2013 Gaming Archive #21: The Force Unleashed

The Force Unleashed

Forcing My Way Through This Game

I’ve sat here for quite a while, trying hard to think of a colorful way to start this post off. I really have. But somehow I don’t think picturesque language, flowery metaphors, or (un)funny puns will be able to spice up what’s ultimately doomed to be a bland write-up about a bland game. There, I’ve said it. So if you thought The Force Unleashed was “great fun” or “a swell time”, stop reading now. You’ll find no such accolades here. Which is sad, because, with a name like The Force Unleashed, you’d expect nothing less than for a great time to be had by all.

To be fair, it’s not as much the actual gameplay mechanics that sucked all the enjoyment out of the game faster than being caught in a black hole’s gravity well (I lied about those bad puns). If there was any fun to be found here, it would have been using the force to pick up your enemies, fling them around the environment, drop them off of cliffs and catwalks, or use them as humanoid projectiles to blow stuffs up. Man the torpedoes! At least the first level – your first taste of blood – was suitably badass; being Darth Vader should make you feel untouchable and, more importantly, unapologetically evil.

But the real problem I had with the game (and the reason why I returned to it almost FOUR years [!!] after I started it to finally finish and cross it off my backlog) was that the places the game took me were utterly uninspired and unspeakably bland and dull. I feel that this is a common downfall for many Star Wars titles; even the original movies barely alternated between desert planet/ice planet/swamp planet/forest planet (I know, it was technically a moon). So in The Force Unleashed we got Generic Junkyard Planet, Generic Jungle Planet, Generic Space Station…I can’t even remember any others, if there were others, because they honestly weren’t worth remembering. Oh, and let’s not forget the most awesome of design choices: reusing several levels and making you go back to them again later in the game! Oh-hoh-ho, Force Unleashed, you bad, naughty game…

The Force Unleashed

So in the game, Starkiller goes to…umm…uhh…well, it doesn’t really matter what it was called…

But this is Star Wars, and nobody plays it to marvel at the exotic worlds we get to see. It’s the story that’s fascinating, or at least it’s supposed to be. Personally, I didn’t find anything that exciting hidden in the game’s plot. So now I know a little more about the causal events leading up to the eventual Rebellion. I mean, it was never that necessary for me to know all the minute details behind it. “The Empire’s bad. We need to defeat it. Let’s start a rebellion.” That’s all I ever really needed to know. Not that the extra background bothers me, it’s just…meh. When it comes to stories set in the Star Wars universe, I feel that the most successful ones are the ones using the IP and familiar characters, settings, etc to create stories that could exist in a vacuum. Shoehorning stories into the movies’ pre-existing events, making them fit an already established canon fails to add a whole lot of value or importance – it just feels superfluous and hollow.

I don’t want to knock the game completely; my twelve-year-old son seemed to enjoy it, and I did delight at indiscriminately throwing Rebels and Imperials to their doom, before that wore kind of stale. I just don’t think I was the right audience for the game, and I doubt I’ll ever be moved to try the sequel.

The Force Unleashed

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