In this column we have told you, over the years, of many titles from completely different genres. Somehow unique experiences but which, for one reason or another, often lacked that last push that could distinguish them as real masterpieces. Sometimes it's an imperfect promotion strategy, sometimes it's due to a lack of product and sometimes it's just plain bad luck: the story of this medium, moreover, is also beautiful because it is very varied.
What we want to do today is to tell you about a title belonging to what, in all probability, is the most important franchise in the world in terms of entertainment: Star Wars, a saga that certainly needs no introduction and which has been enriched over the years of dozens and dozens of video games of all kinds but… Do you remember Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy? Let's go back a couple of decades, to the (re) discovery of this little pearl signed by Raven Software.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, where to start?
With Dark Forces and its direct sequel, released respectively in 1995 and 1997, LucasArts had given birth to a new way of conceiving the Star Wars saga in the world of video games. Many of the productions seen up to that moment were in fact, in most cases, simulators or in any case titles much more "guided" in the dynamics and in the basic concept.
It was in fact the first two chapters of a new saga belonging to the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, which responded to the name of Jedi Knight. In 2002 a further sequel saw the light with the landing, as a development studio, of the emerging Raven Software: Jedi Outcast will make the work done up to that moment even more refined, and the good success of the game brought the team to want to do even more.
LucasArts granted the Minnesota software house a year to further raise the bar: keeping a large part of the team working on the last Jedi Knight, the work began practically immediately. Like its predecessor, the new project – called Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy – would also be based on the engine id Tech 3… Does that tell you anything? This is the technology behind Quake III: Team Arena, which allowed developers a wide range of action to create a product that was cured from every point of view.
The game puts us in the shoes of Jade Korr: a young and ambitious student of Luke Skywalker's Jedi Academy and protégé of Kyle Katarn, the protagonist of the events of Jedi Outcast. Returning from a mission, our protagonist learns of a new danger that threatens the peace of the galaxy: the Disciples of Ragnos, a Sith cult that wants to resurrect the fearsome dark lord Marka Ragnos. Jaden and his friend Rosh are therefore sent to investigate the matter, to shed light on a mystery that threatens to upset the balance that has finally been restored. Thus begins our adventure with a game that, right from the start, offers many interesting customization options. From the physical aspect to the lightsaber passing through the different skills that we are going to learn throughout history, we will in fact be able to manage many aspects to make the whole journey even more special.
In terms of gameplay, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy also places a lot of emphasis on the use of the lightsaber: a large part of the fights will in fact make the most of the weapon par excellence of every Jedi Knight worthy of the name, in union with the so many powers that will derive from our Strength. A note of merit must be made to the settings, often simple but at the same time full of all those perfect details to recreate the right sensations: an atmosphere, the one created by George Lucas, here evoked in a perfect and accurate way. All topped off with a sound sector in line with the epic adventure we are going to experience, again with an immediately recognizable touch.
At a certain point in our adventure, we will then find ourselves having to make a fundamental decision: a choice between the light side and the dark side, which will shape the rest of our trip. Which path to take will be up to the player alone, with all the consequences of the case...
Is there still room for Jedi Knight?
The Jedi Academy experience is also made even richer by a sector multiplayer which, taking that of its predecessor, creates a unique and engaging experience from many points of view. Playing online via LAN (and here yes, it is permissible to let a tear slip) users could experience many adventures being able to count on the classic multiplayer modes: from Deathmatch to Siege up to a completely free one, for a total of six.
In the light of all this, therefore, one wonders why, after many years, this very interesting title ended up being forgotten a little too quickly. Let's try to analyze everything, one step at a time. Jedi Academy managed to immediately obtain joint acclaim from critics and the public, with more than positive sales figures and excellent feedback from the trade press.
A point against the game, however, was, as often happens, what had happened before. Jedi Outcast and the two Dark Forces were in fact games of the highest level, and which therefore built equally high expectations. A heavy legacy that gave rise to an inevitable confrontation: from some points of view, above all at the plot level, Jedi Knight was in fact slightly lower than the previous chapters of the saga. But the question has even more direct origins, always linked to the Star Wars franchise.
In the same year of release of Jedi Academy, we are in 2003, the world welcomed another title set in the Expanded Universe. Bioware brought to life the immortal masterpiece that it is Knights of the Old Republic, according to many the best video game ever created when we talk about Star Wars (and often not only). If Raven Software's title was a good product, the work of what will be the Mass Effect studio was unattainable. In short, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy was overshadowed, in many respects, by a game that was essentially the real daydream for every fan of the saga. A dream which, moreover, will return next year to be admired in a completely new guise.
After the official closure of LucasArts in 2013, the source codes of Jedi Academy and Jedi Outcast were published on SourceForge. And here, we then witnessed something else very special: the public has in fact used the code to create mods, additions and new concepts to enrich the already impressive gaming experience. A real act of love demonstrating how, years later, the community still feels a very strong affection for a game that certainly deserved a little more success.
With a surprise announcement, the Star Wars: Jedi Knight Collection was released in 2020, a remastered edition of the two classics signed by Raven Software in a revised version for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. A way to (re)discover an adventure which, we guarantee, will only fuel your passion for the fantastic world of Star Wars even more.