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A Force Jump of faith March 1, 2006

Posted by joshg in mainstream games, morality & ethics.
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Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith took a different route than the original game. No longer were force powers “Dark” or “Light” – everything became neutral. You also played a different character, Mara Jade, who had been a former servant of the evil Emperor. (Perhaps the neutrality of previously “dark” and “light” powers was meant to reflect the conflicted nature of Mara’s training, but probably it was just a gameplay design choice. It made multiplayer gameplay much more flexible and interesting.)

Similarly, Mysteries of the Sith had no narrative branching. However, this didn’t mean that the designers were ignoring choice.

I’m going to talk about the ending of the game, so spoilers after the break.

Seriously, I’m going to spoil the ending completely.

Are you sure you don’t mind?

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Well, okay then.

In the last chapter of the game, Mara is fighting her way past traps and ghost-like beings through an ancient Sith temple, looking for her mentor Kyle. (The same character you play as in the first game – the story assumes that Jedi Knight ended with the Light side ending.) At the end of the massive ordeal, she finds herself confronting Kyle himself, who has been corrupted by the evil power residing in the Temple.

In the final scenario, Mara is transported to a platform hovering over a bottomless pit, with Kyle standing at the other end. He offers her a chance to join him, to rule the Galaxy as Dark Jedi together, by walking towards him. There is nowhere else to go – nowhere but down. (Star Wars fans may remember a similar moment in Cloud City … )

The game uses movement to communicate a moral choice in this scene. The player can move towards Kyle to signify accepting the offer to join him. Or, the player can jump off, making a statement of ultimate loyalty to the Light. It’s both a fantastic dramatic moment, and an interesting example of mapping an ethical choice onto a conventional gameplay mechanic.

Again, here the game shows a commitment to a concrete right and wrong, as opposed to the dualistic viewpoint of Jedi Knight. If you step forward towards Kyle, the platform between you turns out to be an illusion, and you fall to your death. If you jump off deliberately, the whole scene disappears, and you appear in a room with Kyle advancing towards you, his lightsaber drawn. Choosing evil is no longer rewarded, but instead the nature of the Dark Side is revealed to be untrustworthy and deceptive.

The final scene has another excellent moral choice as a finale, but I don’t want to ruin everything for you. If you can handle the dated graphics, this game really is worth picking up at a bargain bin somewhere and playing through. (You can find walkthroughs and cheats here, if you just want to experience the ending.)

The more recent sequel, Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast, followed similar themes, but didn’t create a user-driven moral choice in the same sense. Was this better or worse? It’s definitely less interesting for the sake of this blog, although they executed the story so well within the game that I find it hard to fault them. Still, were many users annoyed by the life-or-death choice at the end of MotS? Did it feel too contrived? I guess only Lucasarts customer support knows, but feel free to add your opinion if you’ve played it.

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