With video games then teeming with clones of the game in an attempt to also clone its success, one game managed to be more than just a DOOM clone. One game helped form the genre, unlike other clones. One game managed to be a success, despite being released a matter of months after DOOM II‘s release.
That game was the late, great LucasArt’s creation Star Wars: Dark Forces.
Describing Dark Forces as Star Wars stuck in a blender with DOOM sounds like a tasty meal because frankly it is, but add some spices into the mixture and you’ll find yourself with a bowl of Star Wars: Dark Forces.
Released in February of 1995 for DOS and Apple Macintosh (and later PlayStation, though it was a poor port) and later spawning the Jedi Knight sequels, you play as mercenary Kyle Katarn working with the Rebel Alliance in order to stop the Empire’s ‘Dark Trooper Project’ — a plan to develop more powerful Stormtroopers and incredibly dangerous new battle droids.
With the gameplay focusing on blasting your way through enemies and surviving obstacles in environments such as the planet Coruscant, Jabba the Hutt’s space yacht and the interior of a Space Destroyer, it’d be a great game if it was a standard DOOM clone; instead, LucasArts wanted to be the first good FPS game to follow DOOM and specifically created the Jedi game engine for Dark Forces, expanding the gameplay that DOOM gave us and creating new FPS standards in doing so.
Primary additions to the genre that this game brought to us were the ability to look up and down, the ability to duck and the ability to jump — it sounds simple, but they’re incredibly important steps that no other first-person shooter had taken at the time. On top of that, the game’s engine allowed for new graphical and gameplay elements such as atmospheric effects (such as fog and haze), animated textures and shading and fully 3D objects. These changes allowed for better gameplay aspects as well as an active environment – conveyor belts moved, ships ported at the flight decks, most of the machinery in the levels functioned, etc.
But let’s stop looking at what the game has done for the genre for a moment: this game was fantastic. I grew up playing it as a kid alongside DOOM and recall having more-or-less as much fun with this as I had with DOOM. Had I have been a kid obsessed with Star Wars, I imagine the game would have blew my mind.
With diverse levels, great graphics and sounds and genuinely fun gameplay, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that Star Wars: Dark Forces still holds up today despite it being eighteen-years-old. It remains one of my two favourite Star Wars game (the other being LEGO Star Wars). Play at your own risk of breaking into tears after remembering that Disney shut down the company that made it.