Retro Game Wednesday #8 – Dark Forces

Every week, Retro Game Wednesday reviews a well-aged game available for digital download on Steam. — Title: Star Wars: Dark Forces Genre: First-Person-Shooter/Rebel Simulator Developer: LucasArts Release Date: Feb 15, 1995 Price […]

Every week, Retro Game Wednesday reviews a well-aged game available for digital download on Steam.

Title: Star Wars: Dark Forces
Genre: First-Person-Shooter/Rebel Simulator
Developer: LucasArts
Release Date: Feb 15, 1995
Price (at time of review):  $4.99 ($19.99 with the whole series)

Star Wars is similar to heroin, in that those who enjoy it have difficulty staying away from it for long. Recently, I reviewed Jedi Knight 2 (actually, it was my second review for the site), and I was considering staying away from Star Wars games for a while, just so I could cover other things that weren’t Star Wars. Of course, I can only keep that up for so long. As time goes on and my hands start to get shaky and I start seeing things, eventually the need to play another Star Wars game becomes too strong to resist. After all, what’s the point of things that aren’t Star Wars? There aren’t even any lightsabers in things that aren’t Star Wars. You might say lightsabers are the whole point.

In keeping with this logic, I chose what might be the only Star Wars game on Steam with no lightsabers in it. I did this because I hate fun and I hate you.

SUMMARY

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, some bad things are going down, but before the other bad things that went down in Jedi Knight 2. General Moch has a dream, a dream where the Rebellion is crushed under the metal boots of an army of unstoppable robotic Dark Troopers. The Rebellion does not agree, so they hire a guy called Kyle Katarn. His mission? Shut down the Dark Trooper project. By blowing it right the hell up.

THE GOOD

  • The world of Star Wars comes alive before your startled imagination in old timey 3d.
  • Unlike Doom, this engine supports rooms over rooms, making it closer than other games of the era to ‘true 3d’
  • Appearances by Star Wars favourites like Mon Mothma, Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett, Crix Madine, and some guy called Vader.
  • Extensive and immersive mission briefings – not just a list of objectives, they go over everything in detail.
  • No lightsaber. Lots of blasters and other guns though.
  • Digitized voice clips and Star Wars music, plus animated cutscenes between missions.

THE BAD

  • No lightsaber or Force powers. You are not a Jedi yet.
  • The levels can get a little on the long and mazelike side. You can generally go from place to place in a relatively easily defined order, but on the ones where you’re gonna get lost, you’re pretty much gonna get lost no matter what. Fortunately there’s a map.
  • Of the large variety of weapons, I found that a lot of them ended up being inferior to my blaster or more dangerous to me than they were to the things I was trying to use them on. Splash damage is only funny when it happens to other people.

THE VERDICT

Well, it’s fun, I’ll give it that. But it’s aged less gracefully compared to the games where you get a lightsaber, the flaws of which I can overlook because you get a lightsaber. But unfortunately, this is less of a Jedi Simulator and more of a first person shooter set in the Star Wars universe, and it will therefore really only appeal to Star Wars fans for any amount of time. Yeah, it’s still awesome and badass, but it’s just not as unique, and it relies more on being Star Wars than being worthwhile by itself. Still, good for five bucks and if you don’t have any of the games yet you can always do what I did and pick up the whole series for twenty. 6/10

THE IN-DEPTH

Kyle Katarn is a one man army, but he still has to prove that. The game starts with his First Big Mission, the one that makes him a force to be feared right up there with the A-Team and the Wu Tang Clan. Operation Skyhook was the rebel operation to steal the Death Star plans (the ones Princess Leia puts in R2-D2 at the beginning of the best movie ever made.) Kyle is the guy who steals them. You continue playing as him as you move on to the next thing the Rebellion hires him for, which is more or less ‘take this giant sack of money and stop the Empire from wiping us out with this whole Dark Trooper thing’. Kyle’s all like ‘okay sure’ and from there you go off on thirteen more missions that will take you from the backwater planet of Talay to Jabba the Hutt’s palace to the vertical city of Nar Shaddaa to Darth Vader’s personal Star Destroyer, Executor.

They’re all fun, to be sure, and they’re exactly as difficult as they need to be to be challenging without being frustrating. The levels, designed in the same engine used for Duke Nukem 3d, are meant to be sprawling and less linear than other games, and the experience does feel high quality compared to its contemporaries. All of the places you visit are filled with many things to kill, from the ever popular stormtroopers and Imperial officers to the porcine Gamorrean Guards to sewage dwelling dianogas. If you know what all of those things were too, congratulations, you’re qualified to play and enjoy this game.

Unfortunately, if you DIDN’T know what any of those things were, you’re probably not going to enjoy this game very much. It’s worth a look if you feel a need to play every above average first person shooter ever made, but other than that, in 2012 this game is only of interest to people who love Star Wars and people who love old shooters. If you’re neither, give this one a miss. While the other games at least had the novelty of the lightsaber and Force powers to keep them interesting for non-geeks and geeks alike, this game is solidly in ‘geeks only’ territory. Unless you feel some kind of unbreakable compulsion after reading this, in all honesty there’s no reason to play it these days and you should stop reading now.

That’s got rid of them. Yeah, to hell with non-Star Wars fans. Those of us who remain know that Star Wars is awesome, anything they put the Star Wars name on is awesome for at least five minutes, and in my opinion this game continues to be awesome for significantly more than five minutes. You can pretty much have fun with it right up until the first time you get lost in one of the more confusing levels, at which point you will have to decide whether or not this game is worth playing. Yeah, I beat it, even the absurd last two levels where you have to murder around half the population of the Empire followed by an entire ship full of Dark Troopers. But then, I’ve got issues.

Try it. You might have fun. I mean, Boba Fett is a boss.

TECHNICAL NOTES

Like the other older DOS games available on Steam, this one can be a little finnicky. Here’s a thread that will solve all your problems. Or at least the problems relating to Dark Forces, anyway. That’s the game Dark Forces, by the way. If Darth Vader is actually after you there is very little I can do except point and laugh.

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