Star Wars Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight is the second game in the Jedi Knight series. It is also a mouthful, so I am going to call it Jedi Knight from here on out. Originally for the PC back in 1997, Jedi Knight has made its way from CD-ROM to online digital download. This is good because I never got a chance to play Jedi Knight or its expansion, Mysteries of the Sith, until now.
Jedi Knight is similar to Dark Forces in that it is a first person shooter. This is where the similarities end. Instead of being forced to play from the first person perspective, Jedi Knight allows you to change to 3rd person and play the game that way. There is also much more shooting and platforming, and much less puzzle solving compared to Dark Forces. However, the largest change by far is the implementation of the lightsaber and force powers.
In Jedi Knight you are once again following Kyle Katarn. However, instead of being a mercenary for the Rebel Alliance, he is now looking for the Dark Jedi who killed his father. Throughout his journey he obtains a lightsaber and discovers he can use force powers. Instead of the story developing during game play, there are live action videos in between each chapter.
This is also the first game in the series to use a moral choice system. Depending on what force powers you choose, and whether or not you choose to kill or leave civilians alone will determine what side of the force you are on at a certain point in the game. The side of the force you are ultimately on does not change the levels you play, but it changes a movie or two in game and the ending you get. The best part about it is the game does not tell you about the moral choices you make until you get to a certain point, so if you kill all of the civilians in the earlier stages you are pretty much stuck on the dark side. Overall, the story is entertaining, but nothing extraordinary.
Instead of reusing the engine from Dark Forces, Jedi Knight uses the Sith engine which is fully 3D. For an early 3D game the graphics are pretty impressive. The levels are all varied and very large and the models for the guns, lightsaber and walkers all look great. The models for actual characters look blocky, but so do most 3D models from the mid 90’s. The implementation of live action movies are a good way of getting the story moving, but there is a lack of environmental detail in most of these shots. The characters are usually flooded with light while no attention is paid to where they are. The important thing is the graphics make you feel like you are in the Star Wars Universe and not just playing some random sci-fi game.
Since this is a Star Wars title, you can bet that John Williams’ score is going to be rampant throughout the game. That is mostly correct, but when I played I only heard music during the movies and there was always an eerie silence during actual game play. When I was playing all I heard were weapons, enemies yelling and my footsteps. It was actually kind of nice not having to listen to the same song on repeat since most levels take around 45 minutes to complete. What was not nice however, were the stormtroopers and other enemies saying one of two lines whenever they saw you. This happens every time and it gets old pretty quick. The audio is a mixed bag with the music and sound effects sounding great and the enemy voice acting getting on your last nerve.
Jedi Knight is a unique title because it is one of the first Star Wars games that I know of that lets you choose between and manipulate many different force powers while also running and gunning. While Dark Forces puts your brain to work solving puzzles, Jedi Knight tests your reflexes by opting for more enemies and platforming segments rather than puzzles although there are still some light puzzle sections found throughout the game.
The game play is your standard first person shooter for the most part. There are always a lot of enemies to shoot at, so you will have to keep your trigger finger ready. You will start off with guns, but near the beginning you will get a lightsaber and you will probably use it for most of the game since it blocks a good amount of enemy fire. Jedi Knight is definitely faster paced than its predecessor and the speedy run and gun fights are very entertaining.
In addition to the various blasters and your lightsaber, you also have an arsenal of force powers at your disposal. At the end of some levels you gain points to level up the powers of whatever side of the force you are on. Some of them like healing and lightning are fairly useful, but others like speed and jump are not really necessary in battle and are completely useless in precision platforming.
When you are not fighting in Jedi Knight, odds are you are going to be platforming. Some of these parts are pretty basic, but others force you to climb pretty high up on thin platforms and those can get pretty intense. Kyle even commented on it one time saying “Oh great, something else I can fall off of.” The levels seemed to be designed in a very specific way because there were a number of times when I wasn’t sure if I was going the right direction, but it turned out I always was.
Most of the puzzles in Jedi Knight are pretty simple. There were a couple that kept me guessing for a little while, but most of them are just running around and finding keys to gain access to new areas. You can definitely see the difference between this and Dark Forces when it comes to completing the puzzles.
The controls in Jedi Knight are mostly the same as Dark Forces with a few tweaks. For instance, you can now use the mouse to look up and down, which is really helpful during the platforming sections. The force powers are also mapped to specific buttons on the keyboard, but some of them can get pretty out of the way. Near the end of my game there were a few mapped to buttons near the WASD keys, while others were near the F11 and F12 keys. The default controls work, but you can always customize them to whatever you want.
While not as groundbreaking as Dark Forces, Jedi Knight still offers a great experience. It is longer than most modern day first person shooters and the game play and the overall look and feel make it very engaging. Even though it might be a little lacking in the audio department, Jedi Knight is still a great game and definitely worth the budget price on Steam or whatever download service you use.