|Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II|
|Series||Star Wars: Jedi Knight|
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II is a 1997 first-person shooter video game developed and published by LucasArts for Microsoft Windows. It was later re-released on Steam in September 2009, and again in 2015 on GOG.com. The game is set in the Star Wars fictional universe and is a sequel to the 1995 game Star Wars: Dark Forces. Jedi Knight was very well-received by critics.
The storyline in Jedi Knight follows Kyle Katarn, who first appeared in Dark Forces. Katarn's father had been murdered by a Dark Jedi over the location of "The Valley of the Jedi" and the game follows Katarn's attempts to find the Valley and confront his father's killers. Jedi Knight adds some technical and gameplay improvements over its predecessor. It uses a more powerful game engine that supports 3D acceleration using Direct3D 5.0. Jedi Knight also includes a multiplayer mode that allows players to compete over the internet or a local area network. On January 31, 1998, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith was released as an expansion to Dark Forces II. The game was a large success and as a result, the next game in the series followed in 2002, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast.
Jedi Knight is primarily a first-person shooter, although it does offer the choice of a third-person view. The game consists of twenty-one levels with objectives which the player must complete before being able to continue to the next level. There are weapons available in each level and after level three, the player has the use of a lightsaber, along with the Force. In addition to being an effective weapon, the lightsaber is also a useful tool for the player, providing light in dark areas, deflecting incoming blaster fire and cutting through some obstacles.
There are three types of Force powers; light, dark and neutral. Light Force powers provide nonviolent advantages such as being able to restore health or persuade enemies to ignore the player. Dark Force powers are violent and give the ability to throw objects or choke enemies. Neutral powers enhance athletic abilities such as being able to jump higher or run faster. There are fourteen powers in total, four of each type and a bonus power in each light and dark if the Jedi stays true to that path. Players earn stars to allocate toward Force powers by completing specific levels. By finding all the secrets in a level, players can also gain one bonus star to use. Between levels, the player can choose which Force powers to enhance by allocating stars to that power. Stars cannot be reclaimed from powers later on.
Some levels contain puzzles that may require use of the Force to overcome, or by locating certain objects in the level. There are a variety of hostile and non-hostile NPCs within each level with whom the player can interact. Other enemies include monsters and vehicles. There are two endings to Jedi Knight, depending on how the player plays the game. If the player does not harm non-hostile NPCs and focuses on collecting light Force powers, the player will get the light side ending. Conversely if the player harms non-hostile NPCs and collects dark Force powers, the game will end with the dark side ending.
Jedi Knight includes a multiplayer mode that allows up to eight people to compete with one another on a local area network and up to thirty two people online. Online gaming was hosted by the MSN Gaming Zone. The player creates an avatar within Jedi Knight and selects a ranking, with higher rankings having access to more Force powers. The player can also edit their avatar's "skin" and lightsaber color. There are two types of game in Jedi Knight's multiplayer mode, "Capture the flag" and "Jedi Training", similar to deathmatch. The players can customize the settings to play a deathmatch the way they desire; for example, by limiting the use of Force powers or playing on teams.
In the prologue, a dark Jedi named Jerec interrogates Jedi Master Qu Rahn and learns that Morgan Katarn, Kyle's father, knows the location of the sacred Valley of the Jedi.
On Nar Shaddaa, Kyle learns from an information broker droid named 8t88, that his father was killed by Jerec. 8t88 shows Kyle a data disk from Morgan containing data he can't decipher. Kyle pursues 8t88 to retrieve the disk and meets the droid on a landing pad. Kyle fires at him, severing the arm carrying the disk. Kyle's close friend, Jan Ors, arrives in their ship, the Moldy Crow, to destroy a Tie Bomber that attacks Kyle. He descends through Nar Shaddaa to retrieve the disk and then meets Ors. Kyle is taken to a medical frigate for treatment and sees a vision from Rahn. Rahn reveals that Jerec seeks the Valley to gain its power and that the data disk contains information to lead him on the path to become a Jedi.
On Sulon, Jerec's dark jedi remove the map to the Valley from Morgan's workshop as Kyle arrives. Kyle fights Tusken raiders until he reaches the workshop and the family droid, Weegee. The droid decodes the disk to show a recording of Morgan. In the recording, Morgan reveals that the map to the Valley was carved into the ceiling tiles of the workshop and that he has left Kyle lightsaber that had belonged to Rahn. Katarn and Ors land on the outskirts of Barons Hed. Kyle infiltrates the city and the fortress at its center, finding 8t88's chambers. 8t88 shares the map with Jerec and leaves to collect his reward on a starship called the Sulon Star. Kyle is attacked by the youngest of Jerec's dark Jedi, Yun. He defeats Yun but spares his life.
Ors takes Kyle to the refueling station the Sulon Star is docked at. Kyle boards the Sulon Star through the fuel lines and finds 8t88 dead. He is attacked by two more of Jerec's dark Jedi, Gork and Pik. He defeats them and takes the droid's head.
Using Weegee, Kyle displays the map to the Valley.
When Kyle and Ors arrive, the Sulon Star is docked above the Valley. Kyle fights his way through canyons and up to the dock. He is attacked by another dark Jedi, Maw. Kyle defeats Maw but lashes out in rage and kills him. Jerec reveals he has captured Ors and tells Kyle to kill her. If Kyle has followed the light side, he spares Ors. If he has followed the dark side, he kills Ors. Jerec uses the Force to push Kyle onto the Sulon Star and to disable the ship. It falls into the canyon below and explodes as Kyle narrowly escapes on the Moldy Crow.
If Kyle has followed the light side, he crashes the Moldy Crow and is woken up by the remaining of Jerec's dark jedi: Sariss, Bok and Yun. Bok destroys Kyle's saber. Sariss tries to execute Kyle, but is stopped by Yun who is fatally struck in the process. Kyle takes Yun's saber and kills Sariss. If Kyle followed the dark side, he lands the Moldy Crow. He confronts Yun and kills the dark Jedi.
Kyle follows Bok into the ruins and defeats him as Jerec meditates in the center of the Valley. Jerec awakes and confronts Kyle. He is defeated before he can gain the full power.
If Kyle followed the light side, he throws Jerec's saber back to him. Jerec makes one final attack and is killed. Kyle reunites with Ors and builds monuments to Morgan and Rahn in the Valley. If Kyle followed the dark side, he kills Jerec and takes over leading the new empire with Sariss at his side.
Development of Jedi Knight was led by Justin Chin, who had also worked on the previous game. The most significant developments for Jedi Knight are the use of The Force and the lightsaber. The Force plays an integral role in how the player plays the game and shapes the way the game is played. The method of allocating credits to Force powers was designed with a role-playing video game style in mind, allowing the player the choice of which powers to improve. Chin said in an early interview that progress in the game is based upon the abilities the player develops.
Jedi Knight uses both 3D graphics and surround sound. It is one of the early games to adopt the use of 3D graphics hardware acceleration using Microsoft Direct3D. The 3D sound technology was tweaked extensively to give an immersive feel to the game. This was achieved by experimentation using many different sound effects and playback styles. Between levels Jedi Knight features full motion video cutscenes. The characters are represented by live actors while the backgrounds are pre-rendered graphics. The cutscenes included the first lightsaber footage filmed since Return of the Jedi in 1983.
Mysteries of the Sith
After the release of Jedi Knight, LucasArts developed Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith as an expansion pack. It was released on January 31, 1998 and received positive reviews from critics. The expansion includes a single-player mode and fifteen multiplayer maps. There are also technical improvements over Jedi Knight, including colored lighting, new textures and models, and developments to the artificial intelligence.
The single-player story in Mysteries of the Sith is set five years after the events of Jedi Knight. The player once more takes control of Kyle Katarn, but later in the game is given control of Mara Jade, one of the most popular Star Wars expanded universe characters.
In the United States, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II debuted at #3 on PC Data's monthly computer game sales chart for October 1997. It secured sixth place in November; by the 30th, the game had sold 155,060 copies and earned $7.36 million in the United States alone. After a 14th-place finish in December, Jedi Knight reached lifetime sales of 247,036 units in the country and became its 21st-best-selling computer game of 1997.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II was well received. The game holds an aggregate score of 91 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on ten reviews. The combination of puzzles and gameplay drew praise from critics, who indicated that the game builds upon the qualities found in Dark Forces. The user control of the game was praised, especially the control of the lightsaber. The game was compared positively with Doom, a significant game in the first-person shooter genre.
The gameplay did not escape criticism, however, with Tom Chick of IGN criticising the layout of the levels: "The levels can be awfully linear, throwing you up against some frustrating brick walls where you don't know where to go or what you're supposed to do next. There are some bald key hunts." The artificial intelligence of hostile NPCs received mixed reactions. GameSpot's Ron Dulin praised the AI, saying that they help the suspension of disbelief. Chi Kong Lui of Gamecritics.com, however, gave the opposite view: "Enemy artificial intelligence is still pretty mindless and blasting them doesn't require much skill."
Jedi Knight's graphics received mixed reviews. Critics stated the non-3D accelerated version of the game looks poor. Game Revolution's Calvin Hubble argued that the game only really looks good if played on a system with a powerful 3D card. Other graphical aspects received praise. The character animations were considered more detailed than similar games. The graphical presentation of the levels received specific praise from IGN: "No other first person shooter has come close to Jedi Knight's dizzying sense of scale and its vast levels." The full-motion video sequences between levels received both praise and criticism.
Next Generation reviewed the PC version of the game, rating it five stars out of five, and stated that "The game has little to no faults; one could nitpick about the overacting or the rushed look of the menu interface, but in the end, Jedi Knight is to first-person shooters what sliced bread is to wheat products."
The use of John Williams' soundtrack from the Star Wars films was met with praise, though one reviewer believed that the music is overused in Star Wars video games. The sound effects were also lauded, and seen as providing a good atmosphere for the game, in particular the lightsaber sound and its implementation.
The addition of a multiplayer mode to Jedi Knight was met positively, but questions arose to why there are so few multiplayer maps and why single-player maps cannot be used in the multiplayer mode. Tom Chick of IGN believes this was corrected with the release of Mysteries of the Sith.
The editors of Computer Games Strategy Plus named Jedi Knight the best first-person action game of 1997. Jedi Knight won Computer Gaming World's 1997 "Game of the Year" award. The editors wrote, "As did Diablo the year before, Jedi rose above the crowd in appealing to gamers across all genres. The Force was definitely with LucasArts when they made Jedi Knight, Dark Forces II." The magazine nominated Jedi Knight as the best action game of 1997, but it lost to Quake II.
In 1998, PC Gamer declared it the best computer game ever released, and the editors called it "such a class act from start to finish that even people who know nothing about PC games can tell they're looking at greatness. It's a fantastic game, and one we never hesitate to recommend to any kind of gamer".
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