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To those who aren't in the norm, Legacy is a series of comics set a century after the original trilogy that centre on the adventures of Cade Skywalker, the heir to the Skywalker lineage. When the Sith attack the Jedi Academy on the planet Ossus, Cade's father, Jedi Master Kol Skywalker, is struck down by the Sith Lord Darth Nihl and swears vengeance against the Sith. However, he disappears and is presumed dead though his Master Wolf Sazen senses him through the Force. Seven years later, Cade has left the Jedi and is now a bounty hunter working alongside Deliah Blue and Jariah Syn. On a mission, Cade has a run in with the Sith and also reunites with is Master and former friend and fellow student Shado Vao, along with an encounter with the Imperial Princess Marasiah Fel and becomes torn between his new role with his friends and his heritage.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
Star Wars on T.V couldn't be any better
When news of a new CGI-animated Star Wars T.V series based around the mythical conflict the Clone Wars came, fans were divided over the news. Some were content to see the Star Wars franchise take a new direction whilst some felt dismissive, already exasperated with three recent films and a micro series already based around the war. The 2008 feature film that was intended to kick-start the show only raised eyebrows as evidenced by the malevolent reviews. When the series debuted a few months later however, fans were surprised. The Clone Wars was a surprisingly compelling and engaging show that featured the same characters from the films that whilst felt somewhat different from their movie counterparts, were still the same. On top of that, some exciting and innovative story arcs and some neat animation made it the best T.V series to have the Star Wars title.
The characters from the prequels are all back. Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padme Amidala, Yoda, Mace Windu, Count Dooku etc. The show focuses on the many battles the Republic and the Separatists clash over between the events of Attack of the Clones (when the war started) and Revenge of the Sith (when it ended). Our heroes face many new threats not faced in the movies like Dooku's dark side adept Asajj Ventress 9a major antagonist in the EU material and the micro series), Jabba the Hutt's flamboyant and treacherous uncle Ziro, the ruthless bounty hunter Cad Bane, the pirate leader Hondo Ohnaka, the Zabrak dark side warrior Savage Oppress and the return of a villain thought dead from the films. In these adventures, Anakin is joined by his new apprentice, a brash youngling named Ahsoka Tano as well as Clone Captain Rex.
This series is different from the 2003 micro series in many ways; the obvious factor being the animation. The characters are more fleshed out in this show and there is a better focus on characters and story arcs. The original series was more about fun action and eye popping animation which I can respect it for. However, when comparing the two shows, this blows the original out of the water in my opinion. Some even argue that the characters are better fleshed out than in the prequel films. I disagree to some extent about that belief but I do think these characters are well developed here. Obi-Wan still retains Ewan McGregor's persona of orthodox teacher with a dry wit. Matt Lanter, known for starring in those horrible Friedberg/Seltzer comedies is surprisingly pretty effective as Anakin despite not sounding much like Hayden Christensen. Ahsoka, who I found annoying in the film debut, has matured much more throughout the show and become a fully realized and likable character. I also think Padme is more realized here than in Episodes I and II. The clone troopers here also have their own identities and personalities. Dooku's moral ambiguity which I admired in Episode II is largely absent but the character of Asajj is a well thought out and deeply explored character. General Grievous is more intimidating in this endeavour than in Episode III which is a plus whilst the battle droids are even more irritating and inconceivably stupid this time around which is a slight nuisance.
The new characters are a lot of fun. Ziro the Hutt is a pretty laughable villain for the wrong reasons. He is entertaining because of how over- the-top camp-as-Christmas he is. Cad Bane makes for a slick and intimidating threat and proving that even a mere bounty hunter can get the drop on a Jedi. Clancy Brown, the Kurgan from Highlander, voices Savage Oppress, the brother of the Sith Lord Darth Maul. Savage is the best addition; an intimidating best of a warrior who, whilst his power are in infancy, is on the path to becoming something more powerful. The revelation of Darth Maul's survival could've turned into a really contrived ploy to gain publicity for the show but even that was worked in well and we see and understand more of his character this time around rather than a simple few minutes and three lines of dialogue in Episode I.
The Clone Wars features some gripping story arcs throughout the five seasons run. My personal favourites are the Savage Oppress, Darth Maul and the Nightsisters arc of Seasons Three and Four and the Mortis story arc in Season Three. The former provides backstory to two important villains, Asajj Ventress and Darth Maul. The latter deals with Anakin's role as the Chosen One and his role to bring balance to the Force. The final season is left on a downside and because of the Disney acquisition of the franchise, it was cancelled after that episode. Creator Dave Filoni however has asserted that there will be more episodes in the DVD release of the fifth season which I look forward to checking out. It's shame that the series as of now ended like this and I hope it gets picked up again
The Clone Wars is a terrific piece of televised animation and an essential piece of fiction in the Star Wars universe. I myself originally had no intention of watching an episode based on my disillusionment with the film but it won me over quickly and remains one of my favourite shows. It really is worth your time if you're a Star Wars fan. You just might have to watch the film first to understand more about what's going on.
Fails both as a competent game and as a continuation of the story.
I was one of the few people who actually enjoyed the first SW: Force Unleashed game. It had a few disappointing elements to it but it was overall an ambitious and action-packed video game with a creative and exciting story and some fun gameplay and the climax sets up the premise of the Rebel story in the original trilogy perfectly well. With The Force Unleashed II, the developers decided to take the ending to the first game and craft a story that is too short, lacking in substance and undoes the ending to its predecessor egregiously. It also fails to make up for those flaws with repetitive gameplay, obnoxious voice acting and bland levels.
A year after the events in the first game, Darth Vader arrives at the cloning facility on Kamino where he meets his new specimen, a clone of Galen 'Starkiller' Marek, his deceased apprentice who defected to the Rebel Alliance and fought against his master and the Emperor before his death. Using tissue from Starkiller's corpse on the Death Star, Vader has attempted to grow a perfect clone of his apprentice but to no avail as they had all become mad and unstable. This latest clone appears to be the final specimen but when he begins having recurring visions of Starkiller's old lover Juno Eclipse, Vader realizes that the cloning process has once again failed and tries to kill this clone. However, this one escapes and manages to make his way off Kamino to search for his former mentor and ally Rahm Kota who is held hostage in an Imperial- controlled city on Cato Neimoidia. Starkiller makes his way there and saves Kota in a gladiatorial arena but not before battling and killing the giant Gorog creature. Onboard the Rogue Shadow, Kota denies that Starkiller is a clone due to the impossibility of cloning Jedi. Starkiller however decides to venture somewhere to meditate and find his identity and travels to Dagobah after learning about it from Kota.
The story to TFU II is not just disappointing but also unnecessary. Why they decided to bring back Starkiller is just baffling to me considering how poignant the end to the first game was. Doing a sequel to the game is not a bad idea if they maybe focused on a different character or made a spin-off game involving another character. Here, it just feels like a lazy attempt to cash in on the character using two lightsabers. The story focuses on Starkiller trying to locate Juno and reclaim his love for her but the end result is unsatisfying because they never shared any moments together in it and them setting out together at the end just feels soulless and rushed. The conclusion is also left opening the possibility of a third game which is a pain. There's a pretty cool backstory surrounding the creation of the clone before the events of this game which are unlocked by completing different chapters but it should really appear in the game's main story rather than just be a mere bonus feature. Yoda and Boba Fett make cameos in this game but are both underused and really only there to remind gamers that they are playing a Star Wars game.
The gameplay can be described as repetitive and rehashed. Starkiller using two lightsabers is fun at first but gets really old after a while. The boss battles are rehashed and the same ones reappear in nearly every chapter, becoming really irritating and lazy; although the Gorog battle and the final duel with Darth Vader are exceptions. The only level that really stands out is the final one on Kamino, deep inside the cloning facility but even that can get boring after a while. There is one level on Dagobah which could've been a fun interesting level to play through but only lasts for one minute and only requires the player to walk to the one checkpoint. This could easily have been solved in one cutscene. The light side/dark side ending is still here but is only decided by the pressing of a button. Truly, hard work was put into crafting this game.
What's equally annoying is the voice acting. Sam Witwer and Cully Frederickson, both voicing Starkiller and Kota respectively, stand out as providing the most obnoxious voice acting I've heard in a game. Witwer spends the last level of the game screaming and shouting like a teenager arguing with his Dad. And people say Hayden Christensen is annoying. Frederickson spends most of the game moaning at Starkiller and spouting out 'words of wisdom' like an exasperated old dude who had just been drinking. In the first game, Kota was a drunk has-been for most of the second half but then reverted back to his dignified wise self toward the end. Now, he's reverted back, only.. more annoying.
The Force Unleashed II is a disappointing tripe of a game that fails to be fun or develop a compelling continuation to the story which had already resolved perfectly in the first game. The graphics in the game look somewhat good-looking but other than that, there is little to appreciate. I actually hope that there will be a Force Unleashed III being released that will in someway make up for this but I doubt it will ever evolve past the early stages. For now, I find little to enjoy here. Bland gameplay, irritating voice acting, an incompetent story and insulting cameos from popular characters make this a tragic disappointment of a game.
Star Wars: Battlefront II (2005)
More fun action in a Star Wars game.
Star Wars: Battlefront II is often accepted by mainstream gamers as the best Star Wars game. Even people who dislike Star Wars get a fun time out of playing it. Whilst I won't agree that it's the best Star Wars game, I still think it's an awesome game that takes many of the aspects from the first game (which was already a terrific game) and gives it more juice and more immersive gameplay. The ability to play as Jedi or Sith heroes in combat raised anticipation for this sequel and it paid off.
The inclusion of characters from the movies as playable heroes in battle is sure to gain fan's attention. Along with Jedi and Sith characters, players can also control non-Force using characters like Jango and Boba Fett, General Grievous, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca. The following playable characters available are Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Yoda, Ki-Adi-Mundi and Aayla Secura for the Republic; Darth Maul, Jango Fett, General Grievous and Count Dooku for the Separatists; Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca for the Rebels; Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker (in his original Jedi attire), Boba Fett and the Emperor for the Empire. The heroes are available for a short period of time in a battle but time can be increased depending on the amount of enemies killed or if players change the options. The Jedi mechanics are nowhere near as innovative as in games like Jedi Outcast or KOTOR but they are adequate enough for this type of game.
Space battles have also been added in allowing for the opportunity to engage in dogfights against the enemy and land in the enemy flagship to cause damage. A hunt mode that pits players against the natives of a planet or against an enemy faction as the natives is also added in; players can play as the Gungans on Naboo, the Geonosians on Geonosis, the Wookiees on Kashyyyk, the Tuskens or Jawas in Mos Eisley, the Wampas on Hoth and the Ewoks on Endor. There are is also one additional unit for each faction with their special ability like in the first game. Because the first Battlefront was released before Revenge of the Sith, the final movie released, there are also new Episode III locales like Utapau, Mustafar and an updated Kashyyyk along with added in locations from the original trilogy like the Death Star, Jabba the Hutt's palace, Dagobah and the Tantive IV. However, some battlefronts from the first game like Cloud City, the Tatooine Dune Sea and Rhen Var have been removed which is quite an annoyance but a bit nitpicky on my part.
There is also a historical campaign mode which allows players to play as the soldiers of the 501st Legion from a clone soldier of the Galactic Republic to an Imperial stormtrooper of the Empire with battles from the movies being playable like Geonosis, the Jedi Temple on Courscant, Yavin 4 and Hoth and original battles fought on Naboo, Kamino and Polis Massa. This differs from the more basic and less story oriented campaign mode form the first game. It's worth playing but can make you feel cheated due to the absence of a campaign mode for the Separatists and Rebels.
Battlefront II follows the first game's formula of being a basic fun action platformer to play. It may not be the best Star Wars game but is definitely the most fun you can get out of playing one.
Mass Effect 3 (2012)
A heart-wrenching and all around great way to end the trilogy.
Mass Effect 3 was one of the most eagerly awaited games of this decade, considering the popularity of the first two games. The series has become my all time favourite video game and gives new meaning to the definition of role-playing game. Mass Effect 3 fails to attain the depth and richness of Mass Effect 2 but is more engaging and compelling than the first game (which was a great game anyway). The controversial ending can be forgiven with the Extended Cut DLC released a few months after for fan appreciation and for the game being a compelling play anyway. This is an astonishing achievement in video gaming and some of the best you can get out of playing a game, giving humanity to its story, character and emotional impact on the gamer.
ME3 opens almost a year after the events in ME2. Shepard has surrendered himself into Alliance custody on Earth following his/her previous affiliation with the human supremacist organization Cerberus. However, Alliance High Command has received disturbing reports of Reapers coming into the galaxy. When Shepard is called to a conference with Admiral Anderson to give his/her findings, the Reapers suddenly descend down to Earth and wreak havoc. Shepard and Anderson make it to safety and a redesigned Normandy SR-2 with Alliance signatures arrives. Shepard retains command of his/her vessel and leaves Earth to speak to the Council and gather all the civilizations of the galaxy to fight the Reapers and take back Earth. Anderson however stays behind to lead the resistance on Earth with Shepard reluctantly agreeing. Shepard is reunited with Joker and former team member Major Kaidan Alenko/Lieutenant-Commander Ashley Williams (depending on who survived ME1) along with new ally Lieutenant James Vega. Before heading to the Citadel, Shepard and his/her team stop off at the Research Archives on Mars to find any evidence of a Prothean superweapon that may stop the Reapers. Shepard is reunited with Liara T'Soni, now the new Shadow Broker who rejoins the team, but Cerberus who are also after the superweapon plans with the Illusive Man exacting retribution on Shepard following the events in ME2 and having his own twisted plans of dealing with the Reapers. Shepard and his/her team manage to retrieve the plans but Kaidan/Ashley is severely wounded by the Illusive Man's android henchman. With Kaidan/Ashley in hospital on the Citadel recovering from his/her wounds, Shepard and Liara meet with the Council where they discuss the Prothean weapon codenamed Crucible. The Council agree to assist in the construction of the weapon if Shepard and his/her crew rally other allies for support, starting with the acquisition of the Turian leader on Palaven along with curing the Krogan Genophage, stopping a Cerberus attack on the Citadel, resolving the Quarian/Geth conflict and other skirmishes to defeat the Reapers.
Just like with its predecessor, ME3 allows players to import saved games from previous games to continue the story in a more interactive play-through with past events in the previous instalments having more impact. The Normandy has also been fully redesigned with better compartments and more accessories the player can use. There is considerably less squad members in this game than there are in ME2 which allows for a more personal connection between the characters. Along with Kaidan/Ashley, Liara and new character James, Garrus and Tali return if either of them survived the suicide mission in ME2. EDI, the Normandy's AI, also appears as a squad member in android form. An additional squad member only available through DLC is a cryonically preserved Prothean warrior named Javik. Past squad members make reappearances if they survived the past games and romances with any ME2 characters can be continued albeit less satisfying than with a squad member in ME3 due to availability. The characters have evolved more in their previous incarnations and are more mature and balanced.
The graphics of ME3 look better than ever with terrific level design and more challenging enemies to face. The lighting in this game is also much darker than in the other games, primarily on the Normandy, which highlights the grim dark tone of this instalment compared to the previous two. As well as the mutated Reaper forces that Shepard and his/her allies face, Cerberus have now become the enemy too (technically they were from the beginning, but they really show their true colours here). Side-quests in this game are also more reliable to completing the full game in order to gather the forces of the galaxy to attain the best possible readiness rating against the Reapers to gain the best outcome at the end.
Now let's discuss the ending: the one reason why ME3 has gained a lot of the negativity it has. The original ending is rushed and unrefined with little impact of the galaxy's stability after the defeat of the Reapers. The Extended Cut fixes many of these problems; the amount of readiness needed for the best ending has dropped down to make it easier, there are more cut-scenes with the impact of romance sub-plots shown and a better resolution for Shepard's allies. The choices Shepard makes also have better stake here and feels more compelling. There are many moments in ME3 guaranteed to generate tears and the improved ending delivers on that. It is free to download off of Xbox Live so it should not be a total pain to get.
Mass Effect 3 is a tremendous piece of gaming that despite some faults, is a great way to finish off the franchise. It's unlikely that BioWare would make a Mass Effect 4 though a spin-off game will likely come to fruition. Shepard's journey has been a long and treacherous route but also fun, tearful and engaging. Few games pack in terrific gameplay and this much emotion together to make me care about what will happen to the characters. These games have been some of the greatest things to happen to me and I will miss experiencing them on first tries.
A nice cinematic game that bridges the gap between the two trilogies
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was probably the most hyped Star Wars video game beside the MMORPG, The Old Republic. Hailed as the breakthrough in lighstaber gaming for the current generation of consoles, expectations were understandably high. The game was delayed numerous times and eventually arrived in 2008 to fairly positive but overall disappointing reviews. Whilst this game could've been more epic in terms of gameplay, for what we got, this is a solid game with a great cinematic story, terrific animation and at times frustrating but fun gameplay. The story of Darth Vader's secret apprentice and the birth of the Rebel Alliance is worthwhile if you're a huge Star Wars fan.
A year after the events in Revenge of the Sith, Darth Vader leads the Imperial fleet to the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk to find and kill a rogue Jedi named Kento Marek. Vader succeeds in his task but also discovers Kento's infant son, Galen, who is evidently strong in the Force. Vader kills a battalion of stormtroopers when they threaten to exterminate the boy and he secretly takes him under his wing. Almost twenty years later, Galen has become Vader's obedient servant and is nearly a fully trained Sith apprentice. Galen, codenamed Starkiller, is sent out by his master to locate and assassinate the last of the Jedi who survived Order 66 assisted by his training droid, PROXY, who despite his benevolence to his master, is programmed to kill Galen as a long- time goal, and Juno Eclipse, the new pilot of Galen's vessel the Rogue Shadow. Because his identity can compromise Vader to the Emperor, Galen is ordered to kill any Imperials on sight that he comes into contact with. His first mission is to kill the Jedi General Rahm Kota, then the senile outcast Jedi Kazdan Paratus, and former Jedi Council member Shaak Ti. When the Emperor discovers Galen's existence, Vader is forced to betray and kill his apprentice in front of his master. However, he rebuilds and resurrects him later on for a new task; to form a rebellion to distract the Emperor whilst he and Vader make a move to strike at him and take control of the Empire.
The Force Unleashed is the first Star Wars game since Bounty Hunter in 2002 that allows you to play as the villains instead of the heroes in an original story in the Star Wars universe (TIE Fighter from 1994 was the first to do this). Similar to those games, the player characters are more anti-heroes than villains. They can be cold and brutal but also have some humanity to them and are identifiable enough to get players into the story. The story is not too innovative but follows a unique structure and does what it needs to do; bridge the gap between Episodes III and IV. The game's story is structured to show this. With the first half of the game, Starkiller is being sent out to kill the last of the Jedi, wiping out the last pockets of Order 66 stragglers. In the second half, the story focuses on him forming a rebellion to face the Empire, effectively forming the premise of A New Hope. To anyone who wants to discover how everything in the original trilogy came to be, look no further than this game. There is also a light side and a dark side ending which both offer neat endings. Anyone familiar with the movies however, should know which is the canonical outing.
The lightsaber mechanics are relatively impressive along with the use of Force powers though it fails to be as innovative as say Jedi Outcast or even Knights of the Old Republic in terms of Jedi combat. There are still some pretty sweet abilities to put to good use including the never before seen Force Repulse power. The levels are well designed with many locales from the films being placed as levels; Kashyyyk, Felucia (which briefly appeared in Episode III), Bespin and the incomplete Death Star. Two EU planets Raxus Prime and Nar Shaddaa also make prominent appearances. It can be fun spinning enemies around with the Force and sticking them with a lightsaber but some enemies (especially the purge troopers) are painfully frustrating. Some of the boss battles can be a challenge and some are fairly simple.
The Wii version of this game adds in more levels that don't add much to the story but are otherwise cool levels; such as Starkiller's trials in the ruined Jedi Temple on Coruscant, Starkiller's meeting with General Kota is instead on Nar Shaddaa rather than on Bespin, and rescuing Senator Garm Bel Iblis from a mercenary group on Cloud City. I have an Xbox 360 and a Wii so I have the advantage of playing both versions. The Ultimate Sith Edition is more of a recommendation as it adds in three additional levels; one loosely taken from the Wii version adds in a Jedi Temple level; two others are 'what if' excursions that allow players to play Starkiller as a full Sith Lord in Vader's place as he hunts down Ben Kenobi and Luke Skywalker on Tatooine and Hoth respectively.
The Force Unleashed can be seen as a love it or hate it game judging by the lukewarm reviews it has received. But overall, it is worth the time of any Star Wars fan. It's impressive story and fun gameplay are worth the notice of any gamer immersed in the Star Wars universe. Too bad LucasArts decided to ruin it with the massively disappointing Force Unleashed II.
The first Star Wars game to let you play as a Jedi and it held up to that honour
In the 90s, Star Wars games were mostly fighter simulation games or platform shooters. With the 1995 release of Dark Forces, Star Wars fans were introduced to the story of Kyle Katarn, a Rebel mercenary and former Imperial officer who brought down a faction of the Galactic Empire. The Doom inspired style of gameplay made it a huge success and a sequel was commissioned two years later. This time, LucasArts decided to make a game identical to Dark Forces but with a few added elements. The most awe-inspiring was the ability to play as a Jedi; use the Force and wield a lightsaber in battle. Jedi Knight - Dark Forces II lived up to the honour of being the first 3D Star Wars game to allow Jedi gameplay and delivered a truly terrific and exciting adventure PC game that's great for all ages.
The story to Jedi Knight takes place a year after the events in Return of the Jedi and four years after Dark Forces. Kyle Katarn is investigating the murder of his father Morgan Katarn. Meeting with the droid information broker 8t88 on Nar Shaddaa, he learns that a Dark Jedi known as Jerec was the culprit in his father's execution. After retrieving an information disc belonging to his father that was stolen by 8t88, Kyle returns to his homestead on Sulon but not before receiving a vision from the spirit of Jedi Master Qu Rahn, who had been slain by Jerec prior to Kyle's encounter with 8t88. Rahn tells Kyle that Jerec is attempting to consume the Force synergy from the Valley of the Jedi, a sacred monument of considerable Force power, to take control over the fragmented Empire. Kyle begins his journey to understanding the ways of the Jedi as he retrieves Rahn's old lightsaber from his father's home and along with his partner and co-pilot Jan Ors, sets out to locate Jerec and stop him from siphoning the Valley's power.
Jedi Knight was technically not the first Star Wars game to let you play as a Jedi (you could hold a lightsaber as Luke Skywalker in the SNES adaptations of the movies) but it was the first that allowed you to become one in an immersive 3D environment. When compared to more conventional Jedi platformers in recent years like Knights of the Old Republic, The Force Unleashed and even the Jedi Knight sequels, the Jedi gameplay may come across as dated but back then, this was a chance for Star Wars fans to live the dream. Even today, the game's mechanics are impressive. The level design is vast for a game released in the late 90s and allows for some eye-catching pixilated locales not seen in previous games. Again, they may look too fuzzy and unpolished by today but they were a sight to see in 1997.
The story to Jedi Knight is standard and predictable but not tedious. It's exciting enough to get gamers to continue playing and see where it will go. One distinction that this game has from other SW titles is the use of live-action cut-scenes and human actors to play characters in those scenes. The acting from them is a flip-flop between hammy and wooden but even that is not a problem (it's a video game) and the effects are fairly decent for a video game (some of them are a bit too pixilated however). There is also a light/dark side element to the game which can set Kyle on the path to either fighting Jerec to protect the ways of the Force and for retribution for his father or succumbing to the ways of the Sith and fighting Jerec over for power. There is not much difference in the two endings aside from the last cut-scene; Jedi Academy and the KOTOR games accomplished this better.
Overall, this is one of the best Star Wars games out there and one of my childhood favourites. It's proof that pre-millennium games can be worth your time and focus. Whether you use a blaster, fry enemies with the Force or cut them up with a lightsaber, Jedi Knight succeeds in every aspect, making for a truly fun PC platformer.
Mass Effect 2 (2010)
The 'Empire Strikes Back' of video games.
The first Mass Effect game is what I call gaming's answer to Star Wars. It introduces a rich, colourful universe and compelling diverse characters into an RPG that re-shaped the genre. But just like A New Hope, Mass Effect was only the beginning of a much larger tale and BioWare delivered on the promise of a sequel to continue the story of Commander Shepard and the fight against the Reapers. Mass Effect 2 is a game that is a brighter, better looking and overall, more compelling experience than its predecessor. This is such a terrific game to play that it may be my all time favourite video game.
Mass Effect 2 opens a few months after the events of the first game. Shepard and the crew of the Normandy have been sent by the Council to locate and wipe out any last remnants of Geth resistance following Saren's defeat. Suddenly, an unidentified vessel attacks the Normandy and destroys the ship but not before the crew evacuate to safety in the escape pods, except for a few including Shepard him/herself. However, two years later, the Commander reawakens on a space station during an attack. He meets two soldiers, Jacob Taylor and Miranda Lawson, who reveal to be working for Cerberus, a human supremacist syndicate who had recovered Shepard's body and rebuilt it, bringing him/her back to life. For answers as to why, the two soldiers help Shepard escape the station and bring the Commander to meet the Illusive Man (via hologram) the leader of Cerberus. The enigmatic figure tells Shepard that he fears the Reapers are arriving soon and that human colonies have gone missing. After Shepard, Jacob and Miranda find evidence that a group of aliens known as the Collectors are being used by the Reapers to hijack human colonies, the Illusive Man sends Shepard on a mission to recruit a team to fight the Collectors and delay the Reaper invasion of the galaxy. Along with Jacob and Miranda, Shepard is reunited with Joker (who survived the Normandy's explosion) and a new replicated Normandy to build a team of powerful warriors and soldiers to take the fight to the Collectors.
One feature of ME2 that makes it worthy of playing through is being allowed to import a finished saved game from ME1 to start a new game. Therefore, the Shepard the player plays as in this game can still be the Shepard they created and played through in ME1. This makes for a much more interactive experience however, it also means for the player to visit the first game and finishing it before getting into this one as they will miss out on many important elements of the plot. ME2 has a much more ambitious story to ME1 and feels more like a story for a mini-series than one full length movie unlike the first one. This makes for a longer playthrough but also more opportunities for interacting with characters and gameplay. There are also some additional DLC packs that add more to the entire trilogy than just this one game. Two additional squad members are added through DLC along with missions involving a conflict with a rogue Cerberus V.I, the search and final battle against the fabled Shadow Broker (with the assistance of former ally Liara T'Soni) and delaying the Reaper invasion after rescuing an Allience scientist. These are all worth your time and have impact in Mass Effect 3.
The absence of squad members from ME1 may be a problem for some who loved the characters in the first game (though some return, making cameos) but the new characters are more lively and have their own unique pasts about them. The total number of squad members in this game adds up to 10 (12 if you count Zaeed and Kasumi, the two DLC companions). Garrus and Tali are the only squad members to return along with Jacob and Miranda joining from the beginning. Other new characters include the eccentric Salarian scientist Mordin Solus, the biotic criminal Jack, the genetically engineered Krogan warrior Grunt, the terminally ill Drell assassin Thane Krios, the Asari Zen warrior Samara and the friendly and communicative Geth soldier Legion. Each of them have their own specific missions Shepard must undertake to allow them to focus on the mission to stop the Collectors. Unless players upgrade the Normandy to full power, complete all loyalty missions and pick squad members carefully for specific roles, then deaths in the climax will likely occur. If handled carefully however, all deaths can be prevented, defeating the purpose of the so-called 'suicide mission'. Romantic pursuits are still allowed here but if players already accomplished one in ME1, it may be best to remain faithful as it will have repercussions in ME3 if you focus on another too.
The graphics and gameplay of ME2 compliment its majesty. The game is more polished looking and animated realistically than the first game which already boasted tremendous visuals. Levels are more confined and there are no vehicle segments apart from the Hammerhead levels in the Firewalker DLC. The RPG elements remain but ME2 has more elements of a shooter, making it more condensed and comfortable for casual gamers to play (it's still an RPG however). Conversations with characters are still just as intriguing as in the first game; some funny and amusing, some emotional and heart-wrenching. The voice-acting is also top-notch; Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale provide better vocalizations for their respective Shepards and Martin Sheen remains a stand-out voicing the Illusive Man.
Mass Effect 2 is a truly masterful work and is perhaps the best video game I've played. Building on the success of an already phenomenal game, it magnifies its potential and is the best game of the modern era. If snobby politicians and anal conservatives refuse to believe that games should be considered art, this will give them a run for their money.
Star Wars: Battlefront (2004)
Battlefront is a fun game. That's all it needs to be.
Star Wars: Battlefront is not my favourite Star Wars game but it's definitely the most fun you can get out of playing one. Out of all the games released, this feels the most Star Wars and puts you in the shoes of a foot soldier on the battlefield. You're not a powerful Jedi warrior or a strong Sith Lord. You're just an ordinary stormtrooper, droid or Rebel. And that's just awesome.
Battlefront is a Battlefield style Star Wars shooter that allows you to play as the four different factions from the two Star Wars trilogies. You can play as a clone soldier of the Republic or a Separatist droid in the Clone Wars (from Star Wars Episodes I-III) or as a Rebel or Imperial stormtrooper of the Galactic Empire during the Galactic Civil War (Episodes IV-VI). Almost every planet from the then five released movies is playable (sans Coruscant and Dagobah). The Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk is also playable along with the ice planet Rhen Var which appeared in the Tales of the Jedi comics. You have the choice to play with friends online on different battlefields, take part in galactic conquest mode or play through historical campaigns depicted in the movies. The environments are well integrated and resemble their movie counterparts for the most part.
If you're a huge Star Wars fan and enjoy playing simple but immersive shooter games, then this is a truly fun and worth-playing experience.
Mass Effect (2007)
An immersive experience unlike anything seen in a game.
Mass Effect is perhaps the best RPG I've ever played and is a contender for my all time favourite video game. Every aspect of it is enough to make any casual gamer to experience it once but the adventure is really only for those who crave RPGs and space opera stories. With a story that will keep you emotionally invested, characters that are compelling and complex, gameplay that is immersive and addictive and environments unlike anything I've seen in a game, this is video games' answer to Star Wars for me.
The story is set in the year of 2183. With the discovery of ancient ruins on Mars, humanity has discovered advanced space travel and able to expand and coexist among other space-faring races in the galaxy. The crew of the Human Systems Alliance vessel, the S.S.E Normandy, commanded by Captain David Anderson, venture to the colony world of Eden Prime to recover an ancient beacon. Commander Shepard, the custom player character and executive officer on the Normandy, leads a team to recover the beacon and is attacked by Geth forces working for Saren Arterius, a rogue Turian Spectre (agents for the Citadel Council) and receives a vision from the beacon before it evaporates. On the Citadel, the central seat of galactic affairs, Shepard and Anderson manage to expose Saren's treachery to the Council. Shepard is named a Spectre and is given command of the Normandy with his/her own crew to go out and locate Saren and bring him to the Council to answer for his crimes and uncover the mystery of a mysterious race known as the Reapers who were believed to have wiped out the ancient Prothean race in a galactic Holocaust 50,000 years ago.
Mass Effect was developed by BioWare, the team that also created Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire. These two games are clearly influences in this game's gameplay and mechanics. Mass Effect has a more immersive design to it and an epic story to make the player care. The customizable protagonist is still here with his/her gender, class and personality determined by the player. However, something that distinguishes it from the previous games is that the character can talk. Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale lend their voices to playing their respective genders of Shepard. There are times when their voices can come across as lifeless and stilted but are otherwise well spouted out and even then, it's a wonder listening to a BioWare central character deliver lines of dialogue verbally on-screen. The gameplay is a little dated by today and there are moments where texture takes a few seconds to come in sync but these are minor quibbles for what is a terrific experience in gaming.
The characters and story are just terrific. In games, these elements are unimportant in most cycles but this is an RPG where fully realized people and plots need to be discussed. Shepard is joined by a total of nine allies who join his/her squad when in combat. Kaidan Alenko, an Alliance lieutenant who serves aboard the Normandy from the beginning and displays powerful biotic abilities (in the ME future, there are people who possess telekinetic abilities from biotic implants that enhance their motion senses); Ashley Williams, a headstrong soldier from Eden Prime who replaces a fallen crew member at the beginning; Garrus Vakarian; a Citadel cop of the reptilian Turian race with a vendetta against Saren; Tali'Zorah nar Rayya; a young Quarian (humanoid aliens that wear breather suits to survive) technician with incriminating evidence against Saren; Urdnot Wrex, a bounty hunter looking for a job and a paycheck from the hulking sterile Krogan race; and Liara T'Soni, a scientist and archaeologist who is a member of a mono-gendered (yet feminine looking and sounding) blue-skinned race known as the Asari. Of the nine reliant companions, three of them (Kaidan, Ashley and Liara) can be pursued as a love interest to each contrasting gender (Liara is available to both). There will be squad casualties in the end which will force players to make tough and emotionally responsive choices. Non-squad allies include Anderson, Shepard's mentor and former commander of the Normandy and Jeff 'Joker' Moreau (guest voiced by Seth Green), the physically disabled and smart-ass pilot of the ship.
The worlds and the environments of Mass Effect are capable of sucking players in. With similarities to sci-fi movies and shows like Star Trek, Alien, Blade Runner and Firefly all being utilized effectively. The light/dark side element from KOTOR appears in some capacity except with a paragon/renegade meter. There are also many intriguing sub-plots to get involved in which can be somewhat crucial in completing the overall game as a means to an end. There also vehicle segments in the Normandy's personal mobile tank, the Mako, which can be fun at first but may annoy players at multiple playthroughs due to its glitchy refinement. There are also two DLC packs that are playable (Bring Down the Sky and Pinnacle Station) and are worth undertaking.
Overall, Mass Effect is one of the best gaming experiences I have ever taken and remains a milestone RPG. Its attention to detail and focus on characters and story make this a truly impressive adventure and worth playing if you love these types of games. But it's all just the beginning of a much larger saga.
A solid sequel and final entry in such a fun and action-packed series.
Jedi Academy is the fourth (fifth if you count the expansion pack, Mysteries of the Sith) game in the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series set in the expanded Star Wars universe. The adventures of Kyle Katarn from Rebel underdog mercenary to maverick Jedi Knight have been essential parts of my childhood growing up, playing Star Wars video games and feeling like I was an actual Jedi warrior. Jedi Academy closes off the series the best way possible by advancing the gameplay mechanics and allowing for more freedom to the player in any of the other games, making for a terrific lightsaber action game.
The action in Academy takes place ten years after the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi and around a year after the events in the previous game Jedi Outcast. The player takes control of a new character named Jaden Korr who's gender and race is decided by the player. Jaden is a new trainee at Luke Skywalker's Jedi Praxeum on Yavin 4. He/she makes friends with another apprentice named Rosh Penin and both are assigned to be trained by Kyle Katarn, now a Jedi Master. With word of a Sith cult amassing and the fragmented Empire still at large, Jaden is sent out to investigate what the cult is up to and what their business with the Imperials are.
Jedi Academy lacks the straightforward plotting and refined gameplay that made Outcast such a terrific game. However, it's still a lot of fun and with the new lightsaber mechanics, it's hard to put down your controller or let go of your mouse when playing. Players can now customize your own weapon and once you reach the third act of the story, can choose to wield two lightsabers, use a double-bladed one like Darth Maul in Episode I, or master a single blade. The addition of new Force powers are also welcome along with conventional weapons and more vast level layouts. The ending is also varied depending on the choice the player makes in setting Jaden down the path of the light and dark. There are a few differences in the amount of enemies confronted and the final boss battle but are both worth playing for the differences to be witnessed.
Fans will also bathe in the amounts of service paid here. Along with Luke Skywalker, who has the honour of an extended cameo like in Outcast, fan favourites Chewbacca, Boba Fett (as a boss battle), Wedge Antilles and C-3PO make appearances. Yavin 4, Tatooine, Hoth and Coruscant, all planets from the movies, are visited in the story along with prominent EU locales such as Bakura (from the novel The Truce at Bakura), Corellia (Han Solo's homeworld), the dark side worlds Vjun and Byss (from the Dark Empire comic series), Ord Mantell (briefly mentioned in Episode V and featured in many spin-off comics and novels) and the Sith homeworld Korriban (from the Tales of the Jedi comics) where the final showdown takes place.
Jedi Academy is one of my favourite Star Wars games and a truly fun action/adventure yarn. Whether you play with friends on the multiplayer or get into the story with the many extravagant levels rich in detailed environments and surroundings, you will have a fun time playing and will feel like you are in the Star Wars universe. I highly recommend if you're a fan.