Here we have a Star Wars: Dark Forces DOS PC game review. Kyle Katarn is The Original Rogue One. Forget Jyn Erso! Dark Forces is the first Star Wars FPS, one of the standout old Star Wars games from the DOS era. This is a great retro PC game and if you were lucky enough to get to play it back then, you know that there were not a lot of other games out there like this and there were none like it in the Star Wars name yet. This game definitely paved the way for the many games like it that would come after. So let’s take a look at this great video from The Game Show that reviews the game while also giving us a little blast from the past into retro PC Star Wars gaming.
In the opening cutscene of Dark Forces, we see Mon Mothma hire a mercenary called Kyle Katarn to infiltrate an imperial facility and steal the Death Star plans. The Alliance contact Katarn again after a rebel base is destroyed by black-clad stormtroopers. Kyle discovers The Empire are building an army of battle droids called Dark Troopers. Not be confused with Death Troopers, Shadow Troopers, Purge Troopers or even the other sort of Darktrooper, Dark Troopers can’t be bargained with, can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop until the Rebels are dead.
Attempting to stop the Dark Trooper project takes Katarn on a whirlwind tour of the galaxy, blasting Stormtroopers, Imperial officers and alien bounty hunters. Whether on alien planets or aboard spaceships, each one of Dark Forces’ 15 levels is rich in Star Wars flavour. The game brings its own cast of characters, ship designs and locations to the Expanded Universe which sit right alongside that established Star Wars-y-ness.
Star Wars Dark Forces is defined by these huge levels, designed with a more vertical experience than other FPSs from the 90s. It’s not just slopes and flights of stairs, Dark Forces features multi-tiered cityscapes, with elevators, bridges and towers. It’s a big, 3-dimensional experience and multiple objectives to be achieved in each stage can lead to you flailing about a bit aimlessly.
All the weapons you’d expect from a Star Wars FPS first-person shooter are present. From the humble blaster pistol and the E111 rifle to good ol’ thermal detonators, right up to exotic plasma weapons and explosives. Some of the weapons have alt modes which was a thing back in the 90s. Thumbs up who remembers when alt fire modes were a thing! Despite all the guns, Kyle Katarn has probably the strongest punch guy in Star Wars. Punching Grans, Trandoshans, Gamorrean Guards, Stormtroopers. He even punches a Kell Dragon to death. He’s going about the galaxy punching the life out of everything. What a bloody hero.
iMUSE MIDI music for me is an integral part of the DOS games experience and Star Wars Dark Forces has some really charming MIDI music. I also love the charming 3D graphics. I think these 2D sprite-based games age better than the 3D games which came immediately after them.
I really like this old DOS game. Plenty of “better” Star Wars games have come out since, but I find myself playing it again because it’s a short little game I can blast through over a couple of nights. It’s the epitome of retro gaming for me; fire it up, play for half an hour or so and walk away. As with all games on Second Wind, Star Wars Dark Forces is available to purchase on GOG and Steam, links in the description. If you’re new to SW games and are looking for a game to get you into it, Dark Forces is a brilliant place to start.
Kyle Katarn goes on to become a significant part of the Legends EU. and it’s all just because of this little old DOS game.