I’ve always been something of a Star Wars fan, but my son’s love of the stories has been very infectious. So, it’s been little wonder that we have anticipated Force Unleashed II. The first one was fun, though hardly great. Yet, as I read about TFU 2 and all the complaints about how short it is, I can’t help but think back to Jedi Knight – Dark Forces II. It was by no means a great game because it had some problems with level designs and some of the linearity. Still, it was very enjoyable, and some puzzles were challenging.
It’s amazing to me that given this is a sequel, why did they not produce a better game when they had so much existing framework and resources. Part of it is that I see they have lost their way on what made their earlier attempts so good.
First, the original trilogy had likable characters who had a friendship that we liked. But they also were part of a good story of the underdog, of the ‘little’ people who stand up and win. Dark Forces II isn’t so light hearted, but it’s still a story of a likable, sympathetic character. But with the prequel trilogy and TFU, we have stories of much more unlikable characters. And whereas Jedi powers were impressive, they weren’t godlike as they have now become in TFU 2 [whereas the light saber now seems weaker, requiring 3-5 strokes to kill a storm trooper].
Star Wars isn’t a great story . . . but it is great fun. And that fun, coupled with characters that we could recognize and like, made it memorable. The Star Wars franchise has lost that sense of fun amidst the darkness. Admittedly, the current animated Clone Wars series tries to create some friendship and fun with Obi Wan and Anakin [and Ahsoka], but we know where it’s headed. In fact, with the more likable characters, like Shaak Tii and even Ahsoka, it’s hard to invest much in them because we know their inevitable fates.
I think what’s missing is the hope, the fun, the parts of life that actually get us through the darkness. Maybe the current writers think that message is too immature for them. I don’t know. But they need to stop wallowing in these dark characters and stories. Giving us a game in which we focus on new, more destructive ways of killing people is not fun. After all, in parts of the Clone Wars, like the animated series, we’re supposed to like them. In Karen Traviss‘s novels, I think we’re very sympathetic to them as creatures that are treated like disposable droids. So, it’s easy to question this mass murder spree in the TFU 2 and to feel that our avatar is little different from Darth Vader.
When you think about it, the game title itself is a bit ominous–force unleashed. It appeals to a desire for power, allowing us the guilty pleasure of having all the power of the dark side. Gaming’s version of the Milgram Experiment, if you will.
Oh, and I have not bought TFU 2, and I doubt that I will.