Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stars Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy Review

As I wait impatiently for Star Wars: The Old Republic to start it's beta, I decided to find my old copy of Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (2003) and gave it a run through again. Surprisingly, slicing through enemies with a lightsaber is still awesome. Jedi Academy is the third Jedi Knight game in the series and the last game of the series. The first game in the series had no lightsaber combat, it was just a first person shooter with a ton of Star Wars lore and references for fans of the series, it was great, but it was old (1995); some of you may know it...Star Wars: Dark Forces, it was well known and well liked among the PC gaming community. Following it came Dark Forces II which introduced Kyle Katarn, who is still in Jedi Academy, and you played him as he became a Jedi Knight. The second Jedi Knight game also focused on Kyle Katarn, but also Luke Skywalker. So, that brings us back to Jedi Academy, the third and last game of the series, that is unless someone randomly sometime makes a continuation of these games. They are Star Wars, they are loved for their lightsaber combat, popular Star Wars areas (like Tatooine and Endor), famous characters and action based combat, but still maintaining a level of depth and strategy despite the focus on action. One big difference between Jedi Academy and it's predecessors, is character and lightsaber customization. This was the first of the series to allow you to not only choose a customizable race, but it also allowed you to choose and customize your lightsaber. The whole series was created by Lucas Arts and developed by Raven Software. Some of these games are for consoles, but I'm strictly talking about the PC Versions, I have never played any of the consoles one.
Jedi Academy still has it's core FPS, but it's main focus is lightsaber combat. You fight many lightsaber battles in the game and you usually cannot kill lightsaber wielding enemies with ranged weapons, so throughout the story you get to upgrade and customize your lightsaber abilities. Right from the beginning you may customize your lightsaber and then further on you can choose from different types of, like two lightsabers or a saber staff (like darth maul). They are not cosmetic choices either, they all have their own strength and weakness, with the saber staff being the middle ground between offense and defense. I chose to go the old fashioned route, one single lightsaber. You fight lightsaber combat with seemingly simple controls, left mouse to swing, right mouse to throw it and wasd keys to move around. While the controls aren't complicated, they take a while to master due to special attacks, rolling, jumping and lightsaber duel combat. Sure, running down non lightsaber enemies isn't too hard, although you don't start the game with fantastic deflecting abilities, so can still get hit by guns, but a lightsaber duel can last four minutes or fifteen seconds. You can use your force powers to help with any situation, especially dueling. Sometimes you can catch a enemy unaware and use speed to rush them before they can get their bearings. You also have three styles: aggressive, defensive and light (fast) style. They all have their own roles and play a huge part into some of the harder lightsaber battles. You can change your style and catch your enemy off guard or they may change their style on you.
You have many force powers to choose from, four light and four dark. The four light powers are heal, shield, trick and absorb and the four dark powers are lightning, choke, drain and rage. There are still a bunch of common powers as well, like push, pull, sense, force jump and force speed. You can actively choose dark or light powers, which doesn't affect the story, but it does affect the story when you choose a dark or light side choice. Yes, even though this is action game, you still have story choices with what side to attune to. Everytime you go to choose a mission you get to see a star map, all old looking and a little sad to now a days standards, and in that star map there are a list of missions to do, more choices! So many choices everywhere in this game, but they are all good things and they help make this a real Star Wars game.

Jedi Academy - Hoth duel with Alora

The story is full of ruins, ancient cults, dark side meddling, Luke Skywalker, Kyle Katarn, references to Leia, Chewbacca and plenty of other fun stuff. It's fairly long, lasting about 10 hours, but it has plenty of replayability and a hefty multiplayer. The multiplayer has tons of mods these days, one of the best of which is Movie Battles II. Movie Battles is a mod that does a lot to make multiplayer duels really fantastic, by adding in movie maps and by putting the players into specific roles. Speaking of multiplayer, it has a couple modes. Some basic MP modes like free for all and team death match, also some unique modes like siege and power duel. Siege isn't too unique anymore, but back then and for a star wars game, it was. Siege mode was just an objective based mode, but even back when it first came out most people were drawn to power duels. Power duels can have however many players, but it takes turn having one and one duels go on while everyone else watched. The negative to this mode is that sometimes two people would take forever to kill each other, but most of the time they would be over pretty quickly and your time to gain some fame will come. There are a ton of other mods for multiplayer, a few for singleplayer, over at MODDB (a very popular mod community/website) if anyone cares to see what people might be playing for it these days, people do still play it.
This was a great game, but like many older games it hasn't aged to well. Thankfully, the core gamplay is still solid and enjoyable. Slicing through other jedi in epic battles is fantastic and nothing has duplicated the feeling yet. Sure this game isn't Knight of the Old Republic, but it's a entirely different type of game, a game with a lot of replayability, customization, Star Wars nostalgia and a decent story. It does help that the game is fully voiced and has great overall sound quality. It's hard to recommend this game these days, but if your dying for something Star Wars, then this may be able to fill some of that void for now, maybe. When this came out this was one of my favorite games for at least an entire year, it was also really well received by critiques and gamers.

This game is sure to give you some Great Times
Thanks for letting me get into frantic lightsaber duels of death.

Thanks for reading, that will probably be it from me for tonight. Check back tomorrow for more and hopefully a Deus Ex: Human Revolution review.
-Written by Sean Cargle


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