Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II - Flawed Force Fun

Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II - Flawed Force Fun

In the grand pantheon of Star Wars games, Jedi Knight is easily one of the bigs. After nearly twenty years though, does it still deserve that reputation?

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"The game isn't perfect and there are elements of it that time hasn't been kind to. It's still a ton of fun though, and when the credits started rolling my only thought was how much I wanted to bust out my copy of Jedi Knight II (also found in a bargain bin!) and see how LucasArts used the sequel to polish off some of the rough edges of the original. I'll be sure to let you know when I actually get around to that."

Unfortunately, I think the sequel still has a lot of the problems you mentioned in this review. It takes ages before you actually gain access to your lightsaber and a lot of force powers, and even when you do some of the level design is a major pain in the ass. In fact, the very first level with force powers has stuck in my mind as one the most irritating levels I have ever played in an FPS. Don't give me this lightsaber and then stick me in a level with a bajillion ledges with damn snipers that my lightsaber can't be used on!

All the same, it's a great game, and from what you described here, the lightsaber combat did improve. I remember lightsaber duels being one of my favorite parts, and something I've not seen replicated in another series since.

were you able to get the expansion "Mysteries of the sith" at all? Even though it uses the same graphics engine they changed up the gameplay a lot.

Jedi Knight only takes three short levels before you get the lightsaber. By contrast, its sequel, Jedi Outcast, had you wait six levels before you get your lightsaber and Force Powers. And the first person shooting elements in Outcast were far more flawed. The arsenal in Jedi Knight works to its advantage, despite the inaccuracy of the stormtrooper rifle, and are more effective than Outcast's arsenal.

More than ten years ago, when I replayed Jedi Knight after playing Outcast, I did originally feel that JK didn't flow as well as Outcast, and took me awhile to get back into the groove. However, Jedi Knight still had things which I found missing from Outcast, and much of its design choices deserve more credit than modern players have given it.

You guys may not remember it, but the level design of Jedi Knight was originally praised for being more realistic than most level designs at the time. It wasn't until Half-Life came out that Jedi Knight was considered the top of level design. Sure, the design can be confusing in places, especially with the secrets, but Jedi Knight was one of those games which influenced the way level design was done in later games. Take the Baron's Head level, for instance. That level made me feel like I was in a living community, gave me the choice to save civilians or kill every last one of them. The original Dark Forces couldn't pull that off, even though its level design was also rather good in its own right (despite its lack of save game).

On the point of the lighstaber, you give it too little credit. The creators had to bust their balls to get the lighstaber to have more functions than the typical melee weapons on the time. The axe in Quake is an example: all it could do is hack in one direction, and nothing else. JK's lightsaber swung in all different directions, depending on which direction you were moving while you swung, and could block laser blasts when you stand in a certain position. No other game pushed a melee weapon to be used the way a martial arts swordmaster would use it. It got LucasArts to try to push the lightsaber's function in subsequent Star Wars games: imperfectly at first with The Phantom Menace and Obi-Wan, and then significantly improved in Jedi Outcast and Academy. To this day, I'm still impressed with the way the saber functions in the game, and how it is still very effective if used right.

Though I love the saber combat in Outcast and Academy, I always got irritated with the limits of the saber styles, because I couldn't control my swings the way I wanted to, and it often left me wide open to being hurt. Even though JK's combat didn't flow the same way, I felt a little more in control of my swings. Plus, the Force Pull power felt more controlled than that in Outcast.

Which brings me to the Dark Jedi. Unlike the Reborn or Ragnos Cultists, the Dark Jedi didn't look alike, and didn't all have red lightsabers. They were all unique in their own way: it shape, size, force power, animation, and lighstaber. Maw was a muscular torso that could levitate and throw objects at you; Sariss could force pull all your other weapons; burn you with her eyes, and fought like a disciplined samurai; Yun fought like a cocky little jerk; Boc fought like a random maniac with two lightsabers; and so on.

For me, Jedi Knight was to Dark Forces what Half-Life 2 was to Half-Life. It brought the game's world to a level that felt more cinematic than the first, and offered new gameplay options that no one thought possible at the time.

As for the graphics, I like the polygonal graphics from that era. It's Quake-like, and is sort of like a modern art sculpture interpretation of Star Wars characters.

I did not play this when it came out, though I will rectify this in the next few years, but I remember the box really selling the dark side powers. "Use your force grip if you find a disturbing lack of faith." It was glorious than and it still sounds good now. Curse you video game backlog!

Abyss:

As for the graphics, I like the polygonal graphics from that era. It's Quake-like, and is sort of like a modern art sculpture interpretation of Star Wars characters.

And for those who don't like the graphics of the era, there's mods that update them from the late Quake/Early Quake II era to something approaching the Quake III era.

I've always loved the Dark Forces games, though. It seems like half the PC games I grew up on were Star Wars titles, and Dark Forces and Jedi Knight were right up there with X-Wing and TIE Fighter. I still haven't gotten around to Jedi Outcast or Jedi Academy, but I plan on doing that after I finish my current Jedi Knight/MotS playthrough.

Also, here's hoping Dark Jedi finally gets the XL project to a point where Dark Forces is fully playable at some point within my lifetime. The game itself is great, but the lack of vertical mouse aim in a game with extensive vertical aiming is something that makes it really hard to go back to.

The game's use of John Williams actual score, for instance, just gives the game this aura of authenticity frequently missing from some of my other favorites like Rogue Squadron or Knights of the Old Republic which are often limited to someone imitating the original soundtrack.

Funny that what you'd call a positive, I'd call a negative - after all, I've heard this score so many times I can hum it in my sleep, while KotOR gave us some new tunes to hum. I wish more Star Wars games did this, really.

I remember playing this when it was new, it was a magical experience and multiplayer was free and without DRM

This is still a proper FPS with fast movement speed and open level design. Depending on what force powers you choose, you can take shortcuts and reach parts of a level that you wouldn't be able to reach otherwise.
I encourage everybody to watch a speedrun of this. The normal movement speed is overwhelming enough, if you are used to modern FPS. But with max level force speed, it's absolutely insane.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LerYJmDLYqU

I still dream of a remake with MotS. Dark Forces and JK are still my most favorite FPS of all time. The weapons where truely amazing. The carbonite gun was just unfair to use in multi player and shooting someone with the scoped stormtrooper rifle really feld amazing. I remember how disappointed it felt when you couldn't do anything like that in JKII. The force system was greatly improved but it felt week and useless. And no force destruction wth? Nothing was more amazing then sending people flying through half the level into the next pit. Please Disney bring Kyle and Mara back to us!

I was actually sort of the opposite thought process on this game: I hated the fact that it shoe-horned in "you're a Jedi!! Here's a lightsaber and some powers!".

I still thought it was a good, but I liked how in the first game, it was basically just a Star Wars themed military shooter: you were just a mercenary who was good with guns being sent on missions and having to fight baddies. Then again, I've always thought the force and Jedi and what-not were the weakest aspect of Star Wars, since to me, it killed a lot of the drama and sense of actual danger towards the character that some people and beings are just randomly born with superpowers.

I remember this game. I first saw it when my friend bought it for his laptop when he was in the Ronald McDonald House being treated for cancer. I remember thinking that it looked incredible. I eventually bought it myself and it's one of the only games I ever played online (yes you could do that). I loved the FMV's because I'd never really seen that before. I was really disappointed with the sequel when I finally got around to buying it off Steam and found they'd abandoned FMVs in favour of CGI talking heads.

Wasn't the light/dark path determined by what powers you purchased up to a certain point rather than "kill/don't kill civilians"?

Tempted to go try this. Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy were two of my favorite games back in high school, and it would be nice to experience more of the roots of the series.

Johnny Novgorod:
Wasn't the light/dark path determined by what powers you purchased up to a certain point rather than "kill/don't kill civilians"?

You could only gain access to higher tier Light/Dark Powers depending on your usage of lesser powers and whether or not you killed people.

Fun Fact: The cheat code for Jedi Knight, Eriamjh, allows you to fly. This is a reference to the Terry Gilliam film, Brazil, in which Jonathan Price's character dreams of flying.

StewShearer:
My issues with the game's choice mechanic however, pale in comparison some of the problems I have with the game itself. Now, I should state that I actually think this a really solid video game. Even in its most frustrating moments its still fun, and when it hits stride it's a full-on juggernaut of entertainment. Slicing through Stormtroopers with your lightsaber is endlessly satisfying and I truly can't do justice to how bad-ass you feel when you reach that point where you can walk into a room and use your Force powers to simply flatten your resistance.

The first time going through the game it can feel a bit slow at time (I first played it when I was like 7, so it was crazy difficult to me) but what feels like eternity is only the first 3 out of 21 levels. After that, you unlock a new power pretty much every to every other level. On top of that, JK follows the 90s fps game design style of tons of secrets and interweaving pathways. If you take the time to find all the secrets, you get extra force points allowing you to max out your first few force powers IMMEDIATELY after receiving them.

As a side joke on how slow the game is, during this year's AGDQ a rare speed run of JK was shown, with a par time of under 1h 30m. (again, all 21 levels with no glitchy lvl skips) It was neither slow nor underpowered, as he utilized the tips above to get the force equivalent of a jet engine and rocket boots within the first five levels.

Soviet Heavy:

Johnny Novgorod:
Wasn't the light/dark path determined by what powers you purchased up to a certain point rather than "kill/don't kill civilians"?

You could only gain access to higher tier Light/Dark Powers depending on your usage of lesser powers and whether or not you killed people.

Fun Fact: The cheat code for Jedi Knight, Eriamjh, allows you to fly. This is a reference to the Terry Gilliam film, Brazil, in which Jonathan Price's character dreams of flying.

I remember the cheat code "Yodajammies", but not what it caused.
I always thought Eriamjh stood for "Er I Am JH", without knowing who JH was.

Johnny Novgorod:

Soviet Heavy:

Johnny Novgorod:
Wasn't the light/dark path determined by what powers you purchased up to a certain point rather than "kill/don't kill civilians"?

You could only gain access to higher tier Light/Dark Powers depending on your usage of lesser powers and whether or not you killed people.

Fun Fact: The cheat code for Jedi Knight, Eriamjh, allows you to fly. This is a reference to the Terry Gilliam film, Brazil, in which Jonathan Price's character dreams of flying.

I remember the cheat code "Yodajammies", but not what it caused.
I always thought Eriamjh stood for "Er I Am JH", without knowing who JH was.

JH was the initials of Sam Lowry's dad in Brazil.

For some reason I preferred the first Dark Forces game. There were no Jedi powers or light/dark path in that one, but it was a nice simple dive into the Star Wars universe from a classic FPS perspective.

WhiteWolfe:
Tempted to go try this. Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy were two of my favorite games back in high school, and it would be nice to experience more of the roots of the series.

It's a great game, just don't go into Dark Forces 2 expecting once you get a lightsaber to block every blaster bolt that's in front of you or to beat anything you come across by simply turning on Force speed running at your enemy and blindly slashing your lightsaber in the enemy's general direction like you could with Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy as I did the first time I picked the game up, trying either will get you killed pretty quickly. Dark Forces 2 is a LOT harder even on easy than either of those games are on hard.

 

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