than the levels in Dark Forces. The player could go through the whole level and kill all enemies, but many times they didn’t have to. If they wanted to, players could sneak through only eliminating what got in their way.

Production values were much higher this time around. Jedi Knight switched from the 2D graphics of Dark Forces to 3D graphics. The music was now actual recordings from the movies rather than low quality midi sound files based on the movies. I loved it at the time, though these days I would prefer original compositions in the same vein as the movies. The sound effects were also taken from the movies. Instead of computer animated cinematics, they had live action recordings. They hired real actors with costumes and sets to act out the major parts of the story. It was awesome.

They added a new control scheme as well. Instead of using keyboard or joystick for everything, the game now supported mouse for controlling aiming. This made aiming a lot easier. Overall, the game was easier because of this, but I liked not having to restart as much. The levels were less like mazes and more realistic too. I liked not needing walkthroughs to get through the game

The only problem I had with Jedi Knight was that it didn’t support Macintosh. I remember checking game news over and over for anything about a Mac version, but it never happened. Luckily, my friend got the game for his Windows computer. Playing it in bits and pieces at his house was my only experience with the game until my dad bought a laptop for work. He mostly kept the laptop at home to do work while not at the office. He was nice enough to let me install some games, Jedi Knight being one of them.

I really have a hard time comparing Dark Forces and Jedi Knight. I kind of have a preference for Dark Forces because it was the first one I played in the series, but I think Jedi Knight is probably the better game overall. Playing around with the lightsaber and Force Powers was just too fun. There was a lot of replay value too because, for the most part, the player couldn’t get all the Force Powers in one play through the game. The story also had a large branching point, where Kyle could go the evil route or the good route, that resulted in two separate endings to the game. I didn’t like being evil, but I did go the evil route once to see how the story played out.

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