Day 2: Dark Forces

Oh my, where to begin.  Dark Forces is a Star Wars first person shooter (FPS) from Lucasarts that debuted in 1995 for PC, and was later released on the original Playstation.  The original game is set during and after the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, and tells the story of the mercenary, Kyle Katarn, in his quest to aid the Rebel Alliance in their struggle against the Empire and their Dark Trooper campaign.  Dark Forces spawned several incredible sequels that span the length of the latter half of the Star Wars saga.  .  The Dark Forces saga is one of the most highly acclaimed video game franchises  of all time, and has spawned a community of fiercly loyal fans that are still active almost 17 years after the original game’s release.

This is the game that started it all.  Kyle Katarn is an Imperial Officer turned Rebel Agent.  The game begins with Kyle on a mission to capture the plans for the Death Star.  After this prologue mission is completed, an animated cinematic introduces the player to the true plot of the game:  The Empire has begun testing a new type of super soldier – droid soldiers called “Dark Troopers.”  These are not your typical battledroids from the prequel trilogy of movies – the Dark Troopers are terrifying to behold, and it is up to Kyle Katarn to eliminate them as a threat to the Rebellion and the Galaxy as a whole.

Dark Forces does a very good job keeping the player engaged.  This follows the typical formula of the Doom series, but manages to take it a few steps beyond.  The story is immediately engaging – partaking in the acquisition of the Death Star plans provides players with a concrete link to the original Star Wars film and immediately cements the notion that you are a part of that universe.  The storyline is one of the best features of this game, especially for a game that was so limited by the technology of the era.

The combat is typical of first person shooters, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.  As the game progresses the player is armed with a variety of increasingly powerful weapons that make blasting, bombing and pummeling the underlings of the Empire an absolute thrill.  As the game progresses, the enemies become more difficult, and the variety of enemies expands beyond just the typical stormtrooper (though they are plentiful).  This helps the game stay fresh and keeps the player from becoming bored.

The level design in the game is fantastic. From the shattered ruins of the rebel base, to Jabba the Hutt’s space yacht, to the Imperial City on Coruscant, the designers of each level went into exquisite detail (especially for a 1995 game) to make each stage feel like it came straight out of a Star Wars film.  Couple the level design with some awesome original music for the game along with the classic John Williams score (adapted for the limitations of the game), and you have a solid, highly entertaining, brand new Star Wars experience.

This is the game that started my love affair with Star Wars gaming.  It is an iconic classic that should be enjoyed by everyone – Star Wars fan or not.  Unfortunately, while the game can still be found pretty easily, getting it to work on modern day systems can be a challenge that may turn off many gamers.  Still, if you have the patience to play around with it, I encourage anyone who has not played this masterpiece to check it out.  If you can get past the dated graphics, you’re going to have a great time.

★★★★★

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