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Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II

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Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (often abbreviated JK or DF2) is a first person shooter computer game released on October 9, 1997, by LucasArts based on the Star Wars franchise. It was both the first game in the Dark Forces series to include multiplayer capabilities over the Internet or a Local Area Network, and the first game to allow players to take control of a Jedi character using both the Force and lightsabers. Jedi Knight is also known for its use of live-action cutscenes to further immerse the character in the Star Wars universe. Jedi Knight is the sequel to Star Wars: Dark Forces and was followed by Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast in 2002. An expansion to the game, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, was released on January 31, 1998.

Gameplay

Single player

Jedi Knight built on the single-player tradition begun with Dark Forces. The game is heavily plot-driven, with elaborate missions, a large variety of settings, and an emphasis on puzzle-solving in addition to defeating enemies. Jedi Knight made use of a significantly more powerful game engine, which provided fully 3D environments, fully-submersible water, and the like.

Kyle Katarn starts the game as a mercenary with no knowledge of The Force. In early missions he depends entirely on standard weapons, of which eight are ultimately available. These are highly varied and each suits a generally different situation. Most have both primary and secondary modes, and some can be "charged" to fire more shots, be thrown farther, etc. Many are similar, if not identical, to the weapons in the original Dark Forces, although Jedi Knight introduces a few new weapons such as the Wookiee Bowcaster. Most significantly, the game features the much desired lightsaber.

As the player progresses through the game, Kyle gains Jedi abilities, known as Force Powers. These powers fall in three general categories: Neutral, Light, and Dark. The game awards "Force points" upon the completion of each level, and an additional point if the player finds all of the secret areas. These skill points can be allocated towards any Force power, boosting that power's effects. Force powers include basic Jedi abilities such as "force jump" and "force push", as well as more advanced techniques such as "force healing" (Light Side) and "force lightning" (Dark Side).

Enemies include a range of Imperial characters as well as various alien creatures and robotic entities, as in Dark Forces. In addition, the player occasionally faces more powerful foes such as the AT-STs. The game's "bosses" are a series of Dark Jedi that Kyle encounters successively as he proceeds through the game. Besides hostile individuals, there are also non-combatant civilian characters.

Jedi Knight is noted for the ethical decisions integrated into the gameplay. Kyle is a neutral character for most of the game, neither fully Light nor Dark. Actions against unarmed civilians throughout the game, as well as what Force powers a player chooses early on, will sway Kyle towards the Light or the Dark sides. Eventually, the character chooses a side definitively, and this cannot be reversed.

Multiplayer and online

Like many first person shooters, online multiplayer combat for JK discards the plot of the single-player game and has a standard deathmatch format with options available to customize a particular multiplayer game. Unique aspects in JK include players' ability to use force powers if the particular game allows it, and a lightsaber as a default melee weapon. In fact, in its heyday, players commonly engaged in "lightsaber-only" matches with no other weapons.

The game lacks a dedicated server, and online gaming was hosted by the MSN Gaming Zone; although several "IP boards" were hosted on fan sites such as JediKnight.net and Ron Mercer's Qtracker (formerly hosted at stomped.com). Most games were confined to the Nar Shaddaa (Nar) game room which became a refuge for clan wars, recruitment, and challenge. Games allowed free-for-all, teams, and head-to-head combat, as well as Capture the flag.

The lack of dedicated servers created difficulties in lag time for online play. Messages sent were never centrally processed, and so a "hit" in one person's frame rarely guaranteed an actual event. Players compensated for lag by shooting ahead of the opponent so as to register a hit on the opponent's computer.

At times the game suffered from extensive cheating, until the third party program "Kicker Helper" [1] was released to combat the cheating. JK's permissive checksum system was what allowed most of the "hacks" or "cogs" (as the cheats were commonly called) to work. The physics engine and force system of the game, however, were so permissive that many legitimate actions were construed as cheating. In addition, the open nature of the game's programming allowed users to create customized skins for characters, and custom maps with relative ease, and some cogs were created, not as cheats, but as mods to create new gaming dynamics.

To this day, GameSpy Arcade and Qtracker support JK and MotS online play (and a few groups exist that meet up for games on IRC, plus one dedicated server at NarShaddaa.net), to its remaining devoted fans, and many mod projects keep interest alive.

Story

The plot of this game places the player in the role of Kyle Katarn, who made his first appearance as a mercenary in Star Wars: Dark Forces (1995). Jedi Knight begins several years after the events in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. It begins as Kyle is meeting a droid named 8t88 ('88' for short) in a cantina on Nar Shaddaa. Kyle is informed by 88 that his father, Morgan Katarn, was killed by a Dark Jedi named Jerec. He escapes a gun to the head (from a Gran) and chases 88 through the streets of Nar Shaddaa for a stolen data disk meant only for Kyle from his father.

After recovering the disk and wounding 8t88, Kyle flies to his father's home and finds that it has been infiltrated by an Imperial force. He makes his way to the workshop, where he recovers a lightsaber from WeeGee, the family droid, compelling him on a journey to confront his father's murderers and to discover his own latent Force abilities. While on this journey, Kyle learns that seven Dark Jedi (Yun, Pic, Gorc, Boc, Maw, Sariss, and Jerec, the leader), his father's killers, are intent on finding the Valley of the Jedi, a focal point for Jedi power in the universe and a Jedi burial ground.

Kyle embarks on a journey to find the location of the Planet of the Jedi. He visits the city of Barons Hed, fighting numerous Imperial Probe Droids and other Imperial thugs. After progressing through the city's outskirts and the Imperial fortress he reaches 8t88 just as 88 has finished transmitting the coordinates for the Planet of the Jedi to Jerec. Before he can attack 88, Yun, the youngest Dark Jedi, intervenes. Kyle defeats Yun but does not kill him, allowing him to escape. After this Kyle fights his way out of the palace past numerous stormtroopers and a Kell dragon.

Kyle then tracks down 88 to a large Imperial ship and fights his way through the fuel station to reach the vessel. Progressing through the ship Kyle finally finds 88, but when he approaches the lifeless droid with his gun its head falls off; he then turns around to face Gorc and Pic (who were responsible for killing 88). The Dark Jedi twins attack Kyle at the same time, but he kills them both. Jan retrieves Kyle from the top of the ship and they fly back to Morgan Katarn's workshop. Kyle uses 8t88's head to recover the map to the Valley, as the original map had been destroyed by Yun before their duel.

Arriving at Ruusan, the Planet of the Jedi, Kyle makes his way through the vast Imperial defences confronted by Stormtroopers, Imperial defense systems, flying scorpions, and man-eating fish. When Kyle finally does make it to the top of the Imperial tower he is confronted by Maw, and the two battle. Maw is knocked down, but continues to taunt Kyle about his father. Kyle strikes down Maw with tears in his eyes. Jerec appears; he has captured Jan. Jerec tells Kyle to kill Jan to complete his entrance into the dark side. It is at this point where the game chooses whether the player will follow the light or dark side.

If the player continues on the light side, Kyle spares his friend and in anger Jerec shoots a destructive blast at Kyle using the force. Kyle falls down backwards, and crawls away to the cargo ship which begins to fall towards the valley floor far below. Kyle is stuck on the falling ship, but makes his way to the docking bay where his ship, the Moldy Crow, is docked and escapes. Kyle crash lands the Crow and is knocked unconscious. He awakens as the captive of Sariss, Boc, and Yun. Boc smashes Kyle's lightsaber in a hysterical fit. Sariss decides to execute him, and tells Boc to go inform Jerec that Kyle "will soon join the dead." But as she makes her swing, Yun blocks it and is mortally wounded by her. When Sariss asks why, Yun replies, "He is a Jedi, he deserves a battle." Kyle takes Yun's gold saber and defeats Sariss, and uses the same lightsaber for the rest of the game.

Kyle then proceeds through yet more Imperial defences to the Valley excavation site, making his way to the core. He finds Jan tied up and frees her, but suddenly Boc appears and duels Kyle. Kyle defeats him. At this point Jerec has already entered the core of the valley to meditate. As Kyle approaches it Jerec bursts out. The two have a final showdown. Jerec is defeated and has his saber knocked out of his hand. He beckons Kyle to kill him, but Kyle instead tosses Jerec his saber back. Jerec then seizes this chance and lunges at Kyle. Kyle raises his lightsaber and Jerec, carrying the momentum of his lunge, is cut into two. Kyle and Jan look on as the trapped spirits of countless Jedi fly around the Valley are freed. Then as a last show of respect to his father he carves statues of his father and his father's friend Rahn (who was killed by Jerec in the game's opening cutscene) with his lightsaber.

If the player chose the dark side, the alternate ending is triggered: Kyle kills Jan Ors and then becomes the rival of Jerec, this time for dominion over the Valley. Kyle again retreats to the falling ship and escapes in the Moldy Crow, but this time doesn't crash land. Instead of fighting Sariss by the ship's wreckage he faces Yun again. He then makes his way through the Valley defences to the core and defeats Boc. When Kyle defeats Jerec, he becomes the new Galactic Emperor with Sariss at his side. This scenario, however, is alternate and not canonical as subsequent games show Kyle on the path of the Light side of the Force.

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