Star Wars: Jedi Knight II and Jedi Academy

As Star Wars games evolved and adapted throughout the late 20th century it was inevitable that eventually the games would take on a life of their own and become almost totally independent of the film series, and nothing is more telling of this than the success of the Jedi Knight series that focused almost entirely on characters that were never even mentioned in the original trilogy. Yet characters like Kyle Katarn, Jan Ors and Tavion have become just as synonymous with Star Wars for many fans as the likes of Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker are for fans of the movies.

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The Story

Both Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy have fantastic storylines set deep within the now ‘Legends’ canon – both games follow the story of Rebel Agent-turned-Jedi Kyle Katarn and his fight against the Reborn faction, led by Desann and later Tavion. The development of Katarn’s character is one of ‘Legends’ canon’s greatest achievements, and makes these games all the more interesting as we follow the adventures of one of the Galaxy’s most legendary heroes. The main antagonists of both games are the various Dark Jedi associated with the Reborn faction, notably Desann, Tavion and Alora, and games are also filled with various minor antagonists, obstacles and puzzles to overcome as the player explores the world of Star Wars post-Return of the Jedi. An interesting feature in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy allows the player to create their own Jedi, who trains under Kyle Katarn in Luke’s new Jedi Temple on Yavin IV. Whilst Outcast‘s story is more linear, Academy allows players to choose their own missions whilst unravelling the game’s story and decide whether Kyle’s apprentice should stay on the path of the light or embrace the dark side, which gives Academy’s story two very different endings.

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The Multiplayer

By far one of the most memorable aspects of these games was the multiplayer, with maps like Death Star, Nar Shaddaa Streets, Vjun Sentinel, Taspir, Yavin Hilltops, and Coruscant Streets being among the more enduring and iconic maps in the series. Players have been able to use the game’s well-designed lightsaber combat system to create some quite interesting moves and strategies, which was further enhanced by Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy’s improved engine that allowed for double-bladed lightsabers and more advanced gymnastic Force abilities. Every map has a vertical element that can be used in conjunction with the almost limitless freedom that the hilariously overpowered Force Jump provides to take unsuspecting players completely by surprise, which is particularly rewarding in open maps with lots of ledges and platforms. As for the multiplayer setup, there are many different game modes to try, from Free for All to Capture the Flag, as well as modes designed around Star Wars battles in the movies like Power Duel and Siege. Even when playing solo, the game’s bots are challenging enough that it is still great fun.

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The Characters

A notable aspect of the campaign and multiplayer of the Jedi Knight series is the vast array of characters – particularly in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, in which an entire team can be made up of the various types of Stormtrooper in the game – and there are a fair few familiar faces from the Original Trilogy like Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca and Mon Mothma. Like all good contributions to the Star Wars lore, however, the Jedi Knight series also has its own large cast of recognisable characters and this, coupled with Jedi Academy‘s character customisation option, means that players are never short of choice in multiplayer when it comes to characters. The voice acting in this game ranges from genuinely good to downright hilarious, particularly in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast that has some funny dialogue but even funnier combat dialogue for the enemies.

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The Combat

It has to be said that one of the greatest assets of the Jedi Knight series is its combat mechanics, and even later Star Wars games like The Force Unleashed were never able to capture the simple-yet-effective approach that the Jedi Knight series took with its combat system. Lightsaber battles flow well and feel authentic – rather than having the player and the AI simply bashing sticks at each other until one of them drops dead, the combatants will lock blades and scoring direct body hits requires skill and precision. This means that each combat encounter feels like a mini-duel in itself, making the Jedi Knight games one of the quintessential Star Wars experiences for lightsaber combat.

There are other forms of combat present in the game too, however, and in some levels weapons other than the lightsaber are useful or even necessary. Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy feature a diverse sandbox of weapons and each has a specific function – a Star Wars equivalent of a shotgun, sniper rifle and rocket launcher are all present to make the games accessible to fans of the first-person shooter genre. Like all good FPS games, gunfights in the Jedi Knight series are dependant on movement and good aim, but many of the guns are useless against lightsaber wielders. The game’s weapon sandbox truly shines in the campaign mode, particularly since players can either mince through legions of Stormtroopers with their lightsaber, use the various Force powers to easily sweep through encounters, or choose to play more fairly and switch to gunplay for a more challenging (but ultimately more rewarding) combat experience.

Many who played the Jedi Knight games regard them as among the best of the Star Wars video games, and for good reason. Whilst it may no longer be part of the Star Wars canon, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy remains an essential Star Wars experience.

 

No Doctor Who Christmas Special This Year, Chibnall Confirms

After thirteen Doctor Who Christmas Specials, it would seem that the cornucopia of Christmas plots has finally run dry, as Chris Chibnall has moved the modern-day Christmas tradition to New Years day instead. With every Christmas Day since 2005 playing host to a festive-themed episode, even in years that did not see a regular series, it comes as no surprise that the show’s writers are running out of ways to link Doctor Who to Christmas.

Former showrunner Steven Moffat has already commented on how difficult it was to come up with Christmas-related episodes, with some of Capaldi’s later specials seemingly ignoring the Christmas theme entirely – the last Christmas Special, 2017’s Twice Upon a Time, briefly featured the 1914 Christmas Truce but was otherwise devoid of festive cheer. Moffat, the head writer for Doctor Who between 2010 and 2018, said: “I sort of think we might have mined, and possibly over mined, every single thing we could about Christmas in Doctor Who and the last time we more or less ignored it.” (Quote from the Mirror)

This may come as somewhat of a shock to newer fans of the show, many of whom have grown up with the tradition of having a new Doctor Who at Christmas, but older fans will recognise that the Specials are hardly a longstanding tradition – the Classic Series only ever aired one episode on Christmas Day, Part 7 of 1965’s The Dalek’s Master Plan, which was only aired that day because Christmas happened to land that Saturday.

Since 2005, however, Doctor Who writers have found themselves trapped by the restrictive festive-themed episodes, which has been reflected in their quality. Many of the Christmas Specials are considered to be among the worst episodes of the series – episodes like Voyage of the Damned and The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe being particularly notorious examples. Although early Christmas Specials like The Christmas Invasion are looked back on fondly by fans, many will agree that as a general rule the Christmas Specials are neither scary or engaging enough to be anything more than sub-par episodes.

So what does this mean for the future? The loss of the ‘Christmas Doctor Who’ may seem like the end of an era for the series, and many Brits may lament the fact that the tradition of the festive episode is a thing of the past. However, there are many benefits for the show that could come from this decision. As Doctor Who has moved towards a more cinematic style, with the Christmas Special sometimes being viewed as the true finale of the series, a morbid issue arose in recent years in that the last few Doctors have died and regenerated on Christmas Day. By moving the special to New Years, this creates some great opportunities for future Doctors as having the regeneration take place on New Years Day is far more appropriate.

But what kind of episodes could we see in the New Year’s Day time slot? The last New Year’s Special to air was the divisive The End of Time, Part 2, which brought the reign of the Tenth Doctor to a climactic end but was considered by fans to be over-indulgent and melodramatic. Under Chibnall’s reign, the fact that the New Years Special can branch out to tell stories without being bogged down by the obligatory Christmas theme can only be a good thing, and it lends itself to some fresh new ideas that can move the yearly Doctor Who special away from a tired tradition and towards an optimistic new era as Series 11 draws to a close. With recent rumours that the Daleks are returning in the New Years Day Special, titled Resolution, 2019’s New Years Special could set an exciting precedent for future specials in the years to come.

New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Savage Dalek Asylum Customs

Welcome to the next instalment in this series of Dalek customs showcases, a tour through my collection of custom-made New Series Daleks that have been altered and painted to appear destroyed, with some marked with stamps for the Dalek Asylum. In the previous feature we looked at several destroyed Dalek inmates, including some who had fallen victim to the Savage Daleks, which will be the focus of this feature. All of these customs are made by me unless stated otherwise in the description.

Cannibal Dalek REVISITED

This custom previously appeared in one of the earliest Custom Collection Tours, the New Series Dalek Asylum Inmates Collection Tour. However, it has since been updated to feature as a Savage Dalek. As described in the previous appearance of this Dalek, the custom represents a Dalek that has survived by harvesting parts from other inmates, essentially cannibalising other Dalek casings to keep itself alive. With a new paint job and new claw arms, this custom was created mainly using Citadel paints, hot glue and pieces of Warhammer weapons to create the savage tools that this Dalek uses to cut up its victims.

Savage Claw Dalek

Since many Savage Daleks have to create makeshift weapons using reprogrammed repair nanobots, they usually opt for subtle but precise weapons capable of dealing deadly accurate cuts to Dalek casings. However, this Dalek has opted for an oversized claw arm to complement a short-range machine gun stolen from an Exxilon survivor. Like most Savage Daleks, this specimen resides in some of the deepest caverns in the Asylum, and has formed a loose alliance with other Savages to survive. This custom was made using silver Citadel paint as a base that was drybrushed over with black. The claw and gun are both re-purposed Warhammer pieces put together using hot glue.

Savage Laser Cutter Dalek

This Dalek has a high status among the Savages it has banded together with as its laser cutter attachment allows it to bypass many Asylum security systems, cut through doors, and make short work of any Dalek at close range. As this Dalek was admitted to the Asylum for numerous attacks against its fellow Daleks, it is clear that this Dalek suffers from some kind of defect that renders it unable to find any form of life tolerable, even that of other Daleks. This custom was made using grey and silver Citadel paints, some plastic pieces and the stem and nib of a ballpoint pen painted silver.

Savage Dalek Inmate

Of the many Savage Daleks in the Asylum, some are more lucid and adhere more to Dalek principles than others. This particular Dalek is an example of one of the few Savage Daleks that have not opted for personalised weaponry, instead opting for the standard Dalek loadout of gunstick and sucker arm. However, this Dalek’s conformity should not be confused for leniency, as it is just as deadly as any other Savage Dalek – just less willing to opt for crude replacements for the already effective Dalek standard armament. The base for this custom was originally a Dalek Sec, although it has been heavily drybrushed with silver, black and grey Citadel paint and fitting with a new eyestalk that was constructed using parts of a phone charger. As with all the Dalek inmates, this custom is also sporting an Asylum stamp that was applied using a red Promarker pen.

 

 

New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Even More Destroyed Daleks

Welcome to the next instalment in this series of Dalek customs showcases, a tour through my collection of custom-made New Series Daleks that have been altered and painted to appear destroyed, with some marked with stamps for the Dalek Asylum. In the previous two-part feature we delved back into the Dalek Asylum to look at more customs. These are more destroyed Daleks that are doomed to rot in the Dalek Asylum for all eternity. All of these customs are made by me unless stated otherwise in the description.

Abandoned Dalek Casing

Due to the centuries spent languishing in the Asylum, many of the insane Dalek inmates are crazy enough to try and escape from their casings, particularly the ones with cybernetic enhancements that allow them to slowly adapt to living for longer and longer periods outside of their shells. The mutant that formerly resided inside this Dalek casing has reach a point where it can abandon its metal prison altogether, leaving the damaged remains to gather dust in some dark corner of the Asylum. To create this custom a mutant reveal Dalek was used with the mutant itself removed, and the front panel cut in half and attached to the casing with plastic pieces. The wires came from an old TV cable and all the paint was done with Citadel applied using a dry brush.

Destroyed Time War Commander

During the Time War the Asylum saw an unprecedented increase in inmates – sometimes dozens would arrive in a single day. Due to a huge overload of the Asylum systems many of the automated drones were assigned to repair duties, leaving many of the more aggressive inmates unguarded. As a result, heavy infighting is now a common occurrence in the Asylum, which the central computer allows in order to keep numbers down. This Dalek Commander was a particularly unfortunate casualty of a conflict between various factions, and the blasted casing now sits as a grim relic of the Time War, that for some Daleks in the Asylum still rages to this day. This custom used a yellow and black Dalek Commander figure as a base and plastic pieces for the insides of the casing. The dead mutant is a combination of tissue paper, hot glue and Citadel paints and hot glue was used to attach a sucker arm and gun socket to the middle of the casing.

Spider Eggs Dalek

Cobwebs were a recurring feature in the episode Asylum of the Daleks, with many of the Daleks in the Asylum (particularly the Classic Daleks) being covered with spider webs. However, this creates an interesting implication, in that it means the Asylum is also home to a population of spiders. Logically, these creatures must eat and reproduce, and so this custom represents what the local spider population might do in order to eat and lay eggs – with an unfortunate Dalek as the host. It stands to reason that the spiders would adapt to use the Daleks as a means of reproduction, and perhaps even food, as the spiders themselves may have been converted into another extension of the on-site defence system thanks to the tenacious nano-cloud that surrounds the Asylum. This custom uses a black Dalek as a base that was cut up using a hacksaw and heavy duty wire cutters. The inside was created using plastic, wires and small blobs of hot glue to represent spider eggs, with the end result spray painted silver to add to the spider aesthetic.

Destroyed Asylum Inmate

In-fighting in the Asylum has brought several factions to complete extinction – and their remains are salvaged by Dalek Splicers that scavenge for spare parts among the wreckage. This Dalek was a Commander in a pre-Time War Dalek Assault Squad. Thanks to heavy Dalek casualties in the Dalek War, it was not long before the survivors admitted to the Asylum were wiped out. This custom was created using pieces from various New Series Daleks that had been cut up for other customs, and as such a new paint job was needed to make all the pieces seem like part of the same Dalek. The inside computer parts were taken from a few old electronic devices and the whole thing was assembled using hot glue and tissue paper held together with wires.

Dead Asylum Inmate

The battles that take place within the Asylum are not always firefights – in order to conserve power, many Daleks have resorted to close-quarters combat using makeshift weapons that have been cobbled together. Though these Savage Daleks form only a loose alliance rather than an ideological faction, they are among the most deranged and deadly of the Asylum inmates. This particular inmate was a victim of a Savage Dalek attack during which they cut out many of the front plates as well as both weapons, causing the casing to shut down and the mutant inside to drown in its life support fluids. This custom was made using a hacksaw and heavy duty wire cutters, and the internal frame was constructed from plastic and painted with Citadel paints.

Next – New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Savage Dalek Asylum Customs

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New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Intensive Care Asylum Daleks Part 2

Welcome to the next instalment in this series of Dalek customs showcases, a tour through my collection of custom-made New Series Daleks that have been altered and painted to appear destroyed, with some marked with stamps for the Dalek Asylum. Continuing from Part 1, these are the next set of ‘intensive care’ Dalek customs. These are based on the Daleks that appeared in the special ward of the Dalek Asylum who are all survivors of particular encounters with the Doctor. All of these customs are made by me unless stated otherwise in the description.

Open Emperor Guard Dalek

This custom was created using a previous attempt at an insane Dalek Caan custom, with the mutant removed and replaced with a custom green mutant made using hot glue and a plastic claw. This Dalek is intended to represent one of the Dalek Emperor’s Human-Dalek Hybrids, specifically one of the Emperor’s Guards that somehow managed to survive the events of The Parting of the Ways and has ended up in the depths of the Dalek Asylum. As the last of the Emperor’s Human-Daleks, this specimen is quite insane, and the repair drones dare not approach for fear of being sliced in half by this Dalek’s vicious metal claw. The weathering on this Dalek was done using drybrushing and as the base model was already burnt the pieces are warped and malformed as if the casing has melted due to extreme temperatures.

Ongoing Maintenance Dalek

Not all Daleks in the Asylum were admitted for insanity – some are cast into the dark chambers of the facility for simply malfunctioning. This Dalek contracted some form of computer virus during an encounter with the Doctor and its casing’s self-repair systems have shut down, meaning the Asylum’s drones must continuously repair the Dalek’s systems as the virus works to take them down in an endless battle between two continually adapting programs. All the while this Dalek waits patiently for the balance to tip in its favour, as more than anything it wants revenge against the Doctor. The plastic and wires of this custom’s frame were taken from an old radio and stuck together using hot glue. The paint detailing is Citadel paints applied using a dry brush.

‘Steampunk’ Dalek Commander

Some of the Daleks in the intensive care ward were damaged within the Asylum itself – this former Dalek Commander was admitted to the Asylum during the Time War after an incident involving the Doctor and an electro-magnetic pulse. Since the ‘accident’, the Commander has conducted many botched repairs on itself in an attempt to remove its dependence on electronic components and has replaced many of them with cobbled-together clockwork and steam-powered devices constructing using re-programmed self-repair drones. Regarded as an eccentric by the other inmates of the Asylum, this Dalek is generally avoided by the more lucid Asylum denizens, This custom includes parts from an old CD drive as well as wires and pieces taken from an old radio. Promarker pen was used for the weathering and detail on the various cogs and other pieces.

Asylum Supreme Dalek

Having been updated since its appearance in the New Series Dalek Supremes Collection Tour, this Supreme Dalek now resides within the Asylum and has become the ringleader of a desperate faction of Daleks from various time periods who have allied together for protection. Using its old command codes, this Dalek is capable of interfacing directly with the Asylum’s central mainframe, giving it a unique insight into the Asylum’s Labyrinthine layout that makes it a vital asset for the various competing factions within the Asylum.

Next – New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Even More Destroyed Daleks

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New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Intensive Care Asylum Daleks Part 1

Welcome to the next instalment in this series of Dalek customs showcases, a tour through my collection of custom-made New Series Daleks that have been altered and painted to appear destroyed, with some marked with stamps for the Dalek Asylum. The previous instalment featured some odd additions to my customs collection that didn’t really fit anywhere else, but now we must delve back into the depths of the Dalek Asylum to take a look at some ‘intensive care’ Dalek customs. These are based on the Daleks that appeared in the special ward of the Dalek Asylum who are all survivors of particular encounters with the Doctor. All of these customs are made by me unless stated otherwise in the description.

Damaged Life Support Dalek

This Dalek went insane due in part to the horrors it witnessed in the Time War, both by the Daleks themselves in their genocidal campaign against the universe but also thanks to equally vicious atrocities that the Time Lords committed against the Daleks themselves. This custom was created using a mutant reveal Dalek mutant placed on top of an overturned plastic flowerpot, of all things, that was attached to the base before the damaged casing was constructed around it. The wires and computer parts were salvaged from various pieces of old equipment like radios and motherboards, and the plastic frame came from a Warhammer set. The paints used for all of the customs featured here is Citadel paints, and the drybrushing was done with an old model painting brush. The detailing on the mutant was done with Promarker pen, and pieces of plastic and hot glue were used to construct a new eyestalk.

Straight-jacket Dalek

This Dalek was based on the Dalek seen during the intensive care scenes in Asylum of the Daleks that breaks free of its chains but has no weaponry with which to attack the Doctor. Since the Asylum automated precautions made a point of removing this particular Dalek’s weapon, it would stand to reason that this particular inmate was even more deranged than its peers, and so for this custom wires were used to create a sort of Dalek straight jacket, designed to imply that this Dalek is being kept restrained for the safety of other Asylum inmates. Silver spray paint was used to give this Dalek a weathered look, and the wires have been painted silver to resemble metal. As with many Asylum customs, a fake eyestalk was needed and this one was constructed using the inside of a ballpoint pen and hot glue.

External Life Support Dalek

This Dalek has clearly suffered from some kind of internal damage or fault, and the Asylum’s automated systems have responded by constructing a life support system around the Dalek’s casing to keep it alive. Although the base figure used for this custom is that of Dalek Sec, this could be any Time War era Dalek commander as many of these Black Daleks were seen in the Asylum during Asylum of the Daleks. The frame was constructed using pieces from a Warhammer figure frame cut using heavy duty wire cutters and held in place with hot glue. With silver and green paint added, the plastic frame looks convincingly metal and the glue serves as leaking Dalek fluids. The front panel is held in place by a structure built inside the Dalek casing using the plastic case of an old plug and some more Warhammer frames.

Open and Empty Dalek

This Dalek casing’s colour scheme indicates it may have once contained a particularly high-ranking Dalek, but after it was admitted to the Asylum and its casing opened for maintenance, the mutant escaped and now prowls around the depths of the dark facility. In the meantime, this abandoned casing gathers dust in the intensive care ward, ignored by the repair drones and essentially left to rot. This custom was created by sawing the two individual halves of the Dalek figure in half and gluing them back together as separate pieces, whilst also sawing the front panel in half and building a frame out of plastic pieces to hold it all together. The wires and computer parts represent the internal workings of the Dalek casing that have corroded over time.

Next – New Series Dalek Customs Collection Tour – Intensive Care Asylum Daleks Part 2

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Doctor Who – Arachnids in the UK – Series 11 Episode 4 Review

Arachnophobes beware, as last Sunday’s Doctor Who definitely lived up to the Halloween season hype with a nail-biting runaround that, for many, brought the fear factor back to Doctor Who. Whilst Arachnids in the UK was far from the scariest episode in the show’s recent history, it certainly provides some welcome scares and genuinely creepy moments that prove the show is still willing to tackle the horror side of sci-fi.

Longtime fans were intrigued by the premise of this episode, as this is not the first time that giant spiders have appeared on the show – in fact, Third Doctor Jon Pertwee actually regenerated following an encounter with some insidious alien arachnids from Metebelis III in 1974’s Planet of the Spiders, so it would make sense if the Doctor to be a little squeamish around them. However, Arachnids in the UK takes a completely different approach to a similar idea as the spiders are common house spiders that have mutated rather than extraterrestrial invaders, which is a nice twist.

Once again, Jodie Whittaker steals the show and her character of the Thirteenth Doctor has been firmly well-established. It is amazing how soon she has found her feet in the role as the Doctor, and she has already solidified many of the details of her character from the Tennant-esque technobabble to the way she flourishes her sonic. Not only that, but the writing has given the Thirteenth Doctor a consistent character throughout her opening episodes, an improvement over the Twelfth Doctor’s introduction in which Peter Capaldi’s masterful grasp of the character was undermined by inconsistent writing.

Another marked improvement in this series over the previous Moffat-era stories is the heart, as whilst Series 10 had some great moments with characters like Missy and Bill, Series 11 has already a more compelling character in Graham than the Moffat era had with a companion like Clara. The simple approach to character development is always the way to go on Doctor Who, and the down-to-earth nature of the new companions is far more relatable than Moffat’s Mary Sues who were ‘born to save the Doctor’. Hopefully the show can learn from its mistakes and maintain the ‘regular’ kind of companion as these are far more effective.

The supporting cast in this episode are also strong, with Chris North’s character filling the role of merciless businessman that has become a staple of many Earth-based Doctor Who episodes, and Yaz’s Mum Najia played by Shobna Gulati proves a good foil for his stubborn and detached personality. The ending of this story is distinctly bleak, but has an uplifting turn at the end with the final scene in the TARDIS showing the team reunited for more adventures.

So although Giant Spiders may be a somewhat of a recycled plot idea for Doctor Who at this point, Arachnids in the UK somehow makes it feel fresh and is another strong instalment of Thirteen’s debut series.

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