This review was written by tJY's "Resident Star Wars Psychotic"
I think itís safe to say that just about anyone who watched the Star Wars
movies growing up dreamt of having Force powers and wielding a lightsaber. Come on, you know you did; you wanted to be able to pull things with your mind, block blaster bolts, and shoot lightning out your fingertips. And a few saber duels wouldnít be a bad thing, either. If only lightsabers and the Force actually existedÖ
Until then, there are always the Jedi Knight
games from LucasArts, the latest installment of which is Jedi Academy
. In Academy
, you play a young Force user named Jaden Korr. This is a pretty large leap from the previous Jedi Knight
games, and the preceding Dark Forces
games, where you were cast as Kyle Katarn. Kyle is back in this game as well, as your Jedi Master, but heís not the main character for once.
That main character, by the way, can be heavily customized. You get to choose between being a Human male, Human female, Kel Dor male, Twiílek female, Rodian male, or Zabrak female. Along with the choice of species, you choose between three heads, three torsos, and three sets of legs for your Jedi. You also get to choose a color for your clothing.
And then comes the fun part, when you get to "build" your own lightsaber. Initially, you have to use the traditional single blade, with a choice between nine hilts and five colors (green, blue, purple, orange, and yellow). Later, you have to create a new lightsaber, and can choose to either dual-wield (Anakin Skywalker at the end of Episode II against Count Dooku) or create a saber-staff (Darth Maul in Episode I). Both of the specialty types can be used as a single-bladed saber as well, giving you a lot of versatility.
All three types of sabers have their strengths and weaknesses. The saberstaff is extremely powerful and gives you very good defense, but canít be thrown. Dual-Wielding is almost the opposite, allowing you to throw one blade while defending with the other, as well as being very dangerous in close range combat. The single blade has a lot of versatility, as you can use three different combat styles with it, but youíre better off with one of the other types; like I said, they can both be used as single blades, and the trade-off (a third combat style for the single blade) really isnít worth it.
Once youíre done creating your character, itís time for some action. And there is plenty of action to be had. You start off on relatively easy missions that are meant to teach you the ways of the Force. Before each mission, you get to add one "Force Point" to a skill of your choosing. On the Light Side of the Force, your choices are: Heal, Absorb, Protection, and Mind Trick. Heal is by far the most useful, although the others have their place. If you choose to succumb to the Dark Side, there are more destructive abilities: Force Lightning, Grip, Drain, and Rage. You can (and should) have skills in both sides of the Force.
You also have "core" abilities which will improve over time on their own: Jump, Speed, Push, Pull, and a new one, Force Sense. Force Sense lets you see through walls, highlights enemies, friends, and items, and will reveal levers and switches you need to push with the Force. Itís a fun little skill that can mean the difference between success and failure.
The missions themselves tend to be kill-fests. But theyíre definitely fun kill-fests that visit a number of Star Wars
locales. You are sent to Tatooine, Hoth, Coruscant, Corellia, Chandrila, Bakura, and Ord Mantell, just to name a few. With the familiar locations comes familiar enemies; Iíve fought against Tusken Raiders, Wampa Ice Creatures, and Rancors. This is in addition to the hordes of Storm Troopers, Dark Jedi, and general thugs that tend to populate Jedi Knight
Some of the missions, however, are quite memorable and interesting. One mission revolved around piloting a Swoop Bike down canyons while avoiding being skewered by cultists. Another takes away your lightsaber while pitting you against a legion of Storm Troopers. A third has you running around trying to gather parts to repair your crashed shipÖ while a very mobile and very hungry Sarlaac-type creature attacks you. In addition, Iíve ridden on Tauntauns while on Hoth, piloted an AT-ST, and used turbolasers to shoot down TIE Fighters and Bombers. All in a dayís work for a Jedi.
The storyline is nothing too imaginative, but itís definitely strong enough to support the game. You, as Jaden Korr, are a new student at Luke Skywalkerís Jedi Academy
on Yavin IV. Upon arriving, your ship is damaged and forced to crash-land. You make your way on foot to a Massassi temple, where you see people using a large scepter to drain energy from the ruin. These people are members of a cult known as the Disciples of Ragnos, and are your main enemies in the game.
There are a handful of plot-twists, ranging from predictable to clever. Primarily, the plot exists as an excuse to showcase worlds that both casual and hardcore Star Wars
fans are going to recognize. Iím sure even the most casual fan of the movies recognized names like Tatooine and Hoth above, while people who read the books might drool over Bakura, Chandrila, and Corellia.
The game is built on the same engine (Quake III) as Jedi Academy
, and doesnít look too different from itís predecessor. However, thatís not a bad thing, as the game still looks good when blasters bolts are whizzing past your ear or youíre sending a Sithís lightsaber flying over a canyonÖ with the hand still attached. It ran fine on my laptop (Mobility Radeon 9000 AGP, 512 MB RAM, and a Athlon XP 2500+ processor thatís running around 1.9 ghz). The locations look great and definitely have a Star Wars
feel to them.
Multiplayer is well done, and there arenít many things that are more fun then lopping off a buddyís arms with a lightsaber. One of the new multiplayer modes, Power Duel, is especially promising. Two weaker players face off against one stronger player to create an epic battle, such as Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi against Darth Maul, or Obi-Wan and Anakin against Count Dooku. And the system definitely works; my roommate, who had no experience with the Jedi Knight
games, and I fought against another experienced friend who was more powerful, and it was a very even match.
Overall, Iíd say that Academy
is going to have something to offer a Star Wars
fan of any level, from the casual to the zealot. The locations and enemies all have a real familiarity to them, the combat is fun, and who doesnít love the Force powers? If youíve ever hummed the Imperial March or tried to pull an inanimate object from across the room into your hand, then this is well worth your fifty bucks.