Considered the Dark Ages by most, there hasn’t been much content covering the 19 year time span between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, so when LucasArts announced their next multimedia project would fill in some of those blanks, fan excitement went nova. The project was named The Force Unleashed (Dubbed “Episode 3.5”) and its multimedia offerings included a novel, video game, graphic novel, and toys. The Force Unleashed video game released in September of 2008, telling the story of Vader’s secret apprentice, Starkiller. It went on to be one of the fastest selling Star Wars titles of all time. And despite its occasionally frustrating gameplay, The Force Unleashed has an intriguing plot and wonderful sense of Force-wielding empowerment.
The game’s story starts with Vader hunting down a Jedi Knight on Kashyyyk, where he finds out the Knight had a son. Dispatching the father, Vader kidnaps the child and takes him on as an apprentice. This youngling grows up to be the game’s protagonist, Starkiller, a devout servant to Vader, and the dark side. Vader gives him a mission to hunt down a few remaining Jedi, and if successful, he’ll be powerful enough to join Vader and take down the Emperor, ruling the galaxy themselves. This is standard operating procedure for any good Sith Lord, but what follows is so full of romance, deaths, rebirths, betrayals, and an interesting revelation about the ultimate origin of the Rebel Alliance that collectively would even make characters in the Game of Thrones series blush.
If TFU was to be judged on the plot alone, I’d tell you it was a must buy. Unfortunately, its presentation of said story can fall flat. For example, the romance between Starkiller and his female pilot Juno Eclipse, feels forced and unbelievable. One minute, Starkiller’s yelling at Juno not to ask about his mission and the next he’s telling her everything about it…then they start to flirt. Having read the book, the romance actually comes across as genuine, but in the game it just kind of happens. Various characters change allegiances throughout the story, but they get breezed over, especially important ones like Starkiller, Juno, and Maris Brood (Shaak Ti’s apprentice who switches to the dark side after her master’s death by Starkiller’s hands). Also, Jedi Master Kazdan Paratus’ slip into insanity, building a mock Jedi Temple and Council out of junk on Raxus Prime, barely receives a mention in-game (You’ll find most of these glossed over story elements in greater detail in the novelization).