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Written by  :  Gravesy (47)
Written on  :  May 19, 2020
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars

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You're not authorized in this area! *Blaster shots*

The Good

Star Wars: Dark Forces is one of the most interesting FPS games of the mid 1990s that I’ve played. Released in 1995, it is not simple enough to be classified as a DOOM clone, yet it is not quite as fully realized as Half Life. It is also the first FPS set in the Star Wars universe.

The timeline of the games story takes place before and during the Original Trilogy. You play as Kyle Katarn, a former imperial officer who is recruited by Jan Ors to work for the Rebel Alliance after he discovers that the Empire is responsible for the death of his parents.

Kyle’s first job for the Alliance is given by Mon Mothma who asks him to retrieve the plans for the Death Star – which leads into the events of the first film (now retconned- see Rogue One).

After the Death Star’s destruction, the Empire begins planning its retaliation against the Rebels with General Rom Mohc leading the creation of the Dark Trooper project- which aims to create a new army of Storm Troopers armed with exoskeletons.

Kyle is once again summoned by Mothma, and this time to investigate an attack by the newly discovered Dark Troopers. At his request, Kyle is reunited with Jan and it is their investigation into the origin of the Dark Troopers that forms the basis of the games plot.

For an FPS that was released in a time when games in the genre were referred to as DOOM clones, Dark Forces has a number of elements that place it several steps ahead of its contemporaries.

For one thing, it makes excellent use of the Star Wars universe to tell the story which is done via cutscenes, in game dialogue, and mission briefings. What results is this feels like a complete story and not just a collection of levels with a Star Wars themed tacked on.

Now that I’ve mentioned the existence of the mission briefings, I should point out that the game has objectives for each mission that Kyle must fulfill in order to complete them, and sometimes they involve puzzles for him to solve – rather than just grabbing a blue or red key to unlock a door.

Another thing worth noting is that the game makes extensive of the IMUSE music engine which allows for the games music to change on cue and play suitably familiar Star Wars themes based on what the player is doing. For instance towards the end of the final mission, players can hear the same dramatic melody that was used in the first film when the Death Star was about to explode.

Dark Forces runs on the Jedi Engine, which while still being a 2.5D engine- has a number of notable advantages over the DOOM engine. The most notable of these is the ability to layer rooms on top of each other to create multi-level floors which allows for really intricate exploration. Other features include the ability to jump and look up/down.

The Bad

Just about the games only weakness is that sometimes it does not properly notify you if you’ve found an important item that needs to be used. I found this to to be particularly egregious in the snow level which takes place later on in the game. That and the engine looks best when handling levels that only take place indoors. In outdoor areas – not so much, particularly in situations where you have to aim up and down which results in the graphics appearing warped. This is an issue owing to the 2.5D limits of the engine which uses y-shearing to facilitate looking up and down.

The plot itself while engaging, does feel a tad underdeveloped especially with comparison to the games sequels and other games made by LucasArts in the 90s. It doesn’t detract much from the experience but it does leave one with a sense of wanting more.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Star Wars: Dark Forces is a highly enjoyable game in the Star Wars canon that offers plenty more than the standard DOOM clones of the time. Whether you’re a fan of Star Wars or classic FPS games- Star Wars: Dark Forces is a fun ride and a compelling reminder of how good Star Wars is when done right.