Editor’s Note: Spoilers forward for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
A Time of Change
Really, it was an ideal storm. LucasArts wanted to safe Star Wars‘ future within the online game market, a combat the corporate started with its restructuring in 2004 and ultimately misplaced in 2012 when Disney purchased Lucasfilm and closed LucasArts’ doorways for good.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed confronted an uphill battle of Clone Wars proportions at its very inception. The idea for the sport was first conceived in 2004, a yr earlier than Revenge of the Sith hit theaters to conclude the Prequel Trilogy. It was a time when all of Lucasfilm was mapping out the subsequent step for the franchise. Now that the movie saga was full, how would George Lucas’ firm transfer the model ahead?
Naturally, they might now must rely upon the sturdy Expanded Universe that numerous authors, artists, sport builders, and animators had been constructing across the movies all alongside. While the Dark Nest Trilogy and the Legacy of the Force sequence saved the prose fiction sector fairly wholesome, animated tasks equivalent to Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars, Dave Filoni’s The Clone Wars, and Family Guy‘s “Blue Harvest” secured Star Wars‘ fast future on our screens. This time of transition additionally noticed Dark Horse’s first dive into the Legacy period — 137 years after the Battle of Yavin — that launched an entire new era of heroes to comedian ebook followers.
The online game a part of the franchise, nevertheless, was in serious trouble. In 2004, the VP of Marketing at Lucasfilm, Jim Ward, was named President of LucasArts. Ward had been accountable for The Phantom Menace‘s now-notorious media blitz, which helped the movie rake in over $400 million. He wished to do the identical at LucasArts, which he thought-about a multitude of an organization when he was handed the keys. In 2004, LucasArts had solely grossed $100 million, considerably lower than its high competitor within the gaming market, Halo 2. And Ward declared himself the Rogue Leader who would put LucasArts on the map.
Of course, numbers do not at all times equate to high quality. From 2002 to 2004, LucasArts had entered a gaming renaissance. In the span of two years, the writer launched 4 nicely-obtained titles which are to at the present time oft-considered a number of the most interesting Star Wars video games ever made: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, and Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. All of those titles have been developed by third-celebration studios. At that time, Raven Software, BioWare, and Obsidian have been key gamers in LucasArts’ success. Perhaps the one large hiccup was Sony Online Entertainment’s Galaxies MMO, which did not fairly meet the writer’s expectations.
Ward noticed the outsourcing of sport improvement as an issue, and he sought to make the in-home sport studio extra environment friendly. He minimize out many of the third-celebration builders and struck down LucasArts’ workers, decreasing it from 450 staff to 190. Luckily, Battlefront, Knights of the Old Republic II, and Republic Commando survived the Purge. But useless, for instance, have been future Rogue Squadron video games from Factor 5.
Although the writer launched different third-celebration video games, equivalent to Empire at War, Fracture, Lego Star Wars, and Mercenaries, the developer targeted in on Republic Commando and The Force Unleashed. I’ll revisit Republic Commando in a later entry on this sequence, so let’s transfer on to The Force Unleashed.
Unleashing the Force
If for nothing else, I’ll at all times keep in mind Star Wars: The Force Unleashed as the sport that gave Darth Vader a badass secret apprentice and allowed me to drag a freakin’ Star Destroyer out of the sky. But what else might you count on from a sport whose unofficial tagline was “kicking somebody’s ass with the Force?” The Force Unleashed was nothing if not bold. And I’ll by no means fault a sport for swinging for the fences.
The sport’s story bridged the hole between the Prequel and Original Trilogies — one thing that hadn’t been completed within the video games in any respect as much as that time (and hasn’t been since). And the bridge was constructed fairly masterfully. Throughout the sport, you see a kind of fusion between the artwork types of each trilogies. The Force Unleashed was additionally the origin story of the Rebel Alliance, which is in the end one of many sport’s extra controversial points. Not that it issues now that every one of that canon has been booted for a brand new one since Disney took over.
Before LucasArts settled on Starkiller’s story, there have been quite a lot of different concepts. (Fun truth: Luke Skywalker’s authentic title in early drafts of A New Hope was “Annikin Starkiller.”) Game ideas have been designed round a Wookie superhero, Darth Maul (this could’ve been his official re-introduction into Star Wars continuity), a bounty hunter (later, the idea of Star Wars 1313), and a number of other different protagonists. The studio even thought-about making the third entry within the Knights of the Old Republic sequence…
But they ultimately (with Lucas’ approval) determined to observe the trail of the darkish facet and inform Starkiller’s story. Of course, Lucas would come to remorse this resolution afterward. Legend has it that builders weren’t even allowed to say Starkiller’s title in his presence throughout the ultimate days of LucasArts.
Before I can actually analyze this sport, I need to point out that The Force Unleashed was designed to not solely unleash the Force, but additionally unleash large waves of money into the corporate’s pocket. The sport was to spearhead a multimedia mission that additionally included a tie-in novel, reference ebook, motion figures, comics books, a task-taking part in sport complement, and a “making of” ebook. And in 2008, very a lot on account of Ward’s glorious advertising technique, the mission was profitable. The Force Unleashed bought 1.5 million copies worldwide in its first week, making it the quickest-promoting Star Wars and LucasArts sport of all-time, regardless of the combined critiques from critics. The Force had undoubtedly been unleashed.
Who’s Scruffy Looking?
From the sport’s opening, it is apparent that no punches have been pulled within the making of The Force Unleashed, as you stroll round Kashyyyk massacring Wookies as Darth Vader. Although its not precisely acknowledged when the assault on the Wookie homeworld takes place, it’s undoubtedly throughout the Jedi Purge. After all, Vader has arrived to remove one other Jedi.
It was an incredible transfer on LucasArts’ half to introduce the various gameplay mechanics and talents at your disposal by permitting you to attempt them out with the all-highly effective Dark Lord of the Sith. This first tutorial mission is an appetizer for all of the loopy Force powers you’ll attain as you degree up within the sport. Everything wanting Force Lightning (Vader canonically doesn’t have that means) is on show right here.
Why then is that this intro such a drag? It’s most likely as a result of Vader is simply too badass to ever even take into account transferring sooner than a brisk stroll. So you spend 10 minutes slowly making your manner by the gorgeous environment, Force pushing Wookies off cliffs. But I’m certain these first jiffy instantly bought the sport to many adoring followers.
But when the graceful-working Starkiller is shipped on his first mission, the sport design actually takes form. You’re despatched to Nar Shaddaa (consistently used within the video games) to remove Jedi Master Kota, who’s main an assault on a TIE fighter development facility. After spending a couple of minutes within the decidedly Clone Wars design of Kashyyyk, it feels good to step into Imperial dominion. Walking by the massive hallways of the ability will instantly remind followers of the Death Star, which I’m certain was a desired impact, particularly for the reason that sport concludes on the unfinished area station.
Of course, throughout Starkiller’s hunt for Jedi Masters Kota, Kazdan Paratus, and Shaak Ti, the sport’s large flaws start to point out their ugly Sith faces. First and foremost, this isn’t the sport for epic lightsaber duels. With an emphasis on the very cool Force skills, the sword play comes up very quick, as you mash the identical button time and again to wipe out hordes of enemies and highly effective Jedi Masters alike. Yes, there are combos that you would be able to unlock by the leveling system, however I discovered that they have been by no means crucial. Learning sophisticated button combos is insignificant subsequent to the facility of the X button. And that dumbs down the expertise a bit. It would not assist that the digital camera usually would not agree with you.
There was a second in final-gen sport improvement when fast time occasions have been all the fashion, and The Force Unleashed basks within the mechanic’s glory throughout boss battles. At some level in each single combat, after weakening your enemy, you are prompted to press buttons in a selected sample with the intention to slay your goal. This additionally extends to lightsaber clashes and dodging particular assaults. It all turns into fairly repetitive after a few missions. The Force Unleashed doesn’t discover the reply to dynamic lightsaber duels.
Playing the sport years afterward a gaming PC (I initially performed it on a PS3), it is evident that, even when stretched to the best high quality, the graphics and audio are nonetheless fairly glitchy. Textures pop out and in, and the sound leveling is not fairly on par with the video games that got here earlier than. Speaking of glitches, I obtained caught in between rocks and cutscenes a number of occasions throughout my PC playthrough and keep in mind the PS3 expertise being about the identical.
Actually, The Force Unleashed is kinda scruffy-wanting, even to 2008 requirements.
Bringing Balance to the Force
So why do I in the end classify The Force Unleashed as a “nice Star Wars sport?” The ambition of the storytelling is sufficient cause to get this sport alone. And do not get me incorrect, the sport works nicely sufficient. The Force skills are completely one of the best, and the sword play is entertaining in the event you can look previous the repetition. But the sport’s greatest power is undoubtedly the story it weaves in an unexplored period of the Star Wars timeline.
The tragic tales of the remaining Jedi Masters can’t be lauded sufficient. In a pair snippets of gameplay and cinematics, The Force Unleashed tells a way more emotional story of loss and struggling than Revenge of the Sith might ever hope. Kota is a defeated man who’s damaged by the Purge, Shaak Ti’s solely objective is to guard her Padawan, Maris Brood, and Kazdan Paratus worships a shrine of the Jedi High Council he constructed on a junkyard planet.
In truth, Starkiller’s mission to kill the latter Jedi is each one of the best and worst a part of the sport. Those Raxus missions (you go to a number of of the planets twice within the sport — somewhat lazy?) are an absolute boring mess of patchwork and final minute finagling, as you platform by a brown panorama stuffed with rubbish that is about as fascinating as Bantha fodder. At least you get to drag down a Star Destroyer with the Force in your second cross by the planet.
But Paratus’ introduction and the boss combat are glorious, as you smash by his makeshift junkyard temple, destroying a number of of the puppets he is set as much as signify the Jedi Masters. This man has clearly gone insane. And that is a stability in character improvement you do not fairly see throughout the Jedi Purge. Either the survivors die or fall to the darkish facet. At final, we see the psychological trauma of surviving the extinction of your variety. Yes, maybe that is a bit darkish for Star Wars, however The Force Unleashed, by design, was made to go to these locations.
And despite the fact that the paper-skinny Starkiller is somewhat too clearly an anti-Luke Skywalker, you are still glad to observe him in his redemption, as he varieties the Rebel Alliance, even when his ending feels extra like a fast decision to make the sport work with the Original Trilogy. You’re glad to be alongside for this experience by the Empire.
The Force Unleashed may very well be thought-about the only biggest piece of Star Wars fan service ever made the place the video video games are involved. If you ever needed to really feel like an all-highly effective Jedi, look no additional. If you ever needed to combat Wookies as Darth Vader, that is your sport. Want to know what it was like for Boba Fett to get caught within the sarlacc pit? Starkiller dives headfirst into one. Never obtained the possibility to combat the Emperor? He’s the ultimate boss. The solely query now’s: will you select the darkish facet or the sunshine?
John Saavedra is an affiliate editor at Den of Geek. Read extra of his work right here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9.