The Best Star Wars Games: Part 2

By Mike on 11:05 pm

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Part two, and two more games to cover. This time, Empire at War and Jedi Outcast

Empire at War (2006, PC/Mac)
Empire at War is a Star Wars real time strategy game. It's certainly not the first. There were others such as Rebellion, but they were not nearly as good. EaW, as it is known, is different. This game is the first played on a truly galactic scale. You play as either the Empire or the Rebellion. It takes place before the Battle of Yavin though is still set in the original trilogy era. No clone wars stuff here. The game does have a story mode, but it also has a galactic conquest mode and skirmish mode. Galactic conquest allows you to conquer the galaxy as you see fit, without following any particular story arc. Skirmish allows you to play individual maps and has no set goals other than to obliterate the enemy. Unlike other Star Wars RTS games, this was the first that allowed you to fight in space, rather than just on land. Space combat is the strongest aspect of the game. All the ships in the movies are there. Some Clone Wars era ships are there too such as the Acclamator Assualt Ship and the Victory Star Destroyer for the Empire. Land battles add AT-ATs, T2B tanks, Stormtroopers, Rebel Plex troops, etc to the mix. I felt the land combat was a little weaker than the space experience but interesting none the less, and somewhat more challenging. Hero units are also available such as Vader and Han Solo. One limiting factor is the small number of units you can place on a map at one time. Only 9 at a time. Fan mods allow both teams to deploy more, making for more epic battles.
In the Fall of 2006, LucasArts released the Forces of Corruption Expansion. FoC is actually a stand alone expansion but requires EaW to run. It added the Zann Consortium to the list of playable sides. The Consortium is an organized crime group. Tyber Zann, the main character, is out to get revenge on Jabba the Hutt, as well as steal the Empires secrets to sell them. FoC takes place after Hoth and added a slew of new units such as the TIE Defender, B-Wing, Dark Troopers, and even the Death Star II. The Death Star I was in the original EaW but could only destroy planets. The Death Star II can be deployed on a map to destroy enemy capital ships in a single shot, as well as take out planets. The Zann Consortium gets its own list of unique units of Mandalorian design such as the StarViper, Canderous Assault tank, and Ewok Handlers. The latter released Ewoks with bombs strapped to them. Obviously a joke directed at the hatred of Ewoks by hardcore Star Wars fans. The Story in FoC is also more interesting and well developed.
Empire at War completely revived the Star Wars RTS genre. Aside from that, it's open XML architecture allows it to be endlessly modded. A lot of moders have added a whole range of new units which can really make for interesting combat. That's what makes it one of the best.

Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (2002, PC/Mac/Xbox)
Kyle Katarn has become the Chuck Norris of Star Wars. The merc with the beard who's just a guy with a lightsaber and a few questions. Kyle was introduced in Dark Forces, then became a Jedi in Jedi Knight. In Outcast, Kyle has left the order after an all to close brush with the dark side and has decided to once again pursue his mercenary career. The first two levels of the game, Kejim and Artus Prime, are pretty much identical in terms of game play to the original Dark Forces. At the beginning, Kyle is with is trusty side kick Jan Ors. He has none of the force abilities he learned in Jedi Knight, so you're basically starting from square one. However, by the end of the second level, Jan is captured and presumed killed by dark Jedi Desann. Kyle returns to the Vally of the Jedi from the first game to replenish his force ability to get revenge on the dark Jedi. The game also unveils a plot by the Empire Reborn to infuse non-Jedi with the force and create the ultimate soldier. The story of the game itself is a tie in with "The Crystal Star", a novel released in 1994. However, the connection is not explicit.
Once you get your force powers, and more importantly, your lightsaber, the game takes a new direction. You can now fight as a Jedi. Saber fighting is much more detailed than before giving you the ability to better control the blade and perform acrobatics. The game's story is also fairly strong though not like the first Jedi Knight. It also lacks the FMV of the first. However, the vastly improved game play and graphics more than compensate for this. Voice acting is well done and Billy Dee Williams even makes an appearance reprises his role as Lando.
Of course, we can't talk about the game without mentioning it's sequel, Jedi Academy. It's very similar to Outcast and you'll find yourself fighting almost the same enemies. The graphics are better though and it introduces a level selection system rather than a linear story. You also do not play as Kyle buy as Jayden Korr, who can either be male or female and several different species. You can play as Human, Rodian, Twi'lek, Zabrak or Kel Dor. The sequel did improve on saber fighting with more advanced acrobatics. You can also wield the infamous double bladed lightsaber later in the game, or fight Jar'Kai style (one lightsaber in each hand).

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