One of the fundamental differences I have with my wife stems from Star Wars; she is forever drawn to the Dark Side of the Force, while I am a Jedi, like my father before me. With Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, the choice of how you use the Force to battle the Empire has no bearing whatsoever on your character’s alignment, in much the same way that it had no bearing in the first Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. As in that first game, the only time a choice becomes available is at the end of a battle with Darth Vader; you kill him and complete your conversion to the Dark Side, or you spare his life and confirm your adherence to the Light Side. For a mythos in which every choice makes a difference in your Force alignment, there aren’t very many consequences to your actions.
In the first game, Starkiller is taken from his Jedi father and raised by Darth Vader to be his Sith Apprentice. As the story progresses and Starkiller dispatches more escaped Jedi Masters, he begins to fall in love with his pilot, Juno Eclipse; love being the cliched plot element that it is, Starkiller realizes the error of his ways and rebels against his Master, helping to create the Rebel Alliance in the process. Canonically, Starkiller ends the game as a Jedi, dying to save the core of the Rebellion from the Emperor. The second game starts with Starkiller being released from shackles by Darth Vader, who tells him that he was cloned from the original Starkiller to take his place as Apprentice. Memories of Juno Eclipse resurface in Starkiller, and he escapes Darth Vader, focused on reuniting with his love. Using copious amounts of Force Lightning (without experiencing the detrimental physical effects of excessive Force Lightning use) and other force powers (such as the newly included Mind Trick and Force Fury), along with dual lightsabers, Starkiller battles his way through the galaxy, returning to battle Darth Vader in order to rescue Juno. After Vader’s inevitable defeat (since you are, of course, the protagonist), the game ends with Starkiller and Juno flying off into the unknown.
The Force Unleashed games take place one year before the events of A New Hope, in Star Wars canon. A third game was intended, but unfortunately cancelled. It is very obvious that the cancellation of III came after II was finished, because the ending leaves far too many loose ends open. Starkiller defeats Darth Vader and flies off, alive. If he is so capable of defeating Darth Vader, twice, why didn’t the Rebel Alliance simply send Starkiller after Darth Vader and the Emperor in A New Hope and call it a day? In spite of my complaints about the story, it was well done, for what it was.
Yes, the game includes small cameos from Boba Fett and Yoda. They are somewhat entertaining and help connect the game to the main movie canon.
The gameplay is improved from the first game; the targeting issue that most people complained about in the first game was fixed, along with other improvements and upgrades. Overall, the game plays very well, and is very enjoyable. The graphics are beautifully done; you can see the pores on Starkiller’s face during cut-scenes, and the gameplay graphics are incredibly smooth and textured. The system for upgrading the effectiveness and scope of your Force powers is basic, and will be familiar to anyone who has played previous Star Wars games, while the ability to change your lightsaber crystals (each having a different color and effect) allows you to customize your playing style very well. The addition of Mind Trick provides a very devious sense of satisfaction when used to make Stormtroopers battle Stormtroopers, or jump to their deaths, and Force Fury allows you to absolutely wail on your enemies with your Force powers. It is a very fun game to play.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II suffers from the same core issue that the first game suffered from, unfortunately: the game is fucking short. I beat the entire thing in less than 6 hours, which is about how long it took to beat the first game as well. With a $59.99 price tag, I absolutely expect more than 6 hours of gameplay, and if the gameplay it provided wasn’t so damn fun, I’d be very angry. Fortunately, The Force Unleashed II is a good example of the Vanquish Effect (a new term I’m going to use). What is the Vanquish Effect? Well, Vanquish was short (8 hours or so) with no multi-player, but it was absolutely the most fun 8 hours of gameplay I’ve had in a long time, making it worth the $59.99 price tag. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, while not as good as Vanquish, still gets by because of the Vanquish Effect. Even though the only replay value is to get achievements, and the story is not perfect, the beauty and sheer fun of this game make it a worthwhile purchase, although I will be waiting for the price to drop, as I know it eventually will.