Star Wars: The Force Unleashed had mixed critical response, but fans loved the fact that the game meant something to the Star Wars universe, and made it a best-seller in the franchise. The sequel hits stores today (you can read our review here), unexpectedly bringing Starkiller, the hero from the first game, back and pitting him once again against the dark lord of the Sith, Darth Vader.
To find out more about the game, we turned to LucasArts Producer Brett Rector, who told us about the changes the sequel sees, and why fans should step back into the Jedi robes of confused young Galen.
Newsarama: Moving into a sequel, is it easier or harder to approach the game initially?
Brett Rector: From a game-building perspective, working on a sequel like The Force Unleashed II is easier because we retained a lot of the original team members from The Force Unleashed, giving us what we like to call “muscle memory.” Our artists, designers, and engineers were very familiar with our tools and tech, which resulted in faster iteration cycles. Additionally, our content creators were able to request new tools features that they would like to see in the tools, which enabled us to get more out of our tools and make a better game. Everything else just then fell into place.
Nrama: What did you learn from the first game, that you wanted to fix/change in the sequel?
Rector: We didn’t necessarily want to fix or change anything as much as to take what we had and build upon that foundation. For example, we took huge strides in improving our rendering engine and streaming system, which enabled us to make the game look a better and run smoother. Again, this harkens back to the team being familiar with the tools and knowing what our limitations were, and then making requests to move past those limitations to create a better game.
Nrama: How much do you take reviews and fan feedback into account when first getting going on a sequel? Is there anything that stood out to you?
Rector: We really appreciated the feedback, for sure, and in most cases we agreed with the comments we received. Two areas we really wanted to improve were our camera and targeting. During development I thought we were really doing a great job in addressing both, but it wasn’t until we were able to get The Force Unleashed II into the hands of gamers that we knew we did a great job. The response to those improvements alone has been exceptionally positive. I should add that we also wanted to expose our combat system more so we’ve reduced the number of enemy types you will see in The Force Unleashed II and made them smarter. We now force players to use different tactics to deal with certain enemies, which means you can’t just run’n’gun your way through the game using just one form of attack. It really bolsters the combat in fun and exciting ways.
Nrama: Aside from "more is more," what was the reason for adding the 2nd lightsaber?
Rector: The decision to add a second lightsaber was an aesthetic choice as much as a functional one. We really wanted to make Starkiller stand out, much like he did in the first game using a reverse grip. By adding the second lightsaber we were not only able to give Starkiller a different-looking profile, but we also were able to present gamers with more visceral over-the-top lightsaber action. Our animators really took hold of this dual-saber concept by adding spectacular flourish to all his moves. You will obviously see things in the sequel that you wouldn’t have in the first game. So while he feels very familiar, his actions are very much enhanced.
Nrama: One of the great things about the first game was the story and how important it was to the overall Star Wars mythos. Is this still in canon, and is the weight/tone similar?
Rector: Very much so. The fans have really gravitated toward Starkiller as a character, and some like him more than a few of the iconic characters seen in the movies. Of course, the way you make a character great is to weave an incredible story around them, and we’ve done that this time around too. However, this is a much more personal story in respect to the character of Starkiller because we are really exploring him as an individual. Starkiller starts the game thinking he’s a clone, and his motivations are to seek the truth about who he is. Of course, you will have to play the game to discover the ultimate truth.
Nrama: Do you think there is any 1 element that makes a Star Wars game worth playing? A "key" to it all?
Rector: It’s hard to pick out just one element that makes a Star Wars game worth playing, but I would say the keys to a great Star Wars experience, whether that’s a game or a movie, is that you have to have a strong story and compelling characters. Certainly in The Force Unleashed franchise, having the ability to wield over-the-top Force powers is supremely awesome; but again, it’s the story and the actions that motivate these characters that help make the games great.
Nrama: What's the biggest (non-spoilery) moment you're excited for gamers to get their hands on?
Rector: Wow, that’s actually a tough one! I really like the first five minutes of gameplay. The dive, which I hope everyone has seen either on the internet or by playing our demo, is a great, impactful way to get players right into the action. We start The Force Unleashed II “on tilt, pedal-to-the-metal” from the get-go and don’t let up!
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to mention about the game that we haven't talked about yet?
Rector: One of our pillars for The Force Unleashed II was to really make our boss battles big and epic, and I think we accomplished that. The first game primarily featured Sith vs. Jedi lightsaber action, which was great. To be able to take on an enemy such as the Gorog is even better! I also think we did a great job with our Challenge Mode, which is new to the Force Unleashed franchise. We essentially created custom scenarios available outside of the single-player experience to test gamers’ Jedi skills, providing gameplay that will tax not only our fighting abilities, but also how smartly and quickly you can move through an environment. We then reward you with not only leaderboard bragging rights, but also unlockables such as lightsaber crystals, costumes, and additional cinematics.Are you ready to unleash?