Released in the latter half of 1997 by Lucasarts Entertainment, its developer and publisher, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II is a PC first-person shooter and the sequel to Star Wars: Dark Forces. Set in George Lucas' Star Wars universe, Jedi Knight continues the story of Kyle Katarn, the main protagonist of the Jedi Knight franchise, as he follows the path of the Jedi while simultaneously pursuing his father's killer, the Dark Jedi Jerec. In contrast to its predecessor, Jedi Knight utilizes a fully three-dimensional game engine with support for hardware acceleration, and its gameplay also differs significantly from Dark Forces, primarily in its depiction of Force usage and lightsaber combat. The game additionally features a branching storyline that can go in one of two different directions depending on the player's overall proclivity toward either the light or dark side of the Force. Jedi Knight supports both LAN and internet play for up to eight or four players, respectively, and this component features two modes of play: deathmatch and capture the flag. The game received a high amount of praise from critics upon its release, and was followed up by an expansion, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, in 1998 and a sequel, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, in 2002.
The narrative of Jedi Knight, which is told mostly through full motion video sequences that combine live actors with pre-rendered elements, centers on the actions of Kyle Katarn, a talented mercenary who was, prior to the events of the game, instrumental in helping the Rebel Alliance uncover and dismantle the Galactic Empire's covert Dark Trooper project (as depicted in Dark Forces). As the game begins, Kyle is meeting on Nar Shaddaa with an information broker, a droid named 8t88, in order to ascertain the identity of his father's killer. 8t88 informs Katarn that the man he seeks is Jerec, the leader of a powerful group of Dark Jedi, though it quickly becomes clear that 8t88 is under this man's employ. After attempting unsuccessfully to coerce Katarn into deciphering a disk belonging to his late father, 8t88 leaves him to be killed by a pair of hired guns. Kyle overcomes them and proceeds to track 8t88 across Nar Shaddaa, retrieving his father's disk by shooting off the droid's arm (although 8t88 himself is ultimately able to escape capture). Taking the disk to his home on Sulon, Katarn has his family droid WeeGee interpret it, learning that his father had entrusted him with a map to the Valley of the Jedi, an ancient Jedi burial ground, and a lightsaber belonging to his friend Qu Rahn.
Unfortunately, by the time Kyle receives his father's message the map to the Valley of the Jedi has already been stolen by Jerec, who intends to use it to find the Valley of the Jedi in order to claim the residual power of the Force users that have been laid to rest there. Kyle next travels to the occupied city of Barons Hed hoping to recover the map, but upon finally tracking it down, the map is destroyed by Yun, one of Jerec's followers. Katarn is able to subdue Yun, but with the map destroyed, he has no choice but to seek out 8t88 once again in order to extract the Valley's location from him. He finds the droid aboard one of Jerec's cargo ships, where he has been decapitated by Gorc and Pic, two more of Jerec's Sith associates. Katarn defeats them both in combat and claims 8t88's head, which leads him to the planet Ruusan, where the Valley of the Jedi resides. Upon reaching Ruusan, Kyle is confronted by another of Jerec's Dark Jedi, Maw; Maw is defeated by Katarn, but continues to taunt him afterwards with the details of his father's death, leading him to strike Maw down in anger. Witnessing this, Jerec attempts to lure Katarn to the dark side. Having captured Kyle's friend and sometimes partner Jan Ors, Jerec goads Kyle to strike her down as an initiation rite.
At this point, the game branches in one of two directions based on the player's alignment. If the player is more aligned with the light side of the Force, Katarn will refuse to kill Ors and continues to pursue Jerec, forcing a final battle in the Valley of the Jedi where he kills the Sith Lord and rescues Jan. The game ends with Katarn carving statues of his father and Qu Rahn with his lightsaber. If the player is more attuned to the dark side of the Force, Kyle chooses to kill Ors but still refuses to join Jerec, seeing no reason to swear fealty to the Sith Lord when he can simply claim the Valley's power for himself. As in the light side path, Katarn follows Jerec to the Valley of the Jedi where the two fight to the death. Katarn ultimately prevails and takes the Valley's power, allowing him to assume the Emperor's place as ruler of the Galactic Empire. A few of the game's other narrative particulars also change depending on the player's Force alignment. A light side player, for instance, is required to face Sariss directly following their alignment choice after she slays Yun for coming to Kyle's defense. For dark side players, however, Yun chooses not to stand up for Kyle, and rather than fighting Sariss the player must fight and defeat Yun a second time.
Jedi Knight is first and foremost a first-person shooter, though one with the additional option to switch to a third-person perspective at any time. The single-player game consists of a linear progression of twenty-one objective-based missions that are tied together by an overarching narrative. Missions typically contain multiple goals that must be completed in order to proceed to the next in the sequence, although the path through said level is, generally speaking, fairly linear. In addition to containing combat encounters with various enemy types that the player must learn to overcome, levels incorporate various puzzle elements that may impede the player's progress; these obstacles may include locked doors, platforming segments, or areas that are only accessible through the use of Force powers. The single-player campaign is also occasionally punctuated by lightsaber battles against powerful Dark Jedi. After the first few missions, the player gains access to a lightsaber and begins to accumulate Force powers using stars that are awarded for completing certain tasks within the game, while additional weapons, ammunition, health, and power-ups can be found in abundance throughout the game's levels, with the most powerful items often being hidden in secret areas.
With the inclusion of Force powers, Jedi Knight incorporates light role-playing elements that can affect the game in subtle and significant ways. Once Katarn begins down the path of the Jedi, players may advance in rank and spend stars that they have amassed in order to learn Force powers. Every advancement in rank earns the player two stars to spend on powers, while finding every secret within a level will grant an additional star. Players can spend up to four stars on an individual Force power, with each additional star increasing the strength of the ability. Force power use is also linked to a morality scale that determines the direction of the game's narrative later on in the game. Initially, the player can gain access to neutral, light, and dark powers; using light powers will swing the morality scale toward the light side, while using dark powers will shift the scale in the opposite direction. Other in-game actions can also influence the morality scale, such as killing non-hostile NPCs such as civilians, droids, and Ugnaughts. Once the player's alignment has been decided, powers of the opposing persuasion can no longer be used, and any stars previously spent on them will be refunded; an additional Force power exclusive to that alignment is also unlocked at this time.
Jedi Knight has a variety of weapons that are accumulated by the player gradually over the course of play. Though the game's protagonist receives a lightsaber fairly early on in the campaign, traditional ranged weapons remain consistently useful throughout the game, especially against larger groups. One of the more notable aspects of the game's arsenal is the fact that several of its weapons share their ammunition source with one or more of the game's other weapons. Because of this, depleting ammunition for one weapon may in fact render multiple weapons unusable. More than half of Jedi Knight's weapons also feature alternate firing modes of some sort, lending them more versatility than they might have otherwise. The lightsaber takes this concept even further, as players can produce different swings by combining their attacks with different movements.
One of Jedi Knight's two starting weapons, Fists are the only melee weapon in the game apart from the lightsaber, and they are definitely the more inferior of the two. While their use is to be avoided in most situations, Fists are unique in that they have the ability to bypass shields and damage health directly, making it possible to kill an enemy without having to take out their armor first.
- Hotkey: 2
- Ammo: Energy Units
The second of Jedi Knight's starting weapons, the Bryar Pistol is Kyle Katarn's signature sidearm. While it is slow in firing rate and low on stopping power when compared to the Stormtrooper Rifle, it is also much more accurate and uses one energy cell per bolt rather than two. For these reasons, it is often the more desirable of the two in long range combat situations or when ammo is tight.
- Hotkey: 3
- Ammo: Energy Units
The most common firearm used by Imperial stormtroopers, the Stormtrooper Rifle is a reliable rapid-fire weapon that is useful in a wide variety of combat situations. It is not without its drawbacks, however, which include poor accuracy and efficiency. The Stormtrooper Rifle has an extremely large spread, making it of limited use from a distance, and each bolt fireed expends two energy cells.
A true room-clearing weapon, the Thermal Detonator is in essence a hand grenade, and it is used in much the same manner. The primary firing method for the Detonator causes it to explode on impact, while its secondary firing mode has a three-second fuse. Whether using the primary or secondary mode, the throwing distance is determined by the length of time the fire button is held down.
- Hotkey: 5
- Ammo: Power Cells
A weapon well-known for its frequent use among Wookiees, the Bowcaster is a powerful but slow-firing energy weapon. On primary fire, the Bowcaster unleashes a single bolt, however the fire button can also be held down in this mode, charging up to four additional bolts that fire in a horizontal spread. Its alternate fire is a magnetically sealed bolt that can ricochet, hitting enemies around corners.
Imperial Repeater Rifle
- Hotkey: 6
- Ammo: Power Cells
The Imperial Repeater Rifle is a more advanced triple-barreled firearm entrusted to only the most experienced of the Empire's stormtroopers. Its primary method of fire produces a constant torrent of weapon fire that is much more accurate than the standard Stormtrooper Rifle. Its secondary firing method uses all three chambers at once, producing an effect that is more akin to that of a shotgun.
- Hotkey: 7
- Ammo: Rail Charges
The Rail Detonator is Jedi Knight's rocket launcher equivalent, delivering explosive rail charges at high velocity. Its primary fire is fairly straightforward, projecting a single charge in a straight line that detonates immediately upon impact. The Rail Detonator's alternate fire is similar, though rather than detonating on impact, its payload instead adheres to its target, exploding after a few seconds.
Sequencer Charges are single-use explosive devices much like Thermal Detonators, though in this case they are placed rather than thrown. A Sequencer Charge can adhere to floors, walls, and other surfaces, exploding shortly after being placed in its primary mode. Alternately, they can be set for proximity detonation, going off only in the event that a person (player or otherwise) passes near it.
- Hotkey: 9
- Ammo: Power Cells
Often seen in use by Trandoshans, the Concussion Rifle is a high-powered firearm that can produce large concussive blasts. Its primary method of fire expels a single compressed ionized bullet that explodes violently on impact, affecting a large area. For safer use in closer quarters, the Concussion Rifle also has a secondary mode that uses fewer cells and produces a non-explosive projectile.
Obtained at the end of the game's third mission, the Lightsaber is a powerful melee weapon that has other benefits as well, such as the deflection of incoming fire and the illumintion of the surrounding area. Using the primary fire button produces different attacks depending on whether the player is stationary or moving in a particular direction. The secondary attack is a powerful double swing of the saber.
Force Powers in Jedi Knight are designated as either neutral, light, or dark in nature. The player's access to these Force powers is determined primarily by rank; novice Jedi can use only neutral powers at first, though with experience they can learn to use light and dark powers as well. Once a player has aligned to one side of the Force, however, powers intrinsic to the opposite side will become locked out and unusable. Regardless of the type, Force powers are fueled by Force energy, which regenerates itself over time. Stronger Force powers require a greater amount of Fore energy when used; as the player grows stronger in the Force, their pool of Force energy increases in size as well. In general, light Force powers emphasize defensive abilities and resolution through non-violent means, whereas dark powers are exactly the opposite, being extremely violent.
Neutral Force Powers
Force SpeedWith Force Speed, the Jedi uses the Force to improve their movement speed dramatically. This is useful both in combat, where one can move much faster than one's opponent, and outside of it, where the player can jump greater distances than they might otherwise be able to. Greater ranks in Force Speed increase both the power of its effect and its duration.
Force JumpUse of the Force Jump ability allows the Jedi to jump exceedingly high into the air. When it is used in conjunction with Force Speed, a player can jump higher and farther than any normal person could hope to. The length of the jump is variable by holding the button down when using it, though one should be conscious of taking fall damage when employing Force Jump.
Force PullA trained Force user is able to reach out through the Force alone and draw objects toward their person. This Force Pull can be used to rip weapons directly from the hands of opponents, transferring them to the user. Other objects outside one's reach can be obtained in this way as well, and with greater ranks of Force Pull objects can be pulled from a greater distance.
Force SeeingAttunement to the Force allows sufficiently skilled individuals to see the true nature of things. This Force Seeing not only disperses powerful illusions such as Force Persuasion and Force Blinding, but also allows its user to see weapons, items, and enemies both through walls and displayed on their map. The player's rank in Force Seeing determines what exactly is seen.
Light Force Powers
Force HealingWith Force Healing, the trained Force adept draws upon their connection to the world around them in order to heal broken bones and mend flesh. Initially, a Jedi is only able to heal minor wounds with this ability, but with additional investment Force Healing can be improved to the point where even a gravely injured individual can be restored to full health.
Force PersuasionThrough the use of Force Persuasion, a Jedi is able to convince those nearby that they are not actually there. The effect is akin to invisibility, and only those with the Force Seeing ability are able to see through this illusion entirely. A player can only sustain the illusion for as long as they have Force energy, though higher ranks improve its effect and duration.
Force BlindingForce Blinding is similar in nature to Force Persuasion, through rather than masking the user's presence it overwhelms its target's ability to see. Those without the ability to dispel the effect with Force Seeing are impaired until the ability subsides. With greater skill in Force Blinding the effect becomes even more debilitating, and it lasts for longer amounts of time.
Force AbsorbBy invoking Force Absorb, a Jedi is able to shield their body from the harmful offensive Force powers wielded by Dark Jedi. Not only does it prevent the user from taking damage from Force Lightning, Force Destruction, and the like, it converts any Force-centric damage into Force energy. With more skill in Force Absorb, its effectiveness and duration is improved.
Force ProtectionForce Protection is the ultimate defensive ability, available only to light Jedi. When used, the player is nearly invulnerable for an extended period of time, though the ability consumes a large amount of Force energy to produce this effect. A player will almost always have the upper hand when invoking Force Protection, though a few abilities can still affect them.
Dark Force Powers
Force ThrowThe reverse form of the Force Pull ability, Force Throw allows a Jedi to project certain environmental objects at their enemies. These propelled objects can not only cause damage in and of themselves but can also push victims off of a precipice in the right situations. With higher ranks, more objects can be thrown at once with a greater degree of accuracy.
Force GripDark Jedi are able to reach out through the power of the Force alone to choke the life from their foes, incapacitating and damaging them at the same time. The victim is able to change facing and continue to attack while under the sway of Force Grip, but cannot move of their own accord. Better range and damage is achieved by increasing Force Grip's rank.
Force LightningJedi more in touch with their darker side are able to project Force-based bolts of lightning from their very hands. Though certainly powerful, Force Lightning is somewhat difficult to aim, and thus is an ability best used in close combat scenarios. Greater levels of Force Lightning are even more damaging, making its user incredibly deadly when encountered up close.
Force DestructionDark initiates versed in Force Destruction are able to channel the power of the Force into a lethally concentrated form. Force Destruction produces an explosive ball of fire that causes damage in a wide radius while also having the potential to propel enemies great distances. The area of effect is increased with each rank, as is the overall damage it causes.
Force Deadly SightThe ultimate dark Force power, available only to the most devout adherents to the ways of the Sith, Force Deadly Sight allows its user to cause damage to enemies merely by gazing upon them. For the duration of Deadly Sight's effect, enemies that remain within the player's line of sight will sustain heavy damage, forcing them to flee from sight in order to survive.
Jedi Knight was quite well-received upon its release, with many critics praising its use of puzzles, lightsaber combat, and levels with a large sense of scale. Gamespot's Ron Dulin called it "arguably the best single-player first-person shooter since Doom," while PC Gamer's Gary Whitta declared Jedi Knight "a new standard for 3D game design." In addition to high review scores, Jedi Knight earned additional accolades. GameSpot, for instance, named it "Best Action Game" in their 1997 end-of-year awards, and it was a runner-up for "Game of the Year." Jedi Knight won PC Gamer's "Game of the Year" category for 1997, and was awarded the top spot in their October 1998 feature, "The 50 Best Games Ever." Despite the overall effusive response, some aspects of the game were criticized. Among the complaints leveled against it were overly linear level design, a graphical presentation that did not always compare favorably to its contemporaries, and fairly simplistic A.I.
- Windows 95
- 90MHz processor
- Directx compatible computer
- 16MB RAM