Star Wars: Dark Forces

aka: Star Wars: Dark Forces (Classic, 1995)
Moby ID: 500
DOS Specs
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Description official descriptions

Kyle Katarn is a former Imperial officer turned mercenary, now hired by the Rebel Alliance. After having stolen the Death Star plans from a remote facility, he is tasked with investigating the sudden destruction of a hidden Rebel base. This leads him to face off against Imperial General Rom Mohc and the various iterations of his Dark Troopers - cybernetic soldiers with the armor and firepower to turn the tide of the war.

Dark Forces is a close prequel to the original Star Wars movie trilogy. The game marks LucasArts' first attempt to enter the first-person shooter market. Instead of licensing the DOOM engine, like many competitors, LucasArts created its own internal Jedi engine. The Jedi engine contains advanced features over similar tech, including the ability to look up and down, jump, crouch, and limited support (in the build used for Dark Forces) for rooms (sectors) over rooms. The 3D models also make occasional appearances inside the game, as turrets or Kyle's ship dropping him off or picking him up from each mission.

Most levels have a fairly complex, often maze-like structure, and include various switches that need to be activated to change the layout of the level. Jumping is integrated into the gameplay, as certain areas can only be accessed in that way. In addition to weapons, Kyle can use shields to protect himself from damage, a head lamp to illuminate dark areas, as well as specific items used to counter environmental hazards. The player character is given a certain amount of "lives" per level; he dies permanently once he runs out of all of them. Game progress can be saved only between missions.

The game features fourteen substantial levels as Kyle works to disarm the Dark Trooper project. Many levels reference characters or areas from the Star Wars movie trilogy, such as a visit with Jabba the Hutt, a trip to Coruscant, and a battle through the interior of a Star Destroyer. As opposed to most first-person shooters of the time period, every level has objectives for Kyle to complete, ranging from grabbing a clue and getting out alive, to planting charges around a facility to demolish it. Cutscenes appear between key missions to update the plot.

The Star Wars license gets plenty of use, as the game features imperial officers, stormtroopers, and a collection of aliens seen in the films as enemies. Blaster rifles and thermal detonators are used as weapons, along with other firearms inspired by the tech of the films. Dark Forces also uses the iMuse engine to dynamically change the music during action scenes, with much of the music based off or directly replicating, John Williams' original film score.

The game is entirely a single-player campaign; no multiplayer is included or supported.

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Credits (DOS version)

124 People (114 developers, 10 thanks) · View all

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3D Engine
Story
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Reviews

Critics

Average score: 81% (based on 43 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 189 ratings with 15 reviews)

The first First Person Shooter I ever liked enough to finish

The Good
Until I played Dark Forces, I was never much of a FPS fan. While I did reckonize the innovativeness of such games as Doom and Wolfenstein, I was never really able to get "into" them because no matter how fun they were at first, after several levels of running around cramp dark corridors blowing away wave after wave of enemies it started to seem a bit pointless. However Dark Forces was a large exception, not only was it fun, but it somehow managed to pull me in, in a way Doom never could.

Perhaps the main reason for this was that this game had a point which was greater than simply "kill everything in sight". Each level was mission-based and followed a general trend rather than random key-hunting and button-pushing. Sure, key-hunting and button-pushing were part of the gameplay, but you always got the feeling that your actions had a higher purpose than "proceed to the next area". Each level proceeded logically from the previous level, and you got the feeling your were going through an evolving story rather than being sent from one random killing field to the next. The game had an actual overarching plot which was revealed to you via mission briefings and a few animated cutscenes. Although certainly not pulitzer winning material the storyline and cutscenes which revealed it were pretty good in a comic book sort of way. The plot built up quite nicely starting with the prologue raid on an Imperial base and culminating in a final attack against the Dark Trooper-infested Arc Hammer.

As far as I know, Dark Forces was the very first First Person Shooter with a personality. Enemies shouted a variety of challenges at you such as "Stop Rebel scum" or "Set blasters on full". Your character Kyle Katarn would make the occasional quip, but most of the in-game dialogue was supplied by your partner, Jan Orz, who would make a variety of amusing comments about your situation over your comm-link, and helped to alleviate the usual FPS feeling of claustraphobic loneliness.

I really enjoyed the Star Wars theme used throughout the game. Although I wasn't a big fan at the time, I did reckonize the characters and somehow got more satisfaction blowing away the Imperial Stormtroopers and hostile aliens than I did killing the faceless monsters of many other FPS.

Each of the different levels had a distinct look and feel which made them unique to each other, ranging from Imperial installations, sewers, a mining facility, an Ice planet, and even the Empire's heavily defended capital city. The length of the game was also "just right". Although there were only 14 levels, each level was well crafted, with almost no repetition or feelings of tediousness. Also, although there are some puzzles which may get you stuck for a while, I found nothing overtly unfair and was able to complete the game by myself without needing to refer to a walkthrough.

Gameplay was also quite fun. Graphically the game was amazing, with very colorful textures and enemies and considerably less pixelation than Doom. Dark Forces also featured the ability to look up and down as well as jumping and ducking, which added new elements to the gameplay. Weapons and enemies followed the Star Wars theme quite nicely (especially the blaster bolts, which traveled across the screen in quick streaks true to the movies), and while many of the weapons seemed to have been invented specifically for this game they do fit in with the general space opera feeling. Most of the enemies can be reckonized from the Star Wars movies, ranging from Stormtroopers and attack probes to the boss-like Dark Trooper battle droids around which the game's story revolved. Not to mention a special guest appearance and boss battle with bounty hunter Boba Fett.

The Bad
Not much, really. It's true the game didn't have any multiplayer support (which was a big point of complaint) but personally I didn't even have a modem at the time, so the single player game was all I was concerned about, and the single player game was damn good.

It's also true the game wouldn't allow you to save in-game, but instead automatically saved your status after the completion of each mission. While this may be another point of complaint for some people, I actually think it was a good idea. It helped the level designers maintain control of the tension within the levels, and none of the levels were too long or difficult that they couldn't be finished in one sitting (although many were quite large and complex and might need a few goes to get through). There was also an "extra life" system so that even if you did die in a level you wouldn't have to start all the way back at the beginning.

The Bottom Line
Lucasarts is famous for releasing quality games. Whether it be their Star Wars flight simulators or their quirky adventure games, they seem to be able to give a game a special "personality" that makes it stand out. It's nice to see that they've managed to do this with their first foray into the FPS market as well.

DOS · by Alan Chan (3610) · 2000

A gem of its time, recreating the original Star Wars fun and adventure.

The Good
Released during LucasArts heyday in the mid-nineties when they were on a role in the adventure genre with the SCUMM based games, and the Star Wars brand was at its pre-prequel resurgent height, Dark Forces provides Star Wars with its own quality FPS as much as X-Wing gave it a quality space-flight sim.

The story is set during the classic era, intertwined around the events of the films with the first mission being to steal the plans of the first Death Star. This places you in amongst the classic scenario of fighting against Stormtroopers in typical Imperial garrisons, creating the atmosphere with well-drawn sprites and the iconic sound effects. You are cast as Kyle Katarn an ex-Stormtrooper turned Rebel Agent, whose hard boiled attitude is obviously a tribute to Han Solo. In this the plotting is quite poor, as the developers obviously couldn't think of a decent main character so resorted to the loveable rogue stereotype, much like the later Dash Rendar, it wouldn't be until the later games that Kyle really comes into his own. Here he is a thin character sent on missions by the Rebel Alliance to 'investigate' an Imperial project to create 'Dark Troopers', a new kind of super Stormtrooper. Of course this FPS is very much of it's time and investigating generally involves progressing through a linear level shooting anything that moves and picking up key cards and weapons and despatching such a number of Imperial troops that Kyle Katarn can easily be a one man army. That LucasArts actually tried to conceive a plot to this is a credit, compared to games such as Duke Nukem, Dark Forces features cut-scenes that progress the story and give you a sense that you're somehow contributing to it.

The game engine is good for it's time, the graphics are clean and sharp with levels well thought out and the Stormtroopers have the classic poor shooting skills. The controls are intuitive and allow for looking up and down making the game world deeper, though you hardly have to for game play.

The Bad
Any negative criticism of the game really depends on what you might be expecting to get out of it. The game is very much an FPS both in game play and plot line, which has you facing an ever increasing number of enemies of ever increasing toughness, dressed up in a plot to make it believable, though the actual plot of the Dark Troopers is hardly believable, but this is Star Wars. All this plays out in the typical check point level format, picking up a vast array of weapons generally based on those seen in the films, and health packs, a-la Doom et al. It's a shame that so many of the FPS clichés made it into the game, but then it is a product of it's time.

If you're looking to relive parts from the films or see any hints of the main characters, you'll be disappointed though as aside from appearances of Darth Vader in the cut-scenes the game lives pretty much in it's own world. None of the classic Star Wars locales are given for exploration, although some of the levels are made to be familiar to them.

The game doesn't have the re-playability of its sibling space flight sim games and could have opted to place you in the role of an anonymous rebel agent as in X-Wing, allowing for branching missions and creating a plot more around you, but that really wasn't the mode for FPS at the time, only really System Shock was getting near that style of play.

The Bottom Line
Overall the game is a great way to live out Star Wars fantasies and place yourself in the action, nicely framed in the Star Wars universe. What it lacks in original game play it makes up for in polish and plot, making it a thoroughly engaging experience, that if worth playing for all Star Wars fans, if they can get it to run on modern systems. More importantly as it was made and set before the Star Wars universe exploded after the prequels came out, it retains the innocent charm of the original trilogy.

DOS · by RussS (807) · 2009

A long time ago...

The Good
First off, let me say that I played Jedi Knight BEFORE I even looked at Dark Forces. But even after playing the sequel, I still enjoy playing the original.

The gameplay is quite simple. You play the role of Kyle Katarn, a mercenary-for-hire agent employed by the Rebel Alliance. Your first mission is the theft of the Death Star schematics (Kyle says in the game "Much too easy", and even of the difficult settings, the first mission is indeed a cakewalk). After this mission you embark on a series of missions revolving around a new breed of weapon that the Empire is developing called the "Dark Trooper". So you play through detailed levels trying to find out what is happening.

The graphics are very good considered the year it was released. The blasters look real, and the game has that Empire "Sterile" look to it, although that doesn't really work in the outdoor levels. The movement on my P233 is ultra-fluid, even with all the music, SFX's, and graphical detail cranked to full, so it is very immersing.

The sound is superb. Come on, it's Star Wars! John Williams infamous music is playing in the background, and sampling the sounds of the blaster shots give the game that "Star Wars" feel to it.

The control is good, especially the keyboard, when it setup for your tastes (more on that later)

The computer AI is okay, but fighting the Dark Troopers themselves can be very discouraging. They are tough on any level of difficulty.

The Bad
The control setup for the keyboard is extremely frustrating, mainly due to the fact that the setup is done OUTSIDE the game environment. For example, if you have the "Fire" key mapped to the "G" key, and you find that that isn't working well for you (let's face it: ANYONE who maps the "Fire" key to "G" has NEVER played a 1st person shooter before grin), you need to exit the game, run the setup program, change the key, save the settings, and restart the game. Come on LucasArts, even id could do on-the-fly keyboard mapping, and that was in Wolfenstein 3D.

The cutscenes were animated (much like the cutscenes in X-Wing). I find they were poorly animated, and the voice-over were sub-par. The voice-overs in-game were much better.


The Bottom Line
Despite all its drawbacks, You have to give LucasArts credit for its accomplishment on its very first 3D shooter. They managed to make a convincing environment to play make-believe in, even though it is rough around the edges. A great game all-around.

DOS · by Chris Martin (1155) · 2000

[ View all 15 player reviews ]

Trivia

Action figures

Two Star Wars action figures were actually released based on characters from this game. One was the main character Kyle Katarn (whose image was lifted from the game, but they added a beard so he'd look more like the Jedi Knight version of him). The other was General Mohc (the final boss) in his specially modified Phase III Dark Trooper battle suit.

Animation

The animation of Darth Vader when he speaks to Mohc is 'borrowed' from the X-wing game. A similar animation is seen in a game over cutscene when your pilot is captured and Vader interrogates you.

Similarly. the close-up of Vader's face at the epilogue, is taken from TIE fighter..

Banned

Both the US and the German version were banned in Germany (German: 20.10.95, US: 30.09.95)

Cameos

Max from Steve Purcell's duo of Sam and Max (who star in their own LucasArts game, Sam & Max Hit the Road) makes a most unusual cameo appearance in Dark Forces.On the ice level, keep your map up during your investigations of its perimeter. You'll notice on the map one structure that looks very similar to the infamous rabbit. Coincidentally, both Max and Kyle Katarn are voiced by the same actor: Nick Jameson.

Ewoks also make appearances in the form of a few that are chained up who make fun of you (and you can shoot them if you're one of those Ewok hating Star Wars fans) and the 'Ewoks suck' graffiti you'll find in the some of the darker corners of the Imperial facilities.

The Imperial Blaster Rifle sprite was used in Star Wars: Rebel Assault II - The Hidden Empire on the second CD.

Cut content

The original idea was that Denny Delk (the narrator) would read the Star Wars scrolling text, but it was cut out. He actually recorded the lines. You can extract the sound files of these lines with one of the modding programs, available at massassi.net

In an issue of Lucasarts' old magazine; "The Adventurer" (that came with games of the era), Dark Forces was previewed with screenshots that did not appear in the final game. Among those included were a map of a standard Star Destroyer level (the "nose" of the Star Destroyer is very identifiable), an undisclosed Imperial base/Death Star/Star Destroyer level (with a very steep vertical drop), and an abused urban setting (that appeared to have an unfinished, bland sky overhead). Also, the emblem on Kyle Katarn's datapad was different at the time.

In the intro, there was a movie showing Kyle Katarn loading his weapons, but this was cut out too. It can be found in the game demo.

Howie scream

Dark Forces used the legendary Howie scream sample. If you tripped (or jumped) off of a tall structure, Kyle Katarn would scream "Uuuuarrrgggghhhh!!!!" This scream sample has been used in a countless number of productions, and there are several websites dedicated to spotting its use.

References

Kyle Katarn shares his name with a "katarn", a predator from Kashyyyk according to some Star Wars books and media.

The third level- planet "Anoat" caused some confusion, as many people believed that this was the system referred to by Han Solo in "The Empire Strikes Back" (when he detaches from the Star Destroyer). In later books and scripts, they say the term "Veronat" or "Varonat". Whether the creators of "Dark Forces" meant for the third level to be in the same system as Bespin remains speculation.

As far as anyone knows, the heavy android "Dark Troopers" were invented as the plot device for this game. Later, the Dark Troopers took on steam by appearing in later video games (Rebellion, Galactic Battlegrounds, etc.), and also in some comics and other media. A Dark Trooper's head/helmet is visible in a level of the expansion pack to "Jedi Knight" called "Mysteries of the Sith". It is safe to say that the Dark Troopers in later media are no where near as difficult as the ones Kyle Katarn went up against in this game.

Awards

  • PCGamer Magazine
    • April 2000 issue - voted #46 overall in a Readers All-Time Top 50 Games Poll* Świat Gier Komputerowych magazine (Poland)
    • 1995 - won the Golden Disk Award for the best foreign game

Information also contributed by Apogee IV, Boston Low, James1, Jason Musgrave, PCGamer77, phlux, Ray Soderlund, and Rola

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by IJan.

Windows added by Picard. PlayStation 3, PSP added by Lance Boyle. Linux added by Sciere. Macintosh added by Kabushi. PlayStation added by Grant McLellan.

Additional contributors: Alan Chan, Apogee IV, Monkeyhead, Gravesy, Starbuck the Third, Karsa Orlong, Plok.

Game added November 30, 1999. Last modified March 19, 2024.