Star Wars: Dark Forces

Dark Forces was the first game to bring Star Wars to the world of first-person shooters. Play as Kyle Katarn, an Imperial Officer turned mercenary, as he fights his way through an Imperial base, mine, robot factory, Coruscant and even The Executor.

Release Date

February 1995.

Pros

The story is quite interesting. Kyle Katarn steals the Death Star plans in the first mission. After the destruction of the first Death Star, he finds himself on the trail of another secret Imperial project to build Dark Troopers. As good as the story about Kyle Katarn is, we now know that it is only a “legend” and all this never really happened.

The level designs are fantastic. Not only do they have the look and feel of the Star Wars universe, they also require you to think how to progress through. Looking at the automap is essential for getting through the levels. There is also enough jumping and ducking sections that make the game interesting without turning it into a Mario game. Despite all this, there is also plenty of shooting to go around.

I do not remember this from long time ago but Dark Forces proves that there are toilets in the Star Wars universe!

The speech is quite good. In game speech sound good even if they do get repeated quite a bit. Cutscene speech is even better and Darth Vader sounds good too.

Although the audio is not as high quality as in newer Star Wars games, Dark Forces does have the authentic Star Wars sound through out. Everything from blasters to doors sound like Star Wars.

The variety of weapons is good with ten to choose from. This includes the I-am-all-out-of-ammo fist, stormtrooper rifle, thermal detonator and I.M. Mine. Each has different characteristics which determine their effectiveness for different situations.

Cons

The music is the old MIDI Adlib sound. The Star Wars themes can be clearly heard but there is no denying that the whole music system sounds old.

There is no saving while on a mission. You do have lives which allow you to respawn at certain checkpoints. The checkpoint locations are a bit of mystery though and checkpoint progresses are not saved if you exit the game. Depending on how good you are at solving puzzles, the level could take a long time to complete. Some of the later levels took me over an hour to complete.

The AI is terrible. When the enemy are aware you are around they tend to wander around aimlessly and slowly make their way towards you if there is a possible path. I guess this is just sign of the times. If they are not aware of your presence, they just seem to stand still doing nothing.

Other Points

The game is so old, FPS’s did not have mouselook yet. This means most of the game can be played with keyboard only. You can use the mouse to move forwards/backwards and turn left/right, but it just did not feel right. Doom keys plus a few extras are the way to go when playing Dark Forces.

Dark Forces is a difficult game. In this second play through on easy, I found the game quite difficult from the half way mark to the last mission. Stormtroopers may not be able to shoot to save their lives, but there are enough of them plus other more dangerous enemies to make the game challenging.

Dark Forces is the only game in the series that does not involve force powers or lightsabers. If you want to use the force or get some saber action, start with Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II.

For the brave or those that have completed Dark Forces and want something new, there is DarkXLDarkXL uses the XL Engine which is being developed for games like Dark Forces to update it for modern systems. At the time of writing, DarkXL is still in alpha state, so some things are missing and some things do not work. It is still playable and has improved graphics and audio plus mouselook.

There is no denying that the graphics look old, but it is good enough to give the Star Wars look. This combined with the level designs and authentic audio makes the whole atmosphere feel very much like Star Wars.

Biases

Reviewed Steam version of the game.

I completed Dark Forces way back in 1996. Other than good fun I actually do not remember anything about it until playing again this round.

I like Star Wars a lot! Sometimes I would install a Star Wars game after watching one of the DVDs. In the case of Dark Forces though, I installed it after watching The Force Awakens. Many, many years apart, but still good fun all round.

Before Dark Forces, I played Doom and Doom II a lot. I really liked the early Doom games and keyboard only first-person shooters are not foreign to me.

DRM

There does not appear to be any DRM even for the Steam version. Dark Forces now runs from DOSBox and appears to be completely portable. You just need to set up the DOSBox configuration file properly.

If you do not trust Steam, you can also get it DRM free from GOG.com, which as far as I am aware, also uses DOSBox.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com)

  • Windows: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10
  • 1.8 GHz Processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard

Computer Played On

  • Windows 10 Home Edition
  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6GHz
  • 8GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 2GB RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio HD with built-in speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

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