The next chapter of Star Wars is nearly here

A special report on The Force Unleashed II.

In just over a week, the next instalment in the Star Wars saga will drop – no, it’s not a new movie, or even the latest episode in The Clone Wars animated series, but The Force Unleashed II, an interquel to Episodes III and IV. Just by the numbers, some of you would have played its 2008 predecessor, which shifted a mighty 7 million units upon release. This sequel continues the story of Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, who seemingly perished at the end of the last game in a Force-powered explosion on the Death Star after inadvertently creating the Rebel Alliance in rounding up the dark lord’s enemies.

At the start of TFU II, we’re led to believe that Starkiller died and that he’s been revived as a clone by Vader – after encountering his old master, however, this ‘clone’ Starkiller begins to doubt his origins. Wracked with the memories of his former life, Starkiller seeks his true love, Juno Eclipse, while Vader teams up with Boba Fett to track him down.

While the story of the original was well-received, the gameplay was greeted with mixed impressions. Project lead Julio Torres chatted to me about the issues the team worked hard to address from the moment TFU II went into production. “The first thing I wanted to do is address the fact we need to do less better. That was my motto from day one – guys, let’s look at all the shit we wanted to do, and it’s great to be ambitious, but the reality is that if you try to do too much too soon too fast, you could end up with areas you’re not happy with because they’re not polished, they’re not clean, they’re buggy. So what I decided to do was carve out a philosophy where we grab a few things, and make those really good. I think the games out there that are cool choose five or six things and do them really well.”

Actor Sam Witwer, who you may remember from Smallville as Davis Bloome or Crashdown from BSG, was more than happy to reprise the role of Starkiller. “Aside from it being Star Wars and I’ve been a Star Wars fan since birth, it has a really strong story and I love the character to death. I really love that character, so they got me. The thing is, with The Force Unleashed, I take this as seriously – if not more so – than any gig I’ve ever done. I actually should be in Montreal right now getting ready to go back to work, but I wanted to make sure I had a day to come out and support this wonderful project and these great people. It’s simply because they’ve done a great job and it’s a great character, I really enjoy playing him.”

I ask Torres if he sees The Force Unleashed as a parallel saga to Episodes IV-VI, with TFU II being the darker second instalment. “This one’s darker. The focus of this is to make it grittier, darker and meaner, and elements like how you use your saber’s elements like the Force fury, your intense angst about identity crisis of cloning versus not cloning, the fact you’re just torn about having these terrible memories… it’s really a much darker, more introspective experience and we wanted it that way. It will never be a gory game, but it raises the bar in the sense of darkness, for sure.”

There’s a demo of TFU II available on Xbox Live and the PSN right now. Otherwise, the game will be released on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS and PC on 29 October.