I was very lucky to get to play the Jedi Knight in Star Wars: The Old Republic as part of our first beta run-through. So to put your thoughts at ease I can say that the Jedi Knight has an amazing starting story filled with lots of choices to keep you focused on the Force and all its power. Despite being a fan of the Sith and hoping to play a Sith Marauder at launch I can truly say the Jedi starting story exceeded my expectations of what it means to be a Jedi. The one thing BioWare truly adds is story and the Jedi story is a great one to behold.
The game begins with your flight to Tython, the planet where the Jedi have taken up since the attack on Coruscant. I don’t want to give away any spoilers about the story for players, so I will focus on themes of the Jedi Knight and how the class feels as a whole. We’ll go through three major areas for the Jedi: combat, dark and light side choices, and equipment/look. I’ll try to touch on as much as I can without giving away the story.
First let us look at the Jedi Knight’s combat. Being a young padawan when you start the game you do not have a lightsaber right away. You have access to a bunch of different training blades however each with different power levels. They all work fine for accomplishing your goals early on. The Jedi combat consists of many different sword fighting abilities which you can link together for maximum damage. The class is fully built on close combat and has to get in close to fight it out. There are some tricks along the way which make this much easier.
You start with a basic attack and also a powered up strike. The fun really starts with the Force Leap ability which is similar to a Warrior charge in Warcraft except with a lot more visual flare. It also has a pretty solid range to it and allows you to jump into combat quickly. Each attack generates enough Focus for the Jedi to unlock additional attacks on their bar. After another level goes by you can also get Force Blast which allows you to stun multiple opponents when you land and basically pick your target to attack. They don’t stay stunned for too long, but it is long enough to help you finish them off. These abilities alone are amazing for the class and make the Jedi Knight a force early on in the game. From there combat continues with a bunch of different lightsaber attacks which help you max damage and generate combos on your hot bar. The combat is pretty straight forward. I will say that Bioware has done an amazing job with the animations on combat. Just doing a basic attack is not a one hit kind of move. It carries with it some great animations that really make you feel like you are in a sword fight. So really right from the beginning you are leaping around dropping foes with your training blade.
At this point you are probably wondering how a Jedi deals with shooting attacks. This is a critical element to the class and something I had several questions about as well. Jedi do make the moves to block shots or attacks as you go, however, you also get a Force Shield ability in early levels. This ability has a longer cooldown but grants the player a bubble around their character that can minimize or deflect shooting attacks. Use it wisely young Jedi, it is worth its weight in credits once you go up against larger groups of foes. The real story behind close combat and ranged combat or the inevitable debate of Han Solo and Obi Won with blaster vs. lightsaber will play out once the game launches. In the early beta there is no real way to tell how this balance will play out, at least not with the starting areas. For now the Jedi combat is fun and the animations really do enhance the click and target MMO game play we have all gotten used to. Combat is fun and fast paced. You also get combat music which with Star Wars is never a bad thing.
The next area I want to focus on is the choices of Dark Side and Light Side for the Jedi. As we learned in the Q&A at NYCC the Dark Side choices you make will eventually impact the look of your character. I do find it interesting that as a Jedi you can make Dark Side choices with your character. I am not sure how the alignment system plays out later on but it is interesting that you can almost play your character as a Jedi on the edge so to speak. In my mind I guess Mace Windu is the closest example I can think of from the movies who might be like this. It is more about the getting the job done than about abiding by the living force. Regardless this is kind of fun and with you making a ton of choices in the story arcs of the game it is great to go bad once in a while. I did find the dialogue and story of the fully played light side Jedi to be very cool though. I loved the line, “There is no emotion. There is only the Peace.” Hope that doesn’t give anything away, but it is used to explain why Jedi walk into combat without fear or hesitation.
The light side and dark side aspects of the game present some great moral choices for the player. There are definitely a lot of story lines which look like they begin in the early levels on Tyhton which will play out throughout your character story. I really don’t want to give any of these away, but you definitely are making choices right from the beginning. Also in your dialogue box it does show you which response is Dark or Light (sometimes), which does help.
One of the great things about playing a Jedi is wearing the cool robe and uniform. There are a lot of armor choices in the game for the Jedi Knight to choose and some of them enhance the class you are playing. That being said, Old Republic puts the Jedi in all kind of styles that are not shown in the movies. As you get to the advanced classes it makes sense to have the Jedi Guardian in a full suit of armor with a robe to still keep the Jedi style. I chose to play the Sentinel, which got me a second lightsaber and I kept with a more robe style look. This is where the equipment modes will play in heavily. If you want to keep the look of a Sage but still be a lightsaber wielding maniac well, you’ll have to construct your gear very carefully.
So the lightsaber, that is the big one right? Well you do get to create your own lightsaber in the game. I will not tell you when or how, but the whole experience is very cool. I am really trying not to give away the story here, but I’ll just say you do get your lightsaber at some point and you also get color crystals to change the color of the blade.
To sum up my impressions I really want to talk about the feel of the class. The class moves and plays very well. It is an MMO so keep that in mind when you play the game but you do get some great options early on and I cannot say enough about the combat animations that go with the class. Along with the feel of the class, the story just enhances the investment you will have in your character. There are loads of choices in the first zones and players will be able to be the true Jedi they envision or go down a darker path without changing over fully to the Sith. I do like this option even though I chose to stay on the light side path the whole time.
I have to say that The Old Republic beta did exceed my expectations of the game. From when we saw the game at E3 2010 and were nervous, to the amazing Flashpoint game play at PAX East 2011 and the demos at E3 this year it has been a long journey for us just getting up to Beta. Now having played several hours of the game I am excited for launch. I fully enjoyed the Jedi Knight and was really excited about the Sentinel even though I did not play the Advanced Class for too long. The dual wielding lightsabers is just great to watch. Again for those of you who might want story spoilers, I definitely think it will ruin the experience when the game comes out. If you want some details, drop me a line and I can do my best to tell you. Overall, Star Wars: The Old Republic was awesome fun and I cannot wait until launch. See you on the other side, I have to stick with my Sith brothers, that being said I have tremendous respect for the Jedi Knight class.