I played Star Wars: Dark Forces when it was new over at a friend’s house but I never got very far. This was one of those friends who plays games sometimes but not a whole lot so trying to play through a full game with him was never going to happen. Since my own parents didn’t allow me to play games with guns in them until later, I was out of luck.
It wasn’t until I got the Xbox many years later and got Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast that I returned to the shoes of Kyle Katarn. Because of the name change, I didn’t realize this was related to Dark Forces, that game I’d played all those years ago, but I knew I loved it. The gritty realism of the game, where one misplaced saber thrust would kill you or your enemy, where players can use light side Force powers OR dark side powers, where Luke isn’t necessarily the hero, depending on your personal path to vengeance. Jedi Outcast was almost mythical to me and I loved it.
When GOG picked up Dark Forces and Dark Forces 2, I knew I had to try them but their dated design prevented me from really enjoying them until I discovered DarkXL, which I highly recommend to anyone looking to play these games. With that mod, I think these games are just as fun today as they were in the 90’s. If you’re just looking for the story of Kyle Katarn, skip to Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight, since Dark Forces has very little in the way of actual story.
4/22 – Star Wars: Dark Forces
Hello and welcome. My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.
Today’s game is the first game to feature the popular Star Wars expanded universe character, Kyle Katarn. Today’s game is Star Wars: Dark Forces. Developed and published by LucasArts, Star Wars: Dark Forces was released on MS-DOS and Macintosh in 1995.
Dark Forces puts players in the shoes of Empire soldier-turned-Rebel-Alliance-Mercenary, Kyle Katarn, who must steal the plans to the first Death Star, which would lead up to the events of the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. After this introductory mission, however, the game jumps forward into the aftermath of A New Hope but before The Empire Strikes Back. Along with his cohort and friend, Jan Ors, Kyle discovers a secret project being carried out by the Galactic Empire to create something called a Dark Trooper, a powerful exoskeleton which would allow greater strength and mobility for Stormtroopers.
The game plays as a classic-style first-person shooter. While clearly inspired by Doom, Star Wars: Dark Forces evolved the genre in many ways. Unlike Doom, a custom game engine allows Dark Forces to exist in a fully 3D world. Thus, Kyle can look up and down, jump, crouch and even swim. Verticality is also used in levels to give the bases a much larger and more realistic feel.
Star Wars: Dark Forces was well received on the PC and Mac systems. While some at the time stated that it was a Star Wars version of Doom, retrospective reviews have focused more on the evolutions the game made to the First Person Shooter genre. The game was later ported to the Playstation but this version was not well received, with many citing bad frame rate and overall performance.
The game would leave a significant mark on Star Wars canon. Kyle Katarn would come back for three more games in the Jedi Knight series as well as appear in a number of expanded universe novels, comics and toys. He would even appear in another Star Wars game, Star Wars: Empire at War. A fan-made mod called DarkXL has also been made which modernizes Star Wars: Dark Forces so that it can be played on modern operating systems, in HD and with modern controls. The original game is still available for purchase from GOG and Steam to this day.
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