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SummaryA rich and immersive Star Wars shooter, and a gaming classic
The GoodInspired by fan-created Star Wars content for the Doom games, LucasArts embarked to create their first FPS to capitalize on the eternally-popular movie property. While video game/movie tie-ins were typically brain dead cash-ins, Dark Forces aspired to, and succeeded in being, a rich and immersive gaming experience in the Star Wars universe.
While the mechanics work very much like any of the so-called "Doom clones" that were ubiquitous in the day, Dark Forces added some exciting features that weren't commonplace: cinematic expositions, mission briefings, a sidekick, puzzles, non-player characters and timed sequences all enhanced what was already a gaming experience that surpassed the run-of-the-mill shooter.
From the very first mission, wherein you as protagonist Kyle Katarn must infiltrate an Imperial base and steal the plans for the Death Star for the Rebel Alliance, the game makes you a key player in the unfolding of the Star Wars saga. The plot convincingly weaves in and out of the main trilogy's story line and explains how the player is an essential part in the unfolding of well-known events.
This preceding your visit to the Imperial City, your showdown with iconic bounty hunter Boba Fett, and your imprisonment by Jabba the Hutt, Dark Forces almost more adequately serves as an engrossing follow-up to the original trilogy than George Lucas' own.
The BadSome sequences in the game prove to be immensely challenging to the point of frustrating. Jumping puzzles frequently result in instant death, and because the game's save system only provides one profile save slot, you may find that you've saved at the wrong opportunity. Some of the bosses prove insanely hard to defeat, as well.
Although immersive beyond many of its peers, Dark Forces could have benefited greatly from the use of more, and more interactive, NPCs. Most dialog is carried out one way, or via cinematic sequences. In one mission, Kyle Katarn must visit the Imperial City, which is apparently populated exclusively by himself and Boba Fett, where even some static or non-interactive NPCs would have added to the credibility. Character interaction and player-character choices are incredibly limited, usually resulting in death or mission failure if the wrong decision is made.
Lastly, although above-par for the time, some of the graphics are a bit choppy. The grimy feeling is well in-keeping with the visual feel of the Star Wars trilogy, but some of the aesthetic choices for sprites are downright hideous.
The Bottom LineInasmuch as "Doom-clones" go, you can't get much better than this.
Inasmuch as Star Wars franchise games go, you can't get much better than this.
Dark Forces still holds up as one of the best DOS games to play even in a day where it has been visually surpassed.