Star Wars - Dark Forces : Let go of your hate...
Star Wars : Dark Forces was a game that defined the 90's for me. I first played it on Windows through DOS. This game (and Tie Fighter) were the reason I learned how to use this ancient text-based operating system in the first place. Dark Forces fulfilled my childhood fantasies of fighting endless stormtroopers in a Star Wars universe (even though I have secretly always been a bigger fan of the Dark Side).
I haven't touched this game in 15+ years. The disk I own is not compatible with current operating systems (outside of using third-party compatibility software like DOSBox). I have thought about the game, but never attempted to re-play it. I have seen it for sale on steam, but didn't think it was worth $6.99 let alone less on sale. Then Humble Bundle came alone and offered a Star Wars Bundle, and I couldn't resist the curiosity any longer. I pulled the trigger and got the entire bundle, but I could have gotten Dark Forces for less than $1, and this humble donation seemed unavoidable.
It took seconds to download the game, I fired it up through Steam and was instantly disappointed. How could the game seem to look worse than my PC from 15 years ago? I did some research and I found a way to improve the game to a playable state without breaking any modding rules with Steam. You can go on the forums and find out how to configure the DOSBox settings, or you can save a lot of time and just download the pre-configured DOSBox I have found and replace the one you have. Follow these instructions:
- go to this folder "Steam\steamapps\common\Dark Forces\DosBox"
- Delete everything inside.
- Download the updated and pre-configured DosBox Here.
- Take everything out of the .RAR and put it in the folder.
- Run the game normally through steam.
- Hit Alt+Tab
- Maximize the screen in windowed mod.
With these setting you will be able to play the game in the largest screen possible. If you play it in full screen it will give you a boxy view with black column sides, and the Steam in-game Shift+Tab setting will sometimes freeze the game/stay on.
Dark Forces is a game where you play as Kyle Katarn. He is a rough-looking ex-Empire agent that has joined the rebellion. You team up with your smart ass pilot Jan to go on 14 suicide missions to stop the Empire from releasing a Terminator like threat from starting in the Star Wars universe.
The first thing you will notice is that this game is surprisingly like Doom as most FPS games of this era were. Although this game lets you jump, there are amazing pixel cut-scenes with real voice acting, and most importantly there is an engaging storyline. I liked Doom back when this game came out, but it seems so shallow when compared to the story of Dark Forces.
Dark Forces also added a degree of complexity that Doom never got to. This game used items like gas masks, ice boots, and chemical boots to protect against the elements. You also are put into dark situations that required headlights and night vision goggles. There features were not over-used to the point of frustration, but thrown in sparingly. The little mouse droids that beep around on the floor provide batteries, and it's really gratifying to kill one of these guys.
The variety of weapons you can use is pretty standard. There is no reloading, and there is ammo found everywhere. I never once ran out of ammo, besides the level where you are forced to. I rarely used the mines or the flute looking gun. There is a pistol the shoots rays of blueish/white light from the ground that will hurt if you are too close, and the rockets/bombs have an area blast to watch out for. The laser riffle/pistol are hugely inaccurate (true to the series), but the ammo is almost always available. I feel like you could pretty easily beat the game with just the starting laser weapons, but it would be more difficult and less fun.
If you are going to die in this game, it will be because of random explosions from hidden mines or your own weapons. Explosive damage is the worst, and, in my opinion, does too much damage to you. Explosive weapons seem like they do more bad than good unless you are fighting a boss. The next most dangerous thing in this game is the environment in general. You can easily fall off a ledge, get crushed by a door, burn to death, or even get ripped apart by one of these mechanical arms in the last level.
The map can seem confusing at times, but I spent about half the time with it up just to see where I had not already gone. The levels are pretty big, and the puzzles can be challenging. I pride myself in abstaining/reducing the amount of time I spend reading FAQs and walk-throughs to complete a game, and I didn't look up anything for this one. There were a few times I had to bust out a piece of paper to figure a puzzle sequence out. Without help the game still only took me 7 hours to complete.
With the re-release of this game, you would think they would have changed more than just the mouse support addition. Back in the day I somehow played this with the same Fighter Pilot joystick I flew Tie Fighters with, but for some reason no modern imput devices seem to work with this game that I have tried. (X-box, third party controlers, ect.). With the added mouse support the best thing they could have added could have been the use of the scroll button to change weapons, and the use of the left click for secondary weapon fire. I'm sure this could be accomplished through third-party control software (i.e. joytokey) but honestly I spent enough time just trying to fix the textures of DOSBox to get it playable. Shooting up and down ledges is a task, but seems unavoidable with this FPS engine.
It's not surprising that this game is not considered in the Star Wars community to be "Canon". This character killed thousands of stormtroopers and stopped the empire from releasing a mechanical threat on the universe single handeedly. You would think he might have been mentions somewhere else or had his own movies and TV series.
Overall, I think this game is a gem of its era and it's genre. You get to fight Boba Fett, mechanical stormtroopers, and even giant lizards! The sounds and music are beautiful renditions of Star Wars in MIDI. There are harder difficulties to attempt and secrets to find (Try to find the secret Ewok or the secret Stormtrooper smoke break area). It's a surprise how much fun I had with a game so old. If you like Star Wars, you like FPS and you can deal with old graphics/old FPS engines you will love this game. I would suggest waiting for a sale, but even at $6.99 Dark Forces is worth picking up.