When people are asked what the best Star Wars games are, they usually reply Battlefront or Knights of the Old Republic. When they aren’t fawning over those two series, the next to get in the spotlight is Jedi Knight. Heralded as having the best lightsaber combat of any Star Wars game, Outcast and Academy are standout games for the franchise.
Except… I don’t really see that. If you remember to the last Star Wars Month, I put up a video showing off an early level of Academy. Playing on PC, I was stuck with keyboard and mouse controls, and really didn’t want to mention anything else. Fact was, though, I couldn’t see what people were raving about. Old game though it might be, with terrible movement and gunplay, I couldn’t see anything worthwhile in the lightsaber combat.
Now, with both Outcast and Academy being released on the Nintendo Switch, I felt I could really get stuck into them, away from my awkward use of keyboard and mouse controls. Before I get stuck in, I will say that it still hasn’t been a positive experience.
Outcast has been a struggle. I refused to activate cheats, so progressed bit by bit through levels utilising the terrible gunplay and stun prod. I can look beyond the movement mechanics, twitchy as they are, but the gunplay made things hard. Harder than they should be. It’s not helped by a control scheme that seems to be designed to make combat options difficult to access.
I did like the look of the planets I was on, even if plenty of it was indoors. There’s some good design here, but most of the time I couldn’t fully appreciate that. The enemies usually come in swarms, and combined with the gunplay, it makes for some quick and repetitive fights as I died over and over trying to get one lucky shot in before saving and hoping the next enemy didn’t take out the little health I had remaining.
Gyro aiming was little help. The reticule doesn’t seem accurate to where I’m actually aiming, so the plentiful ammo that’s available was quickly depleted in firefights, leaving me plenty of times with just that stun prod. It got to the point where I felt the stun prod was more effective, so just rushed the enemy head on, took out one enemy while hoping my health wasn’t being depleted too fast, then backed off and saved.
For this Star Wars Month, I wanted to show off some of Outcast, but didn’t want to show off the terrible gunplay. I persevered, and in doing so found myself slightly improving with the gunplay. It was still bad, but I could at least hit a bit more accurately now. Then we get to Yavin IV, where the Force powers and lightsaber are reclaimed. I had felt that after that point, I could show off some gameplay. Oh, how I was wrong.
Being a Jedi is meant to make you feel powerful. In Jedi: Fallen Order, even though I was getting beaten around and killed frequently, I still felt I had a sense of control. Jedi Outcast, though? It leads you into thinking things are fine. Just a simple bar brawl, eh? Prepare for a fiery end time after time, as now the enemies have explosives, and they won’t hold back in using them.
It got too much for me to handle, even with saving after every encounter. Jedi Outcast wouldn’t give me a good idea of lightsaber combat, as it honestly did feel like I was flailing a lightsaber like a madman hoping to strike at anything in front of me, so once Jedi Academy released, it was time to see if things would be better.
Of the two, I definitely prefer Academy. It feels easier to handle, even if the controls are the same. There’s a slightly longer time to react to things, and more variety to the missions. You’re a Jedi from the start, so there’s little need to be handling any other weapon. There’s also less need to be saving after every encounter owing to the easier time the game gives.
However, I still wasn’t seeing the deal with the lightsaber combat. I’d progressed further than I had done on the PC version, yet still couldn’t see why the Jedi Knight series has the best lightsaber combat. It seemed I wouldn’t find out at any point through the story, as lightsaber battles seemed to rarely appear. It seemed like the time had come to dive into the multiplayer.
I can see myself spending more time into the multiplayer than the story. Oh, I wouldn’t be playing with others that often, since there’s a solo mode that offers everything within the multiplayer side of things against bots that are competent (mostly) and know what they need to do.
And it was here I started to see just what the lightsaber combat offered. It’s a deeper something that isn’t that noticeable within all the chaos of a ‘saber fight. If two enemies attack, the lightsabers connect, meaning neither will lose health, but it all depends on when they both attacked.
It all feels natural, with nothing feeling like it is scripted to happen. If I attacked later than my opponent, I’d be defending that attack, but doing so too late resulted in the attack of the other landing. Even with multiple enemies raining attacks upon each other in a small space, the game was doing its best to make sure it had the attacking priorities right in terms of who was defending and who would get hurt.
Being stuck in a battle against multiple ‘saber-wielding enemies, I could see how lightsaber and Force powers combined to make the combat system better. The other mechanics and control issues honestly hide how good it is, because I was fighting to keep the other in view with the twitchy movement controls and failed plenty of times to swap Force powers in the heat of the moment.
If a new game could improve everything else about the mechanics in the series, but manage to keep the ‘saber combat as close as possible, I think we’d have a pretty much perfect game.