Video Game Review: Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith
Three months after Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II released, its expansion was ready for fan’s attention. Mysteries of the Sith continued Kyle Katarn’s adventures, but with a little twist: the game was primarily played through the eyes of the EU starlet, Mara Jade. Set just 5 years after Dark Forces II, MotS finds Mara under the tutelage of Katarn, who disappears while on a mission to Dromund Kaas (something The Old Republic fans know a little about). With some slight graphical improvements, new multiplayer modes/maps, a wider array of Force powers, and some killer final levels, it’s hard to argue against purchasing Mysteries of the Sith, especially if you enjoyed Dark Forces II.
Being an expansion, a “more of the same” feeling rules most of the time spent with MotS. And by most of the time, I mean the first 12 levels out of a total 15. The new locations and well-designed levels make the experience as fun as DF II, but there’s an ominous shroud of déjà vu moments. To those who loved DF II, this is easily just another reason to get the expansion. And by the time you reach the final three levels, it feels like you get a whole new game…but more on that later.
The story of Mysteries of the Sith begins with Katarn repelling Imperials invading a Rebel base. He uncovers information regarding a planet called Dromund Kaas while raiding the Imperial base on weaponized asteroids and decides to follow up on the lead. Mara Jade is left without her master and takes missions from Mon Mothma (much like Katarn did in the original Dark Forces). She’ll find herself dealing with Hutts and protecting a Jedi Holocron before she finally decides to go after Katarn, now missing since he left for Dromund Kaas. It sounds more exciting as I type it out than it actually was in the game.
To further hinder the story—part of me can’t believe I’m saying this— is the lack of FMV cutscenes. Instead, MotS relies on in-game assets, which are polygonial messes with face-palm worthy stilted movements. Anyone who’s ever played with the action figures could have brought more life to the characters, and the cutscenes left me missing the bad, but campy fun of the FMV from DF II. There’s also not much help from the voice actors, but their attempts certainly hold up better presently than rest of the cutscenes. I understand the expansion had a lower budget and less time to be made, but there are certain scenes towards the end that would’ve benefited from the return of Jason Court (and his beard).
In the form of weapons, there are two additions to the roster that I would’ve love to seen playable in DF II: the sniper scope and DL-44 blaster. The sniper scope is almost as close to cheating as the Force power Protection was/is the DF II/MotS games. Though it eats up 4 shots, it’s a one hit kill for largely all troopers/other species and two hit kill for everything else besides AT-STs. You’ll clean out rooms, laughing as some troopers or aliens don’t react to their fellow compatriots biting the dust. The DL-44 blaster (Han Solo’s weapon of choice, of course!), is Mara’s de facto replacement for the Bryar pistol, as it shoots faster and is nearly as strong. Why Katarn still keeps the Bryar pistol is beyond me, as it shoots inordinately slow, like you’ll-only-kill-one-person-ever slow, even though it can pack quite the wallop.
The real wallop comes in the form of the new Force powers and the new way you can choose them. In DF II, your choice of light or dark side (in)actions allowed you to pick out certain powers, narrowing your abilities. Thankfully, MotS corrects this misstep and gives you the full range of powers, granted you find all the secret locations in each levels to obtain enough stars to even choose beyond the basic beginning ones. The only problem this time around is the possibility of not choosing certain Force powers you will need to beat later challenges. I managed somehow to select the one’s necessary for the final level’s puzzles. so I hope you can too.
While it’s no secret the game ends on Dromund Kaas, the fun you’ll have dodging vornskrs and noghri in the swamps (read: annoyingly hard, not fun) and blast you’ll have versing Sith statues with lightsabers (read: scariest encounters ever) totally saves MotS from true monotony. One of the best things about the lightsaber battles in DF II was that it broke up the gameplay, even if they could be rather frustrating encounters. Your first lightsaber battle doesn’t happen until the 14th level, but by the finale, you’ll almost wish there weren’t any. Why? Because in two levels, they completely make up for the lack of lightsaber clashes…and then keep them coming. It’s grueling, it’s annoying, it’s frightening, and it’s the whole reason to play MotS.
Well, if you can manage to get access to the multiplayer (which I finally did for this review) then that’s the next best reason to play this expansion. The steps listed at this link: http://www.jkcommunity.co.nr/ (which I included in my review of DF II as well) are your best bet to get in on the still thriving action. Don’t forget to download the JK launcher, the second option on this page http://www.jkhub.net/project/show.php?projid=47§ion=downloads as well. The hardest part of setting up the multiplayer will probably be the port forwarding for most people. Your best bet is to follow the link the JK community page gives you, which sends you to a site (portforward.com) with steps on how to port forward any and all routers in existence. Follow that and you’ll be up and running in no time. And no, I don’t completely understand what port forwarding is, but it’s been a way many fans of older games still get to enjoy online content.
I didn’t get into too many games and they were all usually Kill the Fool with the Ysalamiri, but that mode alone is completely worth the efforts to get this up and running. The ysalamiri dampen your ability to use Force powers (as they should) and so too for your would be attackers when they get close enough to you. It’s frantic, no matter which level I played it on, and tons of fun. It makes me wonder why The Force Unleashed series didn’t have multiplayer as they could’ve done some fun things with the modes present in DF II/MotS. Though there was a Super Smash Bros-style multiplayer in TFU II Wii version, it’s barely worth noting.
Here’s a few other things:
- You’ll find a Dark Trooper helmet and 8t88’s head (the ever wily droid from DF II) displayed on pedestals later in the game.
- This game takes place in 10 ABY, one year after the events of the much revered Thrawn Trilogy (1992), were Mara Jade made her claim to the fandom spotlight. And by MotS’s release in 1998, her marriage to Luke was being chronicled in The Hand of Thrawn duology. Well, there’s more to it than that, of course, but I’m sure already know that, as you’ve most likely enjoyed those 5 books before you’ve even thought of trying MotS.
- Ysalamiri, Noghri, Vornskrs, and Mara Jade were all created by Timothy Zahn in the Thrawn Trilogy. In fact, there’s a great EU retrospective on said trilogy over at Tosche Station! (via Club Jade)
- Seriously, ever since I’ve played the game, I now have an innate fear of statues. Like, not even joking. Watching four statues, with one single facial expression, attacking you with lightsabers is the stuff of nightmares. But also oh so cool.
- There is a hidden level, allowing you to play as Luke during his attempted rescue on Cloud City in Ep. V, but I was unable to access it. I’m not even sure you still can.
- Rino Romano, voice of Katarn for MotS, would later go on to voice the grunts, taunts, and other odd noises of Revan in KOTOR.
- Heidi Shannon would only reprise her role as Mara’s voice for the game Galactic Battlegrounds (2002), so that’s two out of the four total games the character appears in.
- Switching between first person and third person is still one click away and I can’t decide which I like better.
- If you’ve ever wondered what a vornskr (might) sound like, you might be disappointed.
There’s two things I won’t forgive this expansion for: making Katarn’s turn to the Dark Side off screen was a poor choice, especially as it’s an important moment for the character (and sets up his reason for turning himself away for the Force, which is prominent in the beginning of the next Jedi Knight title) and that they waited until the last three levels to have the most exciting content in the series (until the next two titles). I’m being completely serious though, those final levels on Dromund Kaas are the easily the strongest in terms of level design, challenges, and enemies. Why the entire expansion couldn’t have been at this same depth of intensity, I don’t know. At the very least, they could’ve cut down on the extraneous Holocron heist/recovery portion of the game and spent more time with Katarn as he slowly warped to the dark side.
But we can’t always get what we want, so what Mysteries of the Sith does give gamers is what we should take. Plus, at least on Steam, it’s only a whopping $2.99. That’s right, several more hours of more DF II like content for a measly 3 bucks. For that price alone, it’s worth buying it just to experience the Sith Tomb and freaky Sith statues that will go on to haunt your nightmares. You’ll just find yourself missing cheesy FMV and sometimes that’s ok.
Ryan is the video game reporter and game reviewer for Knights’ Archive. You can follow him on Twitter at @BrushYourTeeth.