This is actually the only one of this series I had never fully played before. I remember downloading a shitty ripped version of it on dial-up back in the day, and without the cutscenes or a proper 3dfx card it was just too ugly and confusing to get into at the time. I think I tried one more time later and again just found it too ugly to mess with. This time, after over an hour of fucking around trying to get the game to run with 3d acceleration on without lagging or crashing, I finally got it running at max in all it’s 90s 3d glory. Yeah, this was right at the awkward dawn of the age of 3d, back when everything had just made the leap from 2d into a disgusting, blocky mess of polygons.
Even the weapon models are a blocky mess. It almost makes Dark Forces 1 look good in comparison. You know, I’m realizing right now too that Quake 2 also came out this same year and looked amazing in comparison so this can’t be entirely blamed on tech limitations. It was just a really fucking ugly game. It’s also one of the most unstable games I’ve ever played, by which I mean it crashed almost much every time there was a loading screen. It also crashed every time I tried to take video footage, hence you being stuck with just boring old pictures. Look in amazement at this fucking ground texture!
Level design shares the same problems as Dark Forces, with your mission objectives being way too vague, key items being too obscurely hidden, and even worse so than before due to the graphics, as things tend to all kind of blend together in a disgusting splatter of ugliness. There was also that one level that literally made me almost throw up. It involves escaping from a crashing spaceship, where gravity was going nuts (or maybe they just don’t understand how gravity works, I don’t know) and you’re trying to get from one end to the other of this ship as it starts tilting downwards and partially sideways as if it were a sinking ship in the water. Everything is at such wrong angles and you have to move through it at such high speed due to the time limit, that it was the most vertigo-inducing experience I’ve ever had in a video game, and believe me, I am no stranger to bizarre gravity shifting first person games, this was just really painfully designed.
Now, to give it SOME credit, the shooting gameplay was still pretty fast-paced and fun and they added a save feature, so no more worrying about limited lives. On the other hand…there was also the new lightsaber combat and force powers. LOOK AT THOSE HIGH TECH LIGHTSABER EFFECTS!
The lightsabers, like all the other weapons, are just hideous and they aren’t much better in terms of functionality either. Lightsaber combat consists of a single button, the attack button. You can swing it or if you stand still you do kind of an auto-deflect move, but it doesn’t always work, especially if you start moving. In other words, it’s completely unreliable and useless and it’s much easier to just continue using guns all the time…except you can’t, because there are forced lightsaber duel boss levels where the bosses can perfectly block all guns. These battles consist almost entirely of spinning around the boss in a circle as fast as you can so that you can just keep stabbing them in the ass until they die. Trying to fight them head-on is futile when your ability to block is basically just luck based. It’s extremely unpleasant and I don’t know how anyone ever thought this was fun.
Force powers are also a clumsy mess. Most of them are basically useless and the way they’re set up, so that you either bind 9 or so different extra keys just for each power, or manually scroll through them and select one with the default force power button, which naturally never stays where you leave it. When you’re in the middle of a gunfight with six enemies you really don’t have time to fuck around trying to get force push, or some other similarly limp-wristed power, to activate when you can just gun them all down normally much more quickly and efficiently. So great, you’re finally a real JEDI KNIGHT, but you can’t actually use any of the Jedi stuff because it’s all awful. Yay. BUT HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THAT FUCKING WATER EFFECT!
There were also a whole bunch of unbelievably bad live action cutscenes between levels, but that’s pretty standard issue for the 90s. I don’t know. I feel like I enjoyed it in some ways at the time, but looking back on it already, it obviously had a lot of serious problems that are pretty off-putting, and I don’t think I could ever force myself to play this one again.
As for Mysteries of the Sith, the expansion, well I gave up about two hours in. This was designed by different, even less competent people, and it really shows. Cutscenes are replaced by super grainy in-game footage that seemed to be taken with the graphics on low for some reason and the level design took a huge turn for the worse. I mean I got stuck 10 fucking minutes into the game. Turned out there was a grate in the ceiling, in a section that doesn’t look at all like you should be able to walk on it, way in the back of the building that leads to the rest of the level. Got stuck again in level 2 because I got to a part where the only way forward was an area on the other side of a huge death chasm, where there is a huge cannon shooting at you from behind a force field. There is no visible way to disable it anywhere. There is nowhere else for you to go. Turns out you have to exploit the game’s own broken mechanics to pass this by standing in the exact right spot such that the turret will fire into a stupidly placed fuel barrel on its side of the field, which shouldn’t work because whenever you’re obscured from it’s view by any other object, it stops firing at you, but no, not the special fuel drum. Whatever. Level 3? I don’t even know. Got to another dead end with nothing but locked doors and nowhere to go and just said fuck this shit. I’m DONE. (Well, I’ll move on to the other, much better, Jedi Knight games still, but not right now. Need a break from these…)