Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy may not look much different from its predecessor; Jedi Knight II, but in fact it’s more ambitious approach to level design, as well as a whole new story and upgrade system makes Jedi Academy a must play if you enjoyed the first game.
In Jedi Academy you no longer play as Kyle Katarn like you did in the previous game, but serve under him as his apprentice named Jayden Kor (there are some options to customise your look at the beginning of the game). Under his command, you are sent on various peace-keeping and plot-based missions, fighting crime and uncovering the mysteries of the Disciples of Ragnos, a strange new Sith cult.
Whats new in Jedi Academy?
There have been some major shakeups in terms of Jedi Knight’s level system. Being a fledgling apprentice, you have a limited choice over what missions you want to undertake to improve your skills. These missions tend to be short and sweet, and are great fun, despite not being linked with the main story. Between each mission you have the chance to improve some of your current force powers or research into a new one. What you choose to upgrade greatly changes whether you’re evil or good. You can research into mostly dark side powers; the infamous Lightning or Choke ability, or instead opt for something nearer to the light side of the force such as Healing or Mind Trick.
From a gameplay standpoint, it may seem not much has changed from Jedi Knight II. And aside from the improved upgrade system and a new story, not much has. The game plays exactly like its predecessor, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. The tense lightsaber fights still remain, and most of the enemies return. However, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy makes a much more concerted effort in terms of its level design, being set in different environments with varying objectives and mechanics, like racing around on a Speeder Bike or running around the outer-hull of flying space-ship. Whilst not much can be said for some of the vehicle controls, Jedi Academy takes you around some of the most interesting areas in the Star Wars universe, which is a stark contrast to the very bland hull interior environments in Jedi Knight II.
What is missing in the game
However, some problems do return in Jedi Knight II. Firstly, the save system still requires you to manually save your progress in the game. Forget to, and you could be sent way back to the beginning of the level. It’s a relic of gaming history that has thankfully been eradicated since for good reason. You either don’t save enough, or compulsively save after every conflict. Either way, this totally breaks the atmosphere.
If you’ve still not had your fair share of lightsaber fights by the end of the campaign, multiplayer is the place you need to be. Whilst I can’t guarantee there will be someone to fight against online, solo mode allows you to set the conditions of your very own 32-player massacre starring all of the main characters from the campaign.
What’s great about Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is that the game doesn’t feel old. Sure, facial animations could be a bit more realistic, and the game could do with a few more polygons here and there, but the core gameplay was, and still is, extremely fun to play.