Star Wars™ Dark Forces review

Show of hands! Who’s here has already seen Rogue One, the new Star Wars™ movie? Wow, all of you? I shouldn’t be surprised; it’s freaking STAR WARS™ after all!

As you all know, Rogue One is the story of how the Rebel Alliance got their hands in the Death Star plans. But in the old canon (before Disney bought the rights to Star Wars™ and decreed the Expanded Universe as non-canon), those plans were stolen by perhaps the most famous character outside the movies: Kyle Katarn. In fact, you do just that right on the 1st level of Dark Forces (which was basically the demo).

Yes, there’s a Star Wars™ Doom clone. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! GO AND PLAY IT!

… I suppose I should tell you more about it.

Star Wars™ Dark Forces is a FPS (First Person Shooter) developed and distributed by LucasArts for DOS and Macintosh in 1995 and a year later, ported to the Sony Playstation.

Calling Dark Forces a Doom clone isn’t fair because it doesn’t use the Doom engine; in fact, LucasArts developed their own engine for the game, in which they introduced new features to the genre, like atmospheric effects, animations, shading and most important, the ability to display rooms in different floors, all in top of each other. This gave the game the opportunity to introduce a lot of environmental puzzles, which are the real enemies of the game. Yes, an Imperial architect is more fearsome than a platoon of Stormtroopers.

But first let’s take a look at the front and back covers of the game:

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Looking the 1st time at the front cover and with that title, I first thought that I was going to play as a Stormtrooper. Well, if you read the manual, Kyle Katarn was originally an Imperial officer, who became disillusioned with the Empire and then became a mercenary at the service of the Rebel Alliance. So, my assumption wasn’t that wrong. But what really sold me was the back cover: the opportunity to enter a duel with the most famous bounty hunter of the galaxy, Boba Fett.

But let’s stop wasting time, boot this sucker and may the Force be with us.

Of course this wouldn’t be a Star Wars™ game without an opening crawl and the famous theme by John Williams. If this intro, the music and this title screen doesn’t get you pumped up to kick some Imperial ass, then I don’t know what would.

After completing the 1st level, the storyline moves forward after Episode IV, where General Rom Mohc developed a new deadly type of android, THE DARK TROOPER! (Where did that thunder came from?). So the rest of the game is basically investigating about it and stopping its development and construction.

Like I said before, you take control of Kyle Katarn with the help of Jyn Erso (sorry, I meant Jan Ors! I don’t know how I made that mistake), you must go through 14 levels, in which you face not only Imperial forces and the aforementioned Dark Troopers, but also other types of enemies (like Dianogas) and encounter several characters from the Star Wars™ lore.

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How many games do you know where you can punch a dragon to death? Well, Apart from Skyrim, that is.

The game also gives the opportunity to use an Imperial Blaster rifle as one of the first weapons available and I finally understand why the Stormtroopers have such a terrible aim. This blaster rifle sucks at medium and long range! Luckily, the weapons you get afterwards are a lot better, like the Imperial Repeater and the Concussion Rifle.

You also have the opportunity to visit some famous planets and locations, like Coruscant and a Star Destroyer, among others. And one great feature is the fact that all the levels look different from each other. In fact, almost every level looks unique. Some even use familiar textures from the movies, like trash compactors and the white walls from Leia’s ship.

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And I mentioned the environmental puzzles, which are harder than even the Dark Troopers. The first two levels are easy, but starting from the third level, in which you have to travel through a complex sewer system, is when the game starts being challenging.

Of course, not all levels are as hard, although the sixth level is for me the hardest.

The real challenge is the combination of the puzzles with the two major faults in the game, in my opinion: the inability to save in the middle of the levels (which is a feature present in almost all FPS games) and the platforming in a first person perspective. The POV doesn’t give a good depth perception, making jumping through platforms a stressful task.

The game also uses a simple life system, although it’s impossible to know how many lives you have left. But every time you die, the game puts right before you died, so at least you don’t have to restart the level again, which is a bonus.

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But apart from these two faults, the game is quite entertaining and I highly recommend it.

Dark Forces was critically acclaimed by critics and fans alike and sold incredibly well, becoming one of LucasArts’ most successful games and begun one of most famous Star Wars™ gaming franchises: the Jedi Knight series. It received that name because, although Dark Forces had such a success, it would be eclipsed by its sequels, which we’ll look at another time.

Unfortunately, the PSX port wasn’t as well received, mainly because it failed to be successfully ported to the console. But since I don’t have a PSX, I can’t compare between both.

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Jan Ors, who brief us before every mission after finishing the 1st level.

The game is yet to be officially remade, and because of its non-canon status, I’ll doubt we’ll ever see a remake. But I wouldn’t mind seeing a homage or reference of sorts in Star Wars™ Battlefront.

If you can’t stand the pixelated looks of the game, then there’s a fan port in the XL engine, which has better graphics (although it’s still in alpha stage) and also a mod for Jedi Academy.

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Also there’s this page where you can download custom levels and other stuff.

Because Dark Forces was the first Star Wars™ FPS, it opened the door to other games in the same genre, like the Jedi Knight series, the Battlefront series and others.

You can buy the game in Steam or GOG.com, either by itself or bundled with the rest of the Jedi Knight series.

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Well, that was my last review of 2016 and although it wasn’t a great year overall, I hope for the best in the future.

I’m planning one last post this year for my Christmas and New Year wishes and then start 2017 with my very first request. Until then may the Force be with you and keep on playing.

Oh, and while we’re at it, go and check out Rogue One. It’s pretty good!

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