Lucasarts had a problem when the time came to make a sequel on the popular 2008 Star Wars game, The Force Unleashed. It wasn't a massive issue; just a small matter of the main character being killed off at the end of the first game.
Throughout that adventure, you assumed the role of Darth Vader's apprentice, known as Starkiller, and made choices as to whether he was to do the bidding of the Empire or be swayed by the Jedi.
Despite there being two different endings to reach, the 'Light Side Ending' – where Starkiller sacrifices himself for the genesis of the Rebel Alliance – ended up being the assumed canon. So with that conclusion to build from, the development team ended up brainstorming ways to continue the story.
“Had I known conclusively that there was going to be a sequel, I probably wouldn't have killed him off,” admits Haden Blackman, executive producer on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
. “But in hindsight, we did what felt right for that story, and created a more powerful tale because of it. I don't like to think it's a detriment to The Force Unleashed 1
, or our work on II
. I've heard stories about other franchise companies where developers end up saving good ideas for a sequel – we don't do that.”
Many ideas were batted around, from introducing a new character to the series, or flesh out a character from the first Force Unleashed
game as the protagonist. But eventually, the decision was made to 'bring back' Starkiller – as a clone. It's certainly a controversial move, if not utterly predictable. But kudos must be handed to Lucasarts for at least letting players know of the cloning right from the start.
Blackman recalls one of the earlier story designs for The Force Unleashed II
: “When we decided to bring him back we thought that it was easily explained, because cloning exists in Star Wars
. But the first plot had Starkiller coming back and not knowing how he 'survived'. And he would spend the whole game trying to figure out his past before discovering he was really a clone. I hated that.
“There was no payoff in the idea, not to mention it would have been super obvious. So we changed it, and made a decision to let it all out in the beginning. It freed us up to make more of a personal story.” Blackman added that a great side effect of the fanbase's inevitable split reaction was that the studio could play on people's like or dislike for the clone concept.
Kota and Vader continue to act as the light and dark sides of Starkiller's conscience, only this time the confusion comes when the Jedi General calls the main character's cloning into question. Apparently, the technology doesn't exist yet for Jedi to be cloned (but then, is Starkiller a Jedi..?) – and so Kota tries to persuade you that Vader is lying through his big George Foreman grill. Lucasarts hopes the shifting balance of persuasion will help add to the storytelling.
On top of the twisting plot comes a completely reworked control scheme for combat. The big difference will be the fact that Starkiller now rocks two lightsabers instead of one, but I was told that the animation team really wanted to redo all of the combat moves for The Force Unleashed II
, which allowed the studio to add the extra beam.
A Force Fury mode allows all combos to allow you to chuck your weapons at a long-range distance too. There are even different colour configurations, so you might well be able to run around with pink and purple sabers, if that's your thing. The new combat system means that character movement is flashier and more fluent, with added sweeping moves to take out waves of enemies as a result.
I was able to watch a demo being played out with Starkiller rebelling against Darth Vader and tackling enemies in the Kamino planet, the first level. The upgraded physics in the DMM and Euphoria technologies allow for a lot more variety in enemies – and makes it more exciting to watch when they go flying by your hand.