Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy – PC
Developer: Raven Software
Release Date: September 17, 2003
Reviewed by Flagostomos
Any person that has watched Star Wars has dreamt of the same thing: What it would be like to have a Lightsaber. While many games throughout the years have tried their best to recreate the experience, Jedi Academy was the first that really made you feel in control of the whole “Jedi Experience”.
The game starts by having you customize your character. These options do nothing other than change the appearance of your character. (For reference, the canon option is a human male.) You can be a human male or female, a Kel Dor male, a Twi’ Lek female, a Zabrak female, or a Rodian male. Don’t ask me why the randomness in species. My personal favorite was always the Kel Dor.
You can also customize your lightsaber hilt, but again it serves no real purpose. Later in the game you get to select more fighting styles and even a different lightsaber, but at the beginning you are stuck with one saber and what is called medium style, which is the balanced of the three single saber styles.
The opening area lets you get a good feel for what it’s like to handle your lightsaber. For me, this was the first game in the Jedi Knight series I had played. It wasn’t difficult getting into the action however. The default controls use the WASD for movement, space bar for jumping, left mouse click for attacking and right click for saber throw. You learn some other moves along the way but you are walked through how to execute them.
There are obviously two big factors to the gameplay that the developers did an outstanding job executing: Saber combat and force powers.
Saber combat is done really well for what it is. Obviously, we will probably never have the option to control the lightsabers movement 100%, but this game does the next best thing. The character automatically swings the lightsaber but it is dependent on the direction your character is moving. For example, if you are strafing left, your character will slash left. If you are moving forward and left, he will perform a top-down hit to the left. Within seconds you get the feel for this.
Force combat comes into play a little later. You are given four basic force powers: push, pull, sense and speed. These come into play in almost every level, as they are necessary to solve the puzzles. As the game progresses, you can pick up one of 8 new force powers, four light side and four dark side. Light side force powers are mind trick, protection, absorption and heal. Dark side force powers are lightning, grip, drain and some kind of force rage.
This game does a great job of teaching without tutorials. The opening levels serve as a kind of tutorial, but you are immediately thrust into the action rather than having to listen or watch a demonstration. You are a Padawan learner at the beginning so it makes sense in the context of the story that your master would teach you some things anyways.
There are five missions per rank. As a Padawan, you do missions that are really basic things, most of the time in the company of your master. Even though you are relatively weak at first, you show yourself to be quite capable. Depending on the difficulty level you selected when you started, the game can be a breeze or challenge even the most skilled players, even at the beginning. I used to play almost professionally this game and I still have a hard time with the Single player mode on max difficulty.
Once you beat either four or five missions of the opening set, you are presented with a story driven section of the game, which pretty much acts as the boss fights. The level design puts all your skills to the test, throwing more saber wielding foes at you as you get more powerful. Once you beat the intermediary levels, you are raised to the next rank of Jedi and have to progress through five more missions.
After the second set of intermediary levels, you are finally promoted to a full Jedi Knight, and with this rank comes the moment you were waiting for: the ability to select either a saber staff or dual lightsabers. This completely changes the combat that you have come to known, if you elect to stray from the single saber. While the basic mechanics don’t change, truly skilled players on the multiplayer section of the game will tell you from experience that each saber takes months to master in their own right.
The force powers are nice, but other than the basics none are necessary, save for level 1 force protection. They add a unique dynamic to killing enemies, but honestly the whole game comes down to killing enemies and progressing to a (linear) objective. What can you expect from a game like this though?
Whereas the previous Jedi Knight games had great story, this one does not so much. You are a full grown adult, however you show such great talent with the force in constructing a lightsaber with no formal training that Luke Skywalker says, bring this guy in to train. What happened to only training kids?
During your training, you discover that a former nemesis of your master, Kyle Katarn, is trying to resurrect a centuries dead Sith Lord. You gradually work at stopping her while also fulfilling the day-to-day duties of a Jedi.
At the end of the game, you stand tall as a full Jedi Knight, one of the brightest in the New Order, or you can go bad and become a new Dark Jedi. Not a Sith. A dark Jedi.
Controls: I mentioned this a little in gameplay, but the controls work amazingly well for how complex they have to be. As this is a first and third person shooter, you use the mouse to control the cursor. The cursor acts as a targeting reticule for the guns and the direction your lightsaber hits for combat. The guns and other weapons are nice and fun to use, but 90% of the time you will just rely on the lightsaber. Forget fighting any saber wielding foe with anything but your lightsaber, and most force powers don’t even work against them.
The game uses the WASD setup for movement common in many PC games. By using the mouse and keyboard in conjunction, you are able to very precisely control your character through some dangerous settings. Combat becomes more elaborate the more you know about it, especially if you have the chance to learn the tricks from someone in the know. As the online aspect of this game died out a long time ago, finding someone to teach you the intricacies of the combat system will be hard. I still play this game every now and again, hit me up if you want a master. 🙂
Force powers can be mapped to various keys for easy access, and you will quickly find which key bindings work best for which powers. For example, you quickly learn that force speed becomes a huge help in fighting saber and force wielding foes, so you will use it a lot. Grip and lightning become quick fixes too. Play around with it and find what works best.
The graphics are good, nothing spectacular but the game runs on the Quake engine, go figure. The lightsabers are beautifully animated as are the force powers. The open worlds suffer from lack of variety, especially sand and jungle textures. The character models are quite nice, and the cut scenes are well animated. The best example is the lightsaber fight between your character and a Dark Jedi towards end game. It looks like a fight that could be in a movie.
The audio is just Star Wars music redone. I don’t recall there being any real standout scores for this game. It’s just the same stuff you have heard in other Star Wars projects. The voice acting is good. The game is solid but not spectacular in this aspect.
The single player mode offers some replayability. All the force powers are nice to try out, as are the combinations of different lightsabers. The story doesn’t do much to make you want to come back, but the gameplay is impelling enough to have you come back to the single player campaign quite a bit.
The real replayability of this game is (or should I say was) the multiplayer. Back in it’s heyday, there was anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred, even over 1000 players every day. There are many game modes including Free For All, Capture the Flag, Siege, and dueling. Mods added Movie Battles, JKA+, and people were constantly making their own custom maps. Many players formed “clans” where you could play with like minded people, get training, and eventually dominate your saber style.
It would be very difficult for me to explain the Multiplayer aspect of this game in a clear and concise manner without rambling. And seems how the multiplayer crowd has almost completely vanished, I will refrain from talking about it too much anyways. Just trust me when I say, this game has to this day still my favorite online multiplayer experience.
Replayability: 9 in this games prime, 6 today.
Share This Post