Video Game Thoughts: Star Wars Dark Forces

Star Wars Dark Forces was a 1995 first-person shooter by LucasArts for the PC. One year for Christmas we got a new Macintosh from my grandpa. It was 1996. It came with lots of free software. One of them was sort of a free trial for this new type of magazine. It was called LAUNCH, a CD-ROM magazine. Instead of reading the magazine from page to page, opening it up featured a virtual town. The user could click on different sections of the town to read articles, watch videos, and listen to music. Some of the interactive things were actually ads that supported the magazine. This new type of magazine never caught on, but what it did do was introduce me to Dark Forces.

There was a movie theater in this little town. In addition to showing trailers for movies, one hall had a banner for Dark Forces. I had no idea what it was. When I clicked on it, a game started playing. I thought it was so cool how I went from being in a movie theater to being in a game. The game was pretty hard, but eventually I finished the level. That brought up a little poster saying to get the full game in stores. The one level demo was so enjoyable I had to get the game.

My family had a common habit of going to Barnes & Noble for an afternoon, getting a coffee, and reading a book. Back in 1996, they used to have a software section. While searching for a book, I walked by the software section and just happened to see Dark Forces on display. I hadn’t expected to spend any money, so I didn’t even have my money with me. Fortunately, my parents were nice enough to lend me the money until I got home.

Dark Forces was only my second Star Wars game and first on the computer. My only other Star Wars game was a short and simple one on the original Game Boy. Dark Forces was leaps and bounds ahead of that old game. What was cool about it was the original story LucasArts created for the game. All Star Wars games I had played before were just a retelling of the stories in the movies. They did a great job here creating a story that fit within the Star Wars universe.

The player controlled a former Imperial officer, Kyle Katarn, that had defected to the Rebel Alliance. Now Kyle used his knowledge to infiltrate Imperial bases and steal information for the Alliance. Of course, this was a first-person shooter, so there wasn’t so much infiltration as wiping out all enemy soldiers. Still, it was a ton of fun to be in an actual interactive Star Wars environment. They even had some characters from the movies like Mon Mothma and Crix Madine.

Dark Forces was a very hard game. The enemy soldiers were pretty accurate, and it only took a few shots to be killed. The levels were mazes. Sometimes I would get really lost. Usually, there would be a switch somewhere I had to pull, but it wasn’t always obvious where that switch was. A few times I had to pull switches in a specific order to progress. I had to look up walkthroughs and guides to finish this game, but it was still fun.

Dark Forces pretty much got me into the Star Wars game. From then on, I was always paying attention to the latest Star Wars games. Many of them were bad, but several gems were released over the years. Sadly, things have slowed down quite a bit. There are some Star Wars games being made, but LucasArts has been shutdown. A few third-party developers have licenses to make Star Wars games, but we haven’t seen any real gameplay footage yet. They could end up being cancelled or simply poor games. The age of the good Star Wars game seems past. There is hope for the future though. The new movies promise to revitalize interest in Star Wars, something that Lucasfilm might be interested in monetizing through new, quality Star Wars games.


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