Does LucasArts’ expansion pack Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith reach the same high level of Star Wars quality as the original lightsaber action game Jedi Knight – Dark Forces II?
Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith (PC)
(USA 1998, developer: LucasArts (defunct), publishers: LucasArts (defunct)/Disney, platform: PC)
Five years after the events in the Valley of the Jedi, Kyle Katarn goes missing on a remote planet that is in some way important to the Empire and connected to the ways of the Jedi, while his apprentice Mara Jade, formerly very close to the Emperor, tries to find out what happened to him after finishing her own Republic missions.
Two Jedis for the price of one
The story is divided into two parts, starting with Kyle Katarn for the first few levels and then moving on to Mara Jade, which means that an intriguing mystery of his whereabouts should function as a compelling narrative device. Unfortunately, this change in point of view comes rather late, and the missions Jade takes on for the Republic aren’t as exciting as one would like them to be. She might be an interesting character in the excellent Timothy Zahn trilogy books she appeared in, but her relationship with Kyle and her motivation to help the Republic falls rather flat and doesn’t make her the round or memorable character she is. It doesn’t mean that the story lacks surprises and a few unexpected twists involving the betrayal by and pursuit of seedy individuals, but there’s less emotional attachment to the characters than in the original game.
More puzzles with harder fights
Gameplay-wise, a bigger emphasis is on puzzle solving which often requires the use of force powers or finding specific items. The former can be quite fun, while the latter results in annoying backtracking, as one can easily miss these and switches which open new areas. Puzzles are varied, but stop the flow of the game in later levels when enemies become so strong that one hit means death, giving the player rarely enough time to take in the environment. In other cases, even after having cleared most areas from nasties, the lack of hints of what to do makes running through the levels feel like a drag. Even if they’re well integrated into the story, the levels could have been less confusing and more straightforward. Fortunately, there are a few memorable highlights in level design, e.g. when escaping a prison without any weapons at the beginning or fighting a Rancor, a giant beast of destruction.
The Force is still strong and mysterious
Force powers again offer the player different strategies how to go against the overwhelming number of enemies with various dark and light ones to level up, branching out in various offensive and defensive attributes. Star powers are provided in the same unpredictable quantity as in the original game, which also means that the order in which certain powers are unlocked remains a mystery unless they are actually available, making the planning process quite difficult. It’s also disappointing that one isn’t given the chance to make any moral decisions, except at the end of the game.
Still looking old and sounding like a mixed sci-fi bag
Graphically, the game only shows a few improvements in a new lighting system, while the character models and backgrounds are as outdated as the first game was. LucasArts decided to drop the FMV sequences and only used the in-game engine to tell the story. While it makes the presentation more coherent, dramatic and action-packed sequences suffer from slowdowns and the poor resolution, evoking a less cinematic feeling. The music is just as great as a Star Wars-themed soundtrack can be, although the voice acting is quite terrible at times.
The curse of an add-on
Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith is a game that follows in the footsteps of the original, but lacks the narrative consistency, while relying too much on puzzle-solving and labyrinthine level design. It’s still fun to play while it lasts for less than ten hours, but with a story that has a rather boring middle part and an ending that’s too sentimental and silly, this suffers the same fate so many sequels or expansion packs do: being more of the same, but nothing special, even if it doesn’t go the easy way of adding disconnected levels
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