One of my fondest video game memories was purchasing a copy of Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II from RadioShack for $10 when I was a kid. It still stands as one of the best games I’ve played, along with its sequel Jedi Outcast. They were incredibly fun and surprisingly difficult, combining first and third-person shooter and sabre combat, along with objectives that aren’t pinpointed on a map like in modern gaming. But that kind of game has since gone by the way of the dodo bird, in favour of recharging health systems, clear and obvious objectives and a passive difficulty. What’s more is that the current publisher of Star Wars games, Electronic Arts, seems to be shy about making single player focused experiences, having recently blamed the sales of Battlefield V on the fact that it contained a story mode as opposed to the much coveted Battle Royale mode that everyone wants these days.
But all may not be lost. There is another game coming on the horizon from a galaxy far, far away. We know almost nothing about it, which gives us a blank slate for healthy speculation. That game is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. It comes from developer Respawn, who are currently enjoying success thanks to the surprise launch of the free-to-play battle royale shooter Apex Legends. Fallen Order is said to be a story focused, lightsaber driven experience that will take place shortly after Revenge of the Sith. You’ll play as a survivor of Order 66 who will likely have to fight off the Empire and the Inquisitors who are hunting the remaining Jedi. Sounds promising. Even more interesting is that Stig Asmussen, game director of God of War 3, is running the show this time around. That makes me wonder if the gameplay experience will more akin to the older Kratos tales, with a locked third person camera and a focus on combos, and while that does sound fun, I hope that’s not the direction they take. Rather, I hope Fallen Order seeks inspiration from the old Jedi Knight games.
The original Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II series featured Kyle Katarn, a Rebel turned Jedi operating in the time period directly following Return of the Jedi. The character quickly became a Star Wars expanded universe fan favourite and the games were beloved by fans and critics alike. Now that the old SWEU has been wiped clean, the new canon has cherry-picked from the EU — which is now dubbed Legends — and brought certain characters and events back from the dead, so to speak. And while I don’t think it’s necessarily time for Kyle to come back, at least not right now I do think it’s time for the gameplay of the Jedi Knight series to make a return.
The old Jedi Knight games were a great mix of first-person shooter with excellent lightsaber combat sprinkled with force powers. It really had it all. What’s more, is that these games had a degree of difficulty we just don’t see in modern gaming anymore. There is no compass or mini-map telling you where to go. If you’re trying to find a switch, you must navigate the entire map searching for it while being harassed by the Empire and other hostile minions out to get you. The sense of reward one gets when finishing an objective is immensely gratifying because you had to put in quite a bit of work to figure out just what to do. I remember feeling frustration being stuck in an environmental puzzle, but I’d eventually figure it out and push forward. And it was great! Combat wasn’t too easy either, with health packs and shields dictating how long it was until you died. When you had low health, combat situations felt incredibly tense, even if you had the Force and a lightsaber on your side. What’s even more enticing is that these games let you flirt with both the Dark and Light side, giving you a reason to play the game twice. Oh, and there were multiplayer modes, just to add icing to an already tasty cake.
A modern game with an old-school design sounds like a dream come true for many gamers. The Jedi Knight series is still popular to this day and can still be purchased via Steam. A dedicated community that loves the games continues to offer mods for the series and other older games, like KOTOR 2. The servers for some of the games are still up, which proves that there’s still interest in this series. I can’t wait to see what Respawn will offer fans with Fallen Order. It’s no secret that the Star Wars gaming fan base is a bit salty towards EA these days, with their constant cancellation of titles and lacklustre efforts thus far. There is fear that this game will actually be a “games as service” sprinkled into a story mode, perhaps like Anthem, as it seems that EA is more focused on the Destiny styled games at the moment. And after the loot box scandal that plagued Battlefront 2, there is understandably some trust issues. But maybe, just maybe, Fallen Order will be the game to redeem the company in the eyes of the fans and they’ll deliver a solid, story-driven experience. I just hope they weren’t afraid to look at their contemporaries for inspiration when telling something new.
What kind of game do you hope Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will be? Do you hope it’s like the Jedi Knight series, classic God of War or something new entirely? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out our review of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part and our interview with cartoonist Daniel Nicholls.