Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (PC)

As is most of the world, I’m extremely excited for the upcoming release for Star Wars Episove VII: The Force Awakens. I’ve been spending my time in the meantime playing some old Star Wars games.

I bought the Jedi Knight bundle on Steam. I replayed Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, which was on my list of my all time favorite Star Wars games. Aside from the graphics (inevitably), the game held up well in 2015. While I was at it, I decided to tackle Jedi Outcast’s sequel, Jedi Academy.

In a departure from the rest of the series that started with 1995’s Dark Forces, 2003’s Jedi Academy no longer has you in the boots of mercenary-turned-Jedi Kyle Katarn. Instead, you play as customizable character Jaden Korr, completely with a name that sounds strangely gender-neutral.

Right off the bat, I felt the character customization to be half-baked at best. You can select Jaden’s gender and race (such as Twi’lek or Rodian in addition to human) but most of his/her appearance is up to how you select preset clothing or hairstyles.

Most of the game has you investigating a cult attempting to resurrect an ancient Sith Lord. Jedi Academy, instead of following the previous games’ linear structure, has you go through chapters where you complete groups of 5 missions in order to progress to the game’s next story event. I found a lot of these levels to oodles of fun. One such level has you rescuing elders that a Hutt held hostage while avoiding a rancor. Another one has you placing markers for pilot Wedge Antilles to bomb in his X-Wing.

One thing Jedi Academy did do a little better than Outcast was balancing how much you will be using your guns and your lightsaber. Jedi Outcast began with Kyle having lost his ability to use the force, so the first few levels were traditional first-person shooter levels. Later on, Kyle got his lightsaber back, and you are unlikely to go back to your blasters at that point. On one hand, Jedi Academy begins with you having a lightsaber off the bat; you are a Jedi apprentice after all. On the other hand, you will regularly encounter snipers where the best way to take them on is using your own sniper rifle or lightsaber-resistant heavy troopers that are best dealt with your trusty concussion rifle.

Like Jedi Outcast, the lightsaber and Force powers are implemented beautifully and an absolute blast to use. Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy are probably the best games to play if you really want to feel like a Jedi.

Like the second game in the series, Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, Jedi Academy gives you alternate light or dark side endings. Unfortunately, this boils down to exactly one choice. As the game progresses, you earn a point you can use to gain and augment a Force ability of your choice. Force abilities are pretty clearly as Light Side (such as healing or the mind trick) or Dark side (such as Force choke or lightning). The game will commend you for being balanced if you level up more of your Light Side abilities or warn you that you have anger management issues if you select more Dark Side powers, but this plays absolutely no impact on the ending. The game presents you with exactly one moral dilemma, with a helpful on-screen prompt saying, “If you do X, you will stay on the Light Side, but doing Y will have you on the Dark Side”. The game gives you a very obviously black-and-white choice, but I guess that is to be expected since this isn’t a BioWare RPG. Despite that, Jedi Knight’s ending was more influenced by your actions as the game progressed.

Like Jedi Outcast, I feel like Jedi Academy’s graphics haven’t aged all that well, and it’s most apparent in the in-game cutscenes. The top-notch voice acting was neutered by the fact that the game characters were unable to really emote with their faces.

All in all though, was Jedi Academy a really necessary sequel to Outcast? Not really. The game didn’t really bring much that was new to the table. Was it any fun? Hell yes.

Score: 3/4

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