Lookback: Star Wars: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight

This was originally published on 12 March 1999 on the now-defunct 3DGaming.net.

Star Wars: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight

While taking a break from fragging on a Quake II server, I found myself wanting to play something with more depth and color, so I decided to load up a golden oldie that I never got around to finishing, Jedi Knight. I’ve had the game for a little over two years now, and I never got around to completing it. After spending many hours in the single player campaign, I decided to sit down and write about this game and why it has remained, after all this time since its release, my favorite game.

At 1024×768 the game runs clean as a whistle. That right there is a primary indication of a game’s long term success: will it look good when looked back upon a year or two after it was released? In Jedi Knight’s case, that’s a resounding yes.

Looking back at Jedi Knight, I found myself noticing things I’d never paid attention to in the past:

A. The game shipped with no bugs.
B. The multiplayer elements were vastly unique compared to other games.
C. The single player campaign is still unparalleled to this day.
D. FMVs are not dead. And I much prefer them to the in-game engine cinematics used in Mysteries of the Sith. I much prefer seeing real live humans talk. Talking polygons terrify me.

Since Jedi Knight takes place in the Star Wars universe, it already has an advantage over everyone else. Why do I say this? Undeniably, the Star Wars universe has always been a damn fun universe, whether you’re reading one of the many Star Wars books, watching one of the movies (or that mind-blowing trailer) or playing a Star Wars game, it never gets boring, which is part of the attraction. Everyone knows Star Wars, and because it’s so well known, it’s easier for people to associate with it.

What made Jedi Knight stand out the most was its kickass gameplay. Whether it’s running around in the Bespin Mining Colony, or chasing after 8t88 in Nar Shaddaa, the game manages to keep reminding the player, “This is Star Wars! Have a blast!” The immersion never stops. And what more could be asked of a game? I know myself, when I sit down to play a game, I want to get lost in the world I’m playing in.

And with Jedi Knight, the moment I hear the rumble of John Williams’ Oscar winning music, I’m caught. That to me is the definition of success. Why gameplay? It can rise above everything else. Even if the graphics are mediocre and the sound merely adequate, great gameplay can always save the day. And Jedi Knight more than does the job. It did everything right.

While talking with a friend, we ended up discussing Jedi Knight. He piqued my interest when he said “There is nothing more amazing that cutting someone in half with a lightsaber in a deathmatch!” I couldn’t agree more (What, no gibs?) The deathmatching aspects of Jedi Knight are unlike that of any other game, all due to the combat system created by LucasArts. In addition to the lightsaber are the Jedi force powers (the ultimate pooch screw for those of you who fear force grip) which makes gaming oh so deadly. With dark and light Jedi force powers to choose from, deathmatching will not be the same again.

A little over a year ago, at the end of 1997, Jedi Knight received in several different publications the Game of the Year award for combining the right mix of adventure, role playing, and 3D shooting action. Along the way LucasArts managed to properly use of the third person point of view, with top of the line graphics, and a great story with a cool hero, spunky sidekick, nasty villains. Plus that little thing about being able to use a lightsaber is pretty damn cool.

No other game I’ve played recently (excluding rpgs) has come to have as much sheer replay value as Jedi Knight. While it may not be a lengthy game (it can be beaten in under a week), the option of playing your character as a light or dark Jedi, basing the choice upon your actions throughout the game, presented a branching storyline. With the addition of Mysteries of the Sith, we’re presented with more single player options, as well as multiplayer options.

All of these combined make Jedi Knight, in my mind, the finest game ever crafted. Not a bug in sight out of the box, flawless multiplayer, a variety of options for skins and levels, the optional use of Jedi force powers, superbly crafted levels, a well presented single player game, add to that a flawless setup, and that makes in my mind a perfect game. I cherish this game above all and will never stop playing it, not even when Quake IV hits the market.