Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster
All that said, Dark Forces was still loyal to its FPS origins too - some might say slavishly so. Its list of weaponry follows the classic fists, pistol, machine gun, mini-gun, rocket launcher, BFG ladder, just with some real Star Wars weapons thrown in, plus some cool new ones like the Fusion Cutter and the Concussion Rifle. No lightsabre, mind, or Force powers. They would have to wait for the sequel, 1997’s Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight.
Likewise, there’s a clear hierarchy of bad buys, with Death Squad Commanders, Stormtroopers, Imperial Officers - whose hats cutely fly off when they’re shot, remotes, interrogation droids, mouse droids and probe droids being joined by Trandoshans - represented in the movie by the bounty hunter Bossk - plus Ree-Yees with their three eyes on stalks; slime dwelling Dianogas; and Gammorreans.
And there’s even a brief cameo from Boba Fett.
Not that Dark Forces didn’t extend the genre. While Doom prevented the player from looking up and down, Kyle Katarn can. He can also crouch and jump. Some areas were literally pitch black, with only droids’ lights and - if you found them - power ups or infra-red goggles to help you see. To make it tougher, you can't save the game during play.
Dark Forces also features some of the most extensive locations to explore in an mid-1990s FPS, with some levels positively labyrinthine in their complexity - made more so with sections built on top of other sections for some very impressive three-dimensional architecture. Parts of which could move, too. Not merely up and down like Doom’s elevators, but sideways and rotationally. There are conveyor belts and drag-you-along sewage streams. There’s slippery ice. There are hazy, poisonous fumes.
And while, yes, Dark Forces had three colours of key - red, blue and yellow - just like Doom, and the inevitable but unrealistic secret rooms, at least it imposed a broader array of mission parameters than ‘find key, open door’. There were sequences of different-speed elevators to ascend, multiple switches to hit to open up computer cores or to detonate the Arc Hammer’s reactors.
True-to-the-movie architecture fills each level
The FPS feature that Dark Forces didn’t offer was multi-player gaming, but this was early days for LAN play, let alone over-the-net gaming. Its absence didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the game, played on the Mac, though in a form that’s long been incompatible with modern Apple machines. I tried it again recently using the DOS emulator DOS box - I still have the original CD - though in DOS’ grainy 320 x 240 pixel-doubled graphics rather than the full 640 x 480 the Mac version was capable of, albeit only with a top-of-the-line Power Mac.
Come on, George, free up the source code.
DOS and Mac discs can still be found on eBay and such, if you fancy rekindling fond memories. Just never fear being told: “You’re in violation of Imperial law!” ®
Release Date 1995
Platforms Initially DOS, Mac, later PS1.
More info Dark Forces info at Moby Games
More Retro Games
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... the best FPS I have ever played.
The graphics are naturally primitive by current standards but for the time they were really good, and what it now lacks visually it even now makes up for in terms of sheer fun. There's a mission progression that actually makes proper logical sense, a coherent plot (unusual for anything Star Wars), intricate levels - some of which require proper problem solving to complete, a real sense of "you're on your own now" in not being able to save progress during a mission, and while the weapons may in themselves be a pretty standard assemblage, there is huge scope for using them creatively to get past the next baddie. It's a shame that as the visuals have improved in more recent FPS, many of these elements seem to have been left out.
Still one of my absolute favourites
This game was amazing when it came out and I still enjoy replaying it. I had both the PC and the Playstation 1 versions of the game. The PS1 version was actually quite compromised, they took out the iMUSE system and just streamed pre-recorded versions of the PC midi music from the CD. The framerate on the PS1 was also a bit dodgy and the controls often required some quite convoluted combinations to switch weapons or run and jump.
On the subject of iMUSE, I think this was one of the last titles to use midi music. It had a fantastic score with lots of unique themes and cues (I think it was by Clint Bajakian). Sadly LucasArts moved on to chopping up bits of John Williams music for future games. While having full orchestral music was nice, I think the lack of a composer creating music specifically for each level was lost. The end credits music to Dark Forces in particular is one of my favourites.
I do remember being slightly annoyed that the longest cut-scene was the one at the end of the first level (and was included with the demo). Based on the demo you'd expect massive cut-scenes after every level but usually you'd get little more than a shot of the Mouldy Crow flying away from an explosion...
Does anyone remember the box to Dark Forces? There was a screenshot of a map to a level not in the game. As I understand it this was the original first level but it was dropped as it was considered too complicated.
A few years back some fans attempted to re-create the game using the Jedi Academy engine. I believe they re-made most of the game but there were a few levels that were never finished. Their website is here: http://darkforces.jediknight.net/
I think this is the first game to ever use a texture on a wall to display vital information (when in the vault on Coruscant). I remember wondering about that area for ages until I realised that the map on the wall was actually updating as I opened and closed doors and was meant to be used to guide you to the centre of the vault. I'd never seen anything like it before then and it really blew me away as suddenly walls could do more than just be barriers.
Dark Forces 2 Jedi Knight is also an absolute favourite of mine. I really wish LucasArts would consider making another one (and preferably not the shallow experience that was Force Unleashed)...
Nope - check out Doom screenshots. They darkened the textures with Z depth. They had to do it using some funky method to alter the bits of the palette they used (which is part of the reason that dark things in Doom turned grey) but it was most certainly possible. It was largely responsible for the sense of depth. To wit:
Look at the ceiling, from top down - it gets darker in the distance. Not strictly realistic, but it makes a big difference to the sense of space.
There's nothing wrong with the screen shots. I think you are saying there is no volumetric lighting or fog, which wad not technically possible at the time.
'It's up to Disney now.'
..So we can look forward to 'Dark Forces 3 : Mickey Mouse rapes your childhood' coming soon to the Wii, IPad and I-Phone for just 100 micropayments of $1.99 each.