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Review by: Emil Pagliarulo
Published: February 10, 1998
If I expressed in this review my full enthusiasm for Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, I’d be in quite a bit of trouble. Here’s the censored version of an ICQ message I sent to Avault staff writer David Laprad, shortly after spending a marathon gaming session playing MoTS: “Holy &%$@! Dude, this *&%$#@& game is un-*%@*+$# believable!” If human beings (me especially) use expletives to express excitement, then trust me when I that say LucasArts’ newest release is more than worth the “F” word.
Add-on packs, as a rule, are strange beasts. Some can make a great gaming experience mediocre at best, as was the case with the recent Quake 2 total conversion, Juggernaut. Others, like The Price of Loyalty expansion for Heroes of Might and Magic II, can supercharge an already great game. Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith is the exception to the rule. Much more than just a set of additional levels, it is as much a full game as the original Jedi Knight, and in many respects, supercedes it. Not only does it follow a completely new storyline (actually, multiple storylines), it gives Jedi Knight players fourteen new levels spanning four scenarios, nineteen new multiplayer arenas, five new force powers, seven new weapons and weapon enhancements, tons of new enemies, and on, and on, and on. In fact, Mysteries of the Sith is more like a mini-sequel than it is a mere expansion. Think of it as Jedi Knight 1 1/2.
Mysteries of the Sith takes place five years after the events that transpired in Jedi Knight. Kyle Katarn, now a full-fledged Jedi Master, has remained true to the light side of the Force. Even more, he has taken on a disciple, the roguish Mara Jade — ex-agent of the Emperor, former smuggler and space pirate, up-and-coming Jedi Knight, and creation of Timothy Zahn. As the game begins, an engine-rendered cutscene shows Kyle and Mara in a lightsaber training session. Kyle is barely done complimenting his pupil on her use of the Force when, “Wham! Bang! Captain Katarn, report to ops immediately!” In a scene right out of The Empire Strikes Back, the Rebel outpost on Altyr 5 is assaulted by Imperial forces, who have begun bombarding the installation from space using powerful weapons platforms disguised as asteroids. What’s worse, they have landed on the planet, and have breached the perimeter of the base. When the cutscene ends, you’ve hardly got time to breathe before you’re thrust into the action as Kyle Katarn, racing to help out your comrades as Rebel soldiers and Imperial Stormtroopers engage in running blaster battles all around you. Turn a corner, and “Boom!” — a wall blows apart, and ‘Troopers swarm in like insects. As exciting as it sounds, I’m not even doing the action any real justice. It really was like being part of one of the Star Wars movies, and the action itself is almost cinematic as it plays out (and this is true of the entire game).
From there, you’ll retain control of Kyle for the next three levels, as he sneaks about one of the orbiting asteroids of death and attempts to stop the bombardment. Once that mission’s accomplished, the aging Jedi — oh yeah, did I mention Kyle now has gray sideburns? — returns to his Rebel friends, and his cynical sidekick. Where’s Jan Ors, you ask? Good question. The faithful co-pilot of the Moldy Crow is nowhere to be seen. But no matter, Mara Jade more than makes up for her absence. It’s a good thing, too, because from that point on the game switches to her perspective. While aboard the orbiting asteroid, Kyle uncovered information about a hidden Sith temple on the swamp planet of Dromund Kaas. So, he takes off to confront his destiny, leaving you help out the New Republic. Here, Mysteries of the Sith really shows its depth. Stephen Shaw and company have managed to interweave multiple storylines into the add-on, without losing track of the main theme (Kyle’s search for the lost Sith temple) or disrupting the flow of the action. On the contrary, the game is all the more exciting, because you never know where you’re going to end up or what challenges will be thrown your way. Hey, it’s a big galaxy.
As Mara, your missions aren’t as life-altering as they are (or were, in Jedi Knight) for Kyle Katarn. Mysteries of the Sith plays out a little more like the original Dark Forces, with Mara Accepting assignments from the New Republic. These “jobs” take the form of two separate episodes. The first, “Ka’Pa the Hutt,” has Mara suckered into doing a job for one of the slimy crime lords before he’ll agree to secure supplies for the New Republic. It would seem the Hutts aren’t too keen on the Rebels ever since Jabba got his windpipe crushed by Leia’s slave chain (not to mention the crisping of his body when the sail barge blew up). Before the big slug will help you out, it’s off to the spaceport of Katrasii to pay a little “visit” to Abron Mar, right-hand man to intergalactic bigwig Katara. You’ve got to detain Mar long enough to weasel your way into seeing his boss, in order to take care of some business for Ka’Pa. Let’s just say things don’t go exactly as you planned….
Your second mission for the New Republic leaves you less than pleased — babysitting duty onboard a Rebel transport. When pirates decide to disrupt things (parking their 3D-rendered Nebulon-B Frigate right outside your viewport), you realize Mon Mothma wanted you on board for a reason. What follows is a boarding sequence right out the beginning of Star Wars, with Rebel soldiers running down the halls of your Corellian Corvette, blasters firing. It should be noted that the ship (it’s the same one as Leia’s Blockade Runner at the beginning of Star Wars) is fully modelled, from bow to stern. Hell, even the gun turret works! The next couple of missions take you from an orbiting shipyard all the way to the sprawling stronghold of Kaerrobanii, the pirate leader. It would seem that Kaerrobanii is quite the collector of rare antiquities, and the precious item he stole from the Rebel cargo ship must be retaken from his treasure room.
The final mission takes on a more personal bent, as Mara goes in search of Kyle, who has not yet returned from Dromund Kaas. She assumes, correctly, that maybe her mentor ran into more than he bargained for at the ancient Sith temple. Besides being the most difficult, these final three missions offer some unique challenges. Foremost is the uselessness of your weapons; you see, with all of your assorted guns filled with swamp muck, they do little more than gurgle and sputter when the trigger is pulled. Shooting a rail detonator is particularly amusing, as the charges sort of lob clumsily into the air and just plop down without any kind of explosion. You’ll have to rely on your lightsaber and Force powers to overcome all of the various obstacles and enemies. Good luck — you’ll need it.
Gameplay is even further enhanced by the new multiplayer modes and characters. Instead of just playing as a completely customized, generic figure, a player can choose to do battle as one of four “characters.” There’s the Scout, Soldier, Bounty Hunter, and Jedi. Each has his own particular weapons and items, and is suited to a particular type of gameplay. For example, the Scout comes will the killer Electroscope and makes a great sniper, but is completely without a lightsaber. There’s also a great new multiplayer game, “Kill the fool with the Ysalimiri.” The Ysalimiri is a small lizard-like creature that can nullify the power of the Force; things can get pretty interesting when your inherent abilities suddenly switch completely off in the middle of a life-and-death battle! In addition to the new game and options, there are a whopping nineteen new multiplayer levels in which to do battle on. Many of these are faithful representations of locations in the Star Wars trilogy, like the Carbon Freezing Chamber, Tatooine Homestead, Emperor’s Throne Room, and Cloud City Gantry. And you guessed it, you even get some of the cool features found in these places. In the Carbon Freezing Chamber, you can use the Force Pull ability to activate the carbon freezing unit, just as Vader did in The Empire Strikes Back. In the Cloud City Gantry level, smashing that round window will actually suck you out into the giant ventilation shaft!
Surprisingly, though, there are features conspicuously missing from the multiplayer levels, when they just as easily could have been added. That giant window that you can smash? Well, you have to actually hit it with something. There are no debris objects lying around that could be manipulated with the Force Throw ability. Why not? This is something that could have easily been implemented, and it is the way Vader did it. Weird…. Jabba’s Palace features a Rancor pit…but no Rancor. How come? There’s a Rancor in the single-player game; it could have easily been placed in the multiplayer map. Still, though, these complaints are minimal, and the new multiplayer maps are really great.
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