Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is a first- and third-person shooter video game, developed by Raven Software and published by LucasArts for the Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Xbox in 2003. Vicarious Visions was responsible for the development the Xbox version, while Aspyr published both the Windows and OS X versions. The game is a sequel to 2002's Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, and the fourth and final installment in the Star Wars: Jedi Knight series. The single-player story, set in the ficitonal Star Wars expanded universe two years after Jedi Outcast, follows Jaden Korr, a new student at Luke Skywalker's Jedi Academy under the tutelage of the previous games' protagonist, Kyle Katarn. The main storyline revolves around the Disciples of Ragnos, an organisation of Dark Jedi intent on resurrecting the ancient Sith Lord Marka Ragnos, which Jaden must help foil while slowly learning the ways of the Force and committing themselves to either the light side or the dark side.
|Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy|
|Series||Star Wars: Jedi Knight|
|Engine||id Tech 3|
Jedi Academy uses the same game enginge as Jedi Outcast, the id Tech 3, but features several technical improvements. Like Jedi Outcast, the game combines shooter elements with melee combat, allowing players to wield blasters, lightsabers, and a variety of Force powers. The lightsaber combat has been slightly improved, and both the player and enemies can now wield standard, double-bladed or dual lightsabers. In addition to customising their lightsaber, the player can also modify their character's appearance, choosing their species, gender, and clothing. Jedi Academy also features a multiplayer mode that allows players to compete in several different game modes online or over a local area network.
Upon release, the game received largely positive reviews. It was praised for the freedom it offered to players in terms of customisation and gameplay, allowing them to wield a lightsaber from the very beginning and to select the order in which they wish to complete missions, unlike its predecessors. One of the most praised elements was the lightsaber combat, which is still regarded by many as the best in any Star Wars game to date. However, the story and some technical issues received criticism. In September 2009, Jedi Academy was re-released onto Steam and Direct2Drive alongside the rest of the Jedi Knight series. A Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 port was announced in September 2019 and published by Aspyr in March 2020.
As a first and third-person shooter set in the Star Wars expanded universe, Jedi Academy puts the player into combat wielding a variety of firearms from that universe, as well as lightsabers and Force powers. The player can choose perspective for every weapon except for the lightsaber, which must be wielded in a third person view. The shooter aspects of the game are standard, including a variety of projectile and energy weapons and explosives. Players have a health meter and a shield meter, which are replenished separately.
In both single-player and multiplayer, the player character is a Force-user, who has access to a variety of Force powers in addition to their lightsaber(s). Powers include Push, Pull, Jump, Heal, Lightning, and other abilities from the Star Wars universe. Force powers are categorized into core, Light (defensive) and Dark (offensive), and each Force power has three ranks, with the power increasing in effectiveness with each rank. In both single-player and multiplayer, players choose how to rank up their powers, adding a layer of customization. During gameplay, the player has a "Force meter" which is depleted when powers are used, and recharges when no powers are in use.
Jedi Academy places a heavy emphasis on lightsaber combat. The player can create a custom lightsaber by selecting a hilt and one of five blade colors. Later in the game, the player can choose to wield a single saber, one saber in each hand, or a "saber staff" similar to the double ended lightsaber Darth Maul used in The Phantom Menace which also adds a kicking ability unavailable with any other lightsaber. The different sabers each have unique styles and special moves. When using a single saber, the player can choose between three stances which affect the speed and power of attacks; if using dual sabers, the player can switch off the second saber and use the "Fast"-style single-saber stance, or if using a saber staff, the player can switch the staff into a single-bladed saber that uses the "Medium"-style saber stance.
The player initially chooses the character's species and gender, and begins the game with a single lightsaber. Midway through the game, the player can choose to use dual sabers or a saber staff if desired. The campaign alternates between linear plot driven missions and user-selected missions. For user-selected missions, the player is given a list of five missions, and chooses the order in which to complete them. The player is only required to complete four of the missions before advancing, but is given the option of completing all five. Between missions the player can choose one of their Force skills to upgrade. This will increase the impact of that Force power, thus making the character more powerful as the game progresses. The game also introduces player-controllable vehicles and vehicle-based levels.
In multiplayer mode, one can play online or via a local area network (LAN) with other players, as well as computer-controlled bots. The player can create their avatar using a series of options, similar to the character creation in single-player. Alternatively the player can choose to play as one of almost all of the characters from Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy. Before a match begins, the server specifies the Force ranking to be used; this controls how many points the players have to invest in different Force powers. Players can then customize their powers for the match. The server can also disable normal weapons to create a lightsaber-only game. There are different multiplayer modes such as "Capture the flag", "Power Duel" and "Siege". Depending on the mode, players can play on their own or as part of a team. In comparison with the single-player gameplay, multiplayer requires a high level of skill and can have a steep learning curve, as stated by many. There are six multiplayer modes in total, but the most popular and most willingly modified is the "Free For All". Since 2011 the online community has started to slowly decline. As of May 2019, there were around 250 active players, but a third of them online at one time. There is a number of multiplayer modifications, the most popular being Movie Battles II, JA+ and Lugormod.
Jedi Academy is set in 14 ABY, a decade after the events Return of the Jedi and two years after Jedi Outcast. Players take on the role of Jaden Korr (voiced by Philip Tanzini if male, and Jennifer Hale if female), a talented Jedi Padawan who has built their own lightsaber and travels to the Jedi Academy on Yavin IV to learn the ways of the Force. En route to the Academy, Jaden befriends fellow student Rosh Penin (Jason Marsden), but the students' shuttle is suddenly shot down by an unknown enemy. Jaden and Rosh make their way to the Academy, where the former witnesses a woman using a staff to drain energy from the Temple, but is knocked out before they can intervene. Jaden is woken by Luke Skywalker (Bob Bergen) and Kyle Katarn (Jeff Bennett), who welcome them to the Academy. Jaden and Rosh are assigned to study under Kyle, but during their first training session, Rosh's over-competitiveness endangers Jaden. After the Jedi students complete their training, they are assigned various peace-keeping missions across the galaxy. During this time, Rosh becomes jealous of Jaden and begins to believe Kyle is trying to hold him back.
After several successful operations, Luke calls the students back to the Academy to tell them he has identified the Dark Jedi who attacked the Temple as members of a Sith cult called the Disciples of Ragnos. A member of the cult, the Twi'lek Alora (Grey DeLisle), infiltrated the Academy during the attack and stole Luke's journal, containing the locations of numerous locations strong with the Force. Believing the cult is looking to drain their Force energy, Luke sends the students to investigate each location, and Jaden goes to Hoth, where they find heavy Imperial presence, including several Dark Jedi. They encounter Alora, who flees after a brief fight, claiming she has found what she had come here for. Upon returning to the Academy, Jaden is saddened to learn Rosh never returned from his mission to Byss.
After Jaden completes more missions and has several run-ins with the Disciples, they and Kyle go to Darth Vader's abandoned fortress on Vjun—one of the few places unvisited by the Disciples—and find it crawling with stormtroopers and Dark Jedi. The pair fight them, but are eventually separated. Jaden encounters Rosh, who has fallen to the dark side and joined the Disciples to avoid being killed after they had captured him. Jaden defeats Rosh as Kyle arrives, but they are both incapacitated by Tavion (Kath Soucie), the Disciples' leader and the former apprentice of Kyle's enemy Desann (having previously appeared in Jedi Outcast). Tavion uses the Scepter of Ragnos, which can absorb and release Force energy, to trap Jaden and Kyle under debris, but the pair manage to escape, though the former's lightsaber is destroyed in the process. At the Academy, Jaden and Kyle inform Luke of their findings, and the former is honored for their actions by being promoted to the rank of Jedi Knight.
After building a new lightsaber, Jaden begins dismantling the Disciples' operations as they complete more missions, while Luke discovers that Tavion's plan with the stolen Force energy is to resurrect the ancient Sith Lord Marka Ragnos (Peter Lurie), who is buried on Korriban. While the Jedi prepare to go there, Kyle convinces Jaden to accompany him to a mining facility on Taspir III, from where Rosh has sent a distress signal. The pair split up and Jaden eventually finds Rosh, who claims he wants to redeem himself, but Jaden's feelings of betrayal manifest into anger. Alora tries to goad him into killing Rosh and joining the Disciples, while Kyle senses Jaden's anger and tries to telepathically dissuade him. If the player chooses the light side, Jaden forgives Rosh, whose arm is cut off by an enraged Alora. If the player chooses the dark side, Jaden kills Rosh, but refuses to join the Disciples, instead seeking the Scepter's power for themselves. Either way, Jaden kills Alora and travels to Korriban.
Jaden fights their way to Ragnos' tomb, where they confront Tavion and defeat her. If Jaden is light-sided, they spare Tavion, who completes the resurrection process, causing Ragnos' spirit to possess her. Jaden destroys the Scepter and defeats Ragnos, who leaves Tavion's lifeless body and returns to his tomb. At the Academy, Jaden reunites with Rosh, who has been outfitted with a prosthetic arm, and is honored by Luke, Kyle, and the other Jedi. If Jaden is dark-sided, they kill Tavion and claim the Scepter as Kyle arrives to confront them. Jaden defeats Kyle, burying him under debris, and escapes, taking command of Tavion's Star Destroyer, while Kyle is rescued by Luke and vows to hunt Jaden down, though Luke assures him that there is still good in them.
After Jedi Outcast was completed, LucasArts immediately approached Raven Software to develop a sequel. Production began and Raven was given a one-year development cycle. Like Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy uses a heavily modified Quake III: Team Arena game engine, and the development team was made up of people who worked on Jedi Outcast, as well as Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force.
An early decision made during development was whether or not to have Kyle Katarn as the playable character. This was due to the character already being a powerful Jedi Knight, and, as such, starting off with the Force skills would affect the gameplay. To resolve this issue, Raven chose to make the playable character a student in the Jedi Academy. By using a completely new character, the developers were able to insert features that allowed the player to customize the character, including race and gender, as well as the lightsaber color, hilt, and type. The Kyle Katarn character was then made an instructor in the academy so as to remain integral to the plot, to ensure Jedi Academy built upon the existing Jedi Knight series storyline. Raven extended the customization further as the game progresses by allowing the player to choose specific Force powers to train upon completion of missions. This was done with the intention of giving freedom to choose the way and style the game is played.
Another decision made early on was to include locations and aspects from the Star Wars movies. The designers wanted to use locations such as Tatooine and Hoth, as well as the Rancor creature. To develop the map for Hoth, the designers obtained as much source material from The Empire Strikes Back as possible so to create an authentic reproduction. Level Designer Justin Negrete says that Hoth was one of the most challenging areas to design. The general level design process started by planning out the level on paper. These ideas were then "fleshed out" to get the size and flow of the level. Once this had been done, features of the Quake III engine were used to add more detail such as lighting effects. The final stage of level design was adding aspects that improved the gameplay and fun of the level.
The mission based format of Jedi Academy was used by Raven to reduce the linearity of the game, allowing the players to progress through levels mostly in the order they desire. The reduction in linearity was also achieved by requiring 80% of levels to be completed before the plot can move on. Raven provided modding tools with Jedi Academy, but the company specified that such tools are unsupported by customer support, so to avoid receiving calls on the subject. Brett Tosti, a producer for LucasArts, stated that the customization of the player that is provided by the game out of the box will mean that people are less likely to need to create their own "skins". Additional textures and skins nevertheless became popular leading Mike Gummelt, who designed the lightsaber combat system in Outcast and Academy, to declare "the community really owns the game now". The community's continued interest has led some more recent reviews to conclude that Jedi Academy has a lightsaber engine superior to those developed before or since.
The game was published and distributed within North America by LucasArts. Activision took control of publishing and distributing the game in all other territories worldwide. The game was released for Microsoft Windows and OS X (published by Aspyr) on September 17, 2003 and for Xbox (developed by Vicarious Visions) in November 2003, and received positive reviews.
In September 2009, the game was re-released with the other Star Wars: Jedi Knight games (Star Wars: Dark Forces, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith and Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast) through the digital distributor Steam and Direct2Drive.
On September 19, 2019, it was announced that "Jedi Academy" would be re released on PS4 and Nintendo Switch in "early" 2020, to coincide with the re release of "Jedi Outcast", which was re released in December 2019, for multiple platforms.
On March 26, 2020, "Jedi Academy" was re released on PS4 Consoles with updated controls for modern hardware, and a fully functional multiplayer component directly mirroring the original's.
Following Disney's decision to close LucasArts on April 3, 2013, the developers at Raven Software released the source code for the game on SourceForge under GNU GPLv2 licensing. A few days after release, the source code disappeared from SourceForge without explanation. SourceForge later explained to media outlet Kotaku that Raven Software had requested its removal. Kotaku speculated this was due to the presence of licensed code, such as for the Bink Video format from Rad Game Tools, that was not intended to be made public. Based on the source release from Raven, Jedi Academy is maintained by the JACoders group as OpenJK.
Both the PC and Xbox versions of the game were well received. The PC version holds an aggregate score of 81 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on thirty-five reviews, and 80.18% on GameRankings, based on fifty-one reviews. The Xbox version holds aggregate scores of 76 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on thirty reviews, and 75.22% on GameRankings, based on forty-five reviews.
Positive reviews praised the fact that, unlike in Dark Forces II and Jedi Outcast, players could use a lightsaber from the beginning. Game Over Online scored the game 92% and commented that "You start instantly with your lightsaber, rather than wading through six painfully bland FPS levels to get your lightsaber as you did in Jedi Outcast". Critics lauded the lightsaber interface and player customization options. Ernie Halal of Gaming Age gave the game an A-, writing, "You choose not only the gender and race of your character, but also which powers and fighting styles to develop [...] Third person adventure games rarely offer that much customization."
Critics noted that, despite its age, the Quake III engine was used well. PC Gamer UK, who scored the game 70 out of 100, wrote "the engine, which although hardly groundbreaking any more, perfectly evokes the glow of the lightsaber and the grimy, metallic backgrounds of the films." Some critics did, however, note that the engine was starting to look dated.
The multiplayer, in particular the objective-based Siege mode, was well received. The music, sound effects, and voice acting also received acclaim, although some critics found it odd that all aliens spoke English.
The story and level design received mixed reactions. Some critics commended the levels as varied (both in terms of length and content). GameZone scored the game 9 out of 10, writing "Some are a fast blast that can be beat in ten or so minutes. Others [...] can take as long as hours [...] The change of pace is very refreshing." The story was described as "great" by GameZone and as "strong" by Gaming Age. IGN's Steve Butts, however, disliked the plot, feeling that "Jedi Outcast was more satisfying in terms of involvement with the story. Jedi Academy dishes out more action sooner but fails to put it in as solid a context as the previous game."
Game Over Online was critical of the mission structure, writing "This kind of free-form mission assignment [...] only serves to weaken the plotline. It also leads to a disjointedness to the missions [...] it seems more like roaming than any actual story advancement." GameSpot's Craig Beers, however, praised the mission structure; "Jedi Academy does an excellent job of balancing its missions." IGN also defended the system; "It's nice that the game offers a series of fairly short, relatively unconnected missions at the start. It's a great way to get your feet wet and ease you in to the environments and the saber fighting before the challenge level ramps up."
The AI was criticized by PC Gamer UK as "laughable"; "Every encounter you have is filled with people too stupid to realise that running away or taking some sort of cover would be the best option. [Jedi Academy] requires little to no skill to play through." This opinion was echoed by GameSpot: "Stormtroopers usually just stand there shooting away at you [...] Dark Jedi rush at you, even after watching four of their brethren plummet to a horrible death. Occasionally, you'll see an enemy accidentally commit suicide by falling off a cliff or falling into lava, enemies will not even dive for cover or try and throw it back if you throw an uncooked thermal detonator at them."
Despite his criticism of the AI, GameSpot's Craig Beers scored the game 8.4 out of 10, writing "It manages to take all the fun parts from its predecessor and greatly expands them to create an engaging, new action game in its own right." IGN's Steve Butts scored the game 8.8 out of 10, giving it an "Editor's Choice Award" and writing "If you like Star Wars and think flipping around chopping up Stormtroopers and flinging Dark Jedi off of conveniently placed precipices is fun, then this game is definitely for you." Eurogamer's Kristan Reed was less impressed, scoring the game 7 out of 10, writing "The harsh reality is, for all the plentiful additions, there's much work to be done before LucasArts can boast it has created the ultimate Star Wars FPS. Sure, it's the best one yet, but with some often laughable AI and creaking tech underpinning it, the flaws are there for all to see."
Kevin Gifford of 1UP.com scored the Xbox version a B-. He lauded the addition of Xbox Live support and the ability to use a lightsaber from the opening, two of biggest criticisms of Jedi Outcast. However, he called the graphics "worryingly out of date by current Xbox standards", saying that when playing in first-person mode "the game looks more like a two-year-old PC shooter than a modern Star Wars game." He concluded that "The Xbox Live games make Jedi Academy worth at least a rental to online players, but otherwise, this game's worth it to Star Wars fans only." Eurogamer's Kristan Reed was also somewhat unimpressed, scoring the game 6 out of 10 and criticizing the controls; "In common with the PC version, you still find yourself going into battle and fumbling furiously through cyclical menus while numerous baddies are busy blasting seven shades out of you." She was also critical of the AI and the graphics, concluding that "It's good to see Live make the package this time around, but we're disappointed that after all these years LucasArts is still scratching around abusing the Star Wars brand in this way. There are some good ideas here that haven't been realised, and we're once again left waiting for the definitive Star Wars FPS to appear."
IGN were more impressed, scoring the game 8 out of 10. Although they were critical of the graphics and frame rate, and found the game to be inferior to Jedi Outcast, reviewer Steve Butts concluded "For the 15 or so hours that it lasted, I enjoyed Jedi Academy." GameSpot's Craig Beers scored the game 8.1 out of 10. He praised the mapping of the PC version's controls to the Xbox Controller and the implementation of Xbox Live, but like IGN, he was critical of the frame rates. He concluded that "The game may not look great, but it translates well to the Xbox--for those who would prefer to play it on a console. It even caters to those who aren't familiar with the Star Wars universe and just want pure action. In general, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is highly recommendable." GameZone's Nick Valentino scored the game 8.2 out of 10 and was especially impressed with the use of Xbox live; "the biggest draw--and the one that has me playing this one very often--is the fact that the multiplayer modes can also be played online using the Xbox Live service. That's right, you read it correctly. You can duel against other Xbox gamers out there using any of the seven multiplayer modes and even talk trash using your Xbox Communicator. Here's your chance to see if you're truly good with the lightsaber."
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