For as ambitious as the original Star Wars: Dark Forces
was, its sequel Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight
went even further in pushing Star Wars
as a franchise and the FPS genre as a whole by splicing elements of RPGs and exploring the possibilities that a true 3D space brings to the FPS.
Though it lacked the speed and elegance of id Software’s Quake
, Jedi Knight
came closer to realizing the original RPG-influenced vision of id’s masterpiece while remaining faithful to the first Dark Forces
. The inclusion of RPG elements, force abilities, level-altering physics, expansive exteriors in 3D, NPCs, and advanced melee combat, made Jedi Knight
stand out from other FPS games of the time. The variety of levels and combat choices still makes it an exciting, fun game to play. The speed and flexibility of combat is something missing from games today. Switching between lightsaber and blaster, while force pulling enemies’ weapons away remains incredibly satisfying.
The level and scenario design had a lot of influence on the genre. One level finds the player exploring a dim house with scripted events occurring around the corner, while another tasks the player with escaping a space shuttle falling out of orbit with large crates sliding across rooms and physics rendering walls climbable. LucasArts pushed its SITH engine to its limits, sometimes to a fault.
It’s a shame then that the cryptic level design — a flaw shared among all entries in the series to varying extents — sours the experience. Even with diligent and thorough exploration, it can often be a frustrating task to navigate through these levels. It often made me want to put the game down and never come back. This feeling was felt tenfold in the opening sections that don’t supply the player with enough ammo to make it through, especially on hard. This is made worse due to the blaster rifle’s random spread that doesn’t allow for skill shots (a mouselook option is included but clearly the game was made with auto-aim in mind).
The lightsaber combat is fun when you are mowing down stormtroopers, but it becomes a joke against bosses where there is little strategy to apply: you just circle around, swing and repeat. The force powers, which vary depending if you choose a light or dark path, are fun but eventually become game-breaking. In later sections, I’d use Force Protection, which made me invincible for the majority of a level. Given how excruciatingly difficult the game is on hard, I felt I deserved it and would apply every cheap trick available.Jedi Knight
put story at the forefront featuring impressive CG for the time and campy FMV scenes. Due to fan complaints of the original, Katarn is retconned as a force-sensitive jedi in the making. The player can steer toward the light or dark path by killing NPCs (merchants and robots that populate levels). It’s not the most robust skill tree or player choices, but Deus Ex
and games of its ilk were years away at the time. The flaws of Jedi Knight
‘s level design keep it from reaching the timelessness of the original, but it’s a great deal of fun when it isn’t deterring the player with cheap deaths or confusing layouts.