Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – The Most Ambitious Star Wars Game Ever Made

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 battle 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 12 months 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, recreation builders, and animators had been constructing across the movies all alongside. While the Dark Nest Trilogy and the Legacy of the Force collection stored the prose fiction sector fairly wholesome, animated initiatives similar to Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars, Dave Filoni’s The Clone Wars, and Family Guy‘s “Blue Harvest” secured Star Wars‘ speedy 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 a complete new technology of heroes to comedian guide followers. 

The online game a part of the franchise, nonetheless, was in serious trouble. In 2004, the VP of Marketing at Lucasfilm, Jim Ward, was named President of LucasArts. Ward had been liable for The Phantom Menace‘s now-infamous media blitz, which helped the movie rake in over $400 million. He wished to do the identical at LucasArts, which he thought-about a large number of an organization when he was handed the keys. In 2004, LucasArts had solely grossed $100 million, considerably lower than its prime 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 well-received titles which are to this present day oft-regarded as among 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 had been developed by third-party studios. At that time, Raven Software, BioWare, and Obsidian had been key gamers in LucasArts’ success. Perhaps the one massive hiccup was Sony Online Entertainment’s Galaxies MMO, which did not fairly meet the writer’s expectations. 

Ward noticed the outsourcing of recreation growth as an issue, and he sought to make the in-house recreation studio extra environment friendly. He reduce out many of the third-party builders and struck down LucasArts’ employees, lowering it from 450 staff to 190. Luckily, Battlefront, Knights of the Old Republic II, and Republic Commando survived the Purge. But useless, for instance, had been future Rogue Squadron video games from Factor 5.

Although the writer launched different third-party video games, similar 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 collection, so let’s transfer on to The Force Unleashed

Unleashing the Force

If for nothing else, I’ll at all times bear 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 anticipate from a recreation 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 recreation for swinging for the fences.

The recreation’s story bridged the hole between the Prequel and Original Trilogies — one thing that hadn’t been accomplished 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 form 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 recreation’s extra controversial features. Not that it issues now that each 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 a whole lot of different concepts. (Fun reality: Luke Skywalker’s authentic title in early drafts of A New Hope was “Annikin Starkiller.”) Game ideas had been designed round a Wookie superhero, Darth Maul (this may’ve been his official re-introduction into Star Wars continuity), a bounty hunter (later, the idea of Star Wars 1313), and several other different protagonists. The studio even thought-about making the third entry within the Knights of the Old Republic collection…

But they ultimately (with Lucas’ approval) determined to comply with the trail of the darkish aspect and inform Starkiller’s story. Of course, Lucas would come to remorse this determination afterward. Legend has it that builders weren’t even allowed to say Starkiller’s title in his presence throughout the closing days of LucasArts.

Before I can actually analyze this recreation, I need to point out that The Force Unleashed was designed to not solely unleash the Force, but in addition unleash big waves of money into the corporate’s pocket. The recreation was to spearhead a multimedia venture that additionally included a tie-in novel, reference guide, motion figures, comics books, a role-playing recreation complement, and a “making of” guide. And in 2008, very a lot as a result of Ward’s wonderful advertising technique, the venture was profitable. The Force Unleashed bought 1.5 million copies worldwide in its first week, making it the fastest-selling Star Wars and LucasArts recreation of all-time, regardless of the combined critiques from critics. The Force had positively been unleashed.

Who’s Scruffy Looking?

From the sport’s opening, it is apparent that no punches had been pulled within the making of The Force Unleashed, as you stroll round Kashyyyk massacring Wookies as Darth Vader. Although its not precisely said when the assault on the Wookie homeworld takes place, it’s undoubtedly throughout the Jedi Purge. After all, Vader has arrived to get rid of one other Jedi. 

It was an excellent transfer on LucasArts’ half to introduce the numerous gameplay mechanics and skills at your disposal by permitting you to attempt them out with the omnipotent 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 recreation. Everything in need of Force Lightning (Vader canonically doesn’t have that potential) is on show right here. 

Why then is that this intro such a drag? It’s in all probability as a result of Vader is just too badass to ever even think about shifting sooner than a brisk stroll. So you spend 10 minutes slowly making your approach by the gorgeous environment, Force pushing Wookies off cliffs. But I’m positive these first couple of minutes instantly bought the sport to many adoring followers.

But when the smooth-operating Starkiller is distributed on his first mission, the sport design actually takes form. You’re despatched to Nar Shaddaa (continually used within the video games) to get rid of Jedi Master Kota, who’s main an assault on a TIE fighter building 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 big hallways of the ability will instantly remind followers of the Death Star, which I’m positive was a desired impact, particularly for the reason that recreation concludes on the unfinished house station. 

Of course, throughout Starkiller’s hunt for Jedi Masters Kota, Kazdan Paratus, and Shaak Ti, the sport’s massive 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 {powerful} Jedi Masters alike. Yes, there are combos that you may unlock by the leveling system, however I discovered that they had been by no means mandatory. Learning sophisticated button combos is insignificant subsequent to the ability of the X button. And that dumbs down the expertise a bit. It would not assist that the digicam typically would not agree with you.

There was a second in last-gen recreation growth when fast time occasions had been all the fad, and The Force Unleashed basks within the mechanic’s glory throughout boss battles. At some level in each single battle, after weakening your enemy, you are prompted to press buttons in a particular sample so as 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 very 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 acquired caught in between rocks and cutscenes a number of occasions throughout my PC playthrough and bear in mind the PS3 expertise being about the identical. 

Actually, The Force Unleashed is kinda scruffy-looking, 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 recreation?” The ambition of the storytelling is sufficient motive to get this recreation alone. And do not get me fallacious, the sport works properly sufficient. The Force skills are completely the very best, and the sword play is entertaining should 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 reality, Starkiller’s mission to kill the latter Jedi is each the very best and worst a part of the sport. Those Raxus missions (you go to a number of of the planets twice within the recreation — a bit of lazy?) are an absolute boring mess of patchwork and final minute finagling, as you platform by a brown panorama filled 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 move by the planet.

But Paratus’ introduction and the boss battle are wonderful, as you smash by his makeshift junkyard temple, destroying a number of of the puppets he is set as much as characterize the Jedi Masters. This man has clearly gone insane. And that is a steadiness in character growth you do not fairly see throughout the Jedi Purge. Either the survivors die or fall to the darkish aspect. At final, we see the psychological trauma of surviving the extinction of your form. Yes, maybe that is a bit darkish for Star Wars, however The Force Unleashed, by design, was made to go to these locations.

And regardless that the paper-thin Starkiller is a bit of too clearly an anti-Luke Skywalker, you are still glad to comply with him in his redemption, as he kinds 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 trip by the Empire.

The Force Unleashed might be thought-about the one best piece of Star Wars fan service ever made the place the video video games are involved. If you ever wished to really feel like an omnipotent Jedi, look no additional. If you ever wished to battle Wookies as Darth Vader, that is your recreation. Want to know what it was like for Boba Fett to get caught within the sarlacc pit? Starkiller dives headfirst into one. Never acquired the possibility to battle the Emperor? He’s the ultimate boss. The solely query now could be: will you select the darkish aspect 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

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