Star Wars: Dark Forces

Star Wars: Dark Forces
Dark Forces box cover.jpg
Developer(s) LucasArts
Publisher(s) LucasArts
Designer(s) Daron Stinnett,
Ray Gresko,
Justin Chin
Series Star Wars: Jedi Knight
Engine Jedi (engine), iMuse
Platform(s) MS-DOS, Macintosh, PlayStation, PlayStation Network
Release date(s) February 15, 1995
June, 1995
November 1996
  • NA April 29, 2010 (PSN)[1]
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single player
Media/distribution CD-ROM
System requirements

PC: 386DX/33 (rec. 486DX/33), MS-DOS 5.0+, 8 MB RAM, 256-color VGA / MCGA, 3.5 MB on HDD, sound card

Star Wars: Dark Forces is a first-person shooter video game developed and published by LucasArts. It was released in 1995 for DOS and Apple Macintosh, and in 1996 for the PlayStation. The storyline within the Dark Forces is set in the Star Wars fictional universe and follows the character Kyle Katarn. Katarn is a mercenary working on behalf of the Rebel Alliance. He discovers the Empire's "Dark Trooper Project", which involves the development of a series of powerful new battle droids and power-armored stormtroopers.

Dark Forces uses the Jedi game engine, which was developed specifically for the game. The engine adds gameplay features to the first-person shooter genre which were uncommon at the time of release. These features include level designs with multiple floors and being able to look up and down.

Critics gave very favorable reviews for the DOS and Macintosh versions of Dark Forces, but not for the PlayStation version. The DOS and Macintosh versions were praised for the level design and technological advances. The PlayStation version was criticized for having poor graphics and slow frame rates, reducing the playability of the game. A sequel to Dark Forces, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II followed in 1997.



The player engaging a Dark Trooper

Dark Forces is a first-person shooter (FPS). The player controls protagonist Kyle Katarn from a first-person perspective, with a focus on combat against various creatures and characters from the Star Wars universe, though the game also includes environmental puzzles and hazards. Dark Forces follows a central storyline outlined in mission briefings and cut scenes.[2] Each mission includes specific objectives which are related to the story.[3] The missions take place in a variety of environments across the Star Wars universe, including a Star Destroyer interior, Jabba the Hutt's space yacht, and the planet Coruscant where the player must infiltrate a computer vault.[4]

Dark Forces gameplay expands on the FPS standards set by Doom (1993) and featured gameplay elements that are now common in the FPS genre. These include the ability to look up and down, duck, and jump.[5][6] A variety of power-ups are made available to the player, including health, shields, weapons and ammunition.[4] The game also features several non-combat items to aid the player. The head lamp illuminates the area in front of the player, but will reveal the player's position to enemies in dark rooms. Ice cleats provide traction in icy areas, and an air mask protects the player from areas with toxic atmosphere. Many inventory items are powered by batteries (separate from weapon ammunition types) which can be found around the levels.[3]

For combat, the player may use fists, explosive land mines and thermal detonators, as well as blasters and other ranged weapons. Gameplay leans towards ranged combat, although some enemies have melee attacks such as punching, biting, and by using axes. All player weapons except the fist require ammunition which can be collected in power-ups. Many weapons offer an alternate fire mode. The player has health and shields which are damaged by enemy attacks and some environmental hazards, and may be replenished through power-ups.[4]

In addition to combat, Dark Forces provides physical obstacles for the character, such as jumping from ledges or traversing across flowing rivers,[6][7] and includes multi-step puzzles such as mazes controlled by switches.[4]


The storyline in Dark Forces follows Kyle Katarn, a mercenary employed by the Rebel Alliance. Before the events in Dark Forces, Katarn was a student learning the skills required to follow in his father's career of agricultural mechanics. While he was studying at an academy, he was told by officials that Rebels had killed his parents. The pain from this caused him to enlist in the Imperial army.

Katarn met Jan Ors who was undercover as a double agent and they got to know each other. Ors uncovered the real information about Katarn's parents which detailed that the Empire was really behind their deaths. The Empire eventually discovered that Ors was working for the Rebels and she was taken prisoner. Katarn helped her escape, thus ending his career with the Empire. Katarn soon became a mercenary and, due to his hatred of the Empire for killing his parents, he takes on jobs from the Rebel Alliance.[3] Dark Forces begins with Katarn being recruited by the Rebel Alliance to recover the plans to the Death Star, a heavily armed space station capable of destroying planets. The Rebel Alliance use the plans to find a weakness in and then destroy the Death Star.[8]

A year later the Rebel Alliance hires Katarn again, this time to investigate an assault on one of their bases by a new type of Imperial soldier. His investigation reveals the Imperial Dark Trooper project, led by General Rom Mohc. His mission to stop the project takes him to the sewers of Anoat City where he captures Moff Rebus, an Imperial weapons specialist who developed the Dark Trooper weapon. Rebus' interrogation leads Katarn to a weapons research facility in the mountains of Fest and the Gromas mines where minerals are extracted for the Dark Trooper project.

After learning of Crix Madine's capture and imminent execution, Kyle proceeds to a high security detention center on Orinackra to rescue him. Madine provides the Rebel Alliance with information about the smuggling of Dark Trooper materials, leading Katarn to investigate the Ramsees Hed docking port on Cal-Seti. He then destroys a robotics facility on the icy planet Anteevy, the second stage of the Dark Trooper production line. After being captured by Jabba the Hutt and having to escape his ship, Katarn infiltrates a computer vault on Coruscant which reveals the location of the Ergo fuel station, the final stage in the smuggling route. He masquerades as a smuggler, gaining access to the Super Star Destroyer Executor, which brings him finally to the Arc Hammer starship, the headquarters of General Mohc's Dark Trooper project.[4]


Development of Dark Forces was led by Daron Stinnett. The programming was led by Ray Gresko and the graphics and storyline by Justin Chin.[3] Production began in September 1993, at a time when the first-person shooter genre was very popular.[2] The developers of Dark Forces wanted to adapt the format into an adventure game. To do this they introduced puzzles and strategy, along with a Star Wars plot.[2] Originally Luke Skywalker was intended to be the main character in the game, however the developers realized that this would add constraints to gameplay and storyline. Instead a new character, Kyle Katarn,[8] was created.

The Jedi game engine used in Dark Forces allows atmospheric effects such as red haze.

Dark Forces was commonly called a Doom clone, but the game makes significant expansion upon the gameplay features present in Doom.[5] The new gameplay mechanisms that were not common at the time of release include the ability to look up and down, duck, jump, and swim.[6] The usage of multiple floor levels is another technical advance in the first-person shooter genre.[9] To produce these new features, the developers wrote a game engine from scratch.[10] The Jedi engine can create gameplay and graphical elements such as fully 3D objects, atmospheric effects such as fog and haze, animated textures and shading.[7]

Stinnett indicated that the developers wanted these elements to be part of an "active environment", and features were included to create this: "ships come and go at the flight decks, rivers sweep along, platforms and conveyor belts move and much of the machinery functions."[2] The Dark Forces soundtrack uses the iMUSE system to create interactive music using the Star Wars soundtrack composed by John Williams.[2] There is also full speech and sound effects in stereo.[7]

The Dark Troopers in Dark Forces were created specially for the game by Justin Chin and Paul Mica. Chin notes that they were designed as a more advanced enemy when compared to standard stormtroopers: "Instead of just beefing up the stormtroopers, I designed them to be more efficient. I wanted something more terrifying and more omnipotent." Three designs for the Dark Troopers were produced for Dark Forces. Lucasfilm licensing department initially rejected two of the designs for looking too much out of character, so Chin produced new designs which were ultimately approved.[2]

Dark Forces was ported from DOS to Apple Macintosh. This presented several challenges for the developers. LucasArts requested the game to be produced for both DOS and Macintosh with the same system requirements, specifically the random-access memory (RAM). The Mac OS runs a graphical user interface which uses up RAM while DOS does not, meaning the Macintosh version has less RAM available for Dark Forces to use. Aaron Giles, who was the Macintosh programmer for Dark Forces explained that to resolve this problem the memory had to be managed more efficiently.[10]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings DOS: 77%[11] (3 reviews)
PS1: 60%[12] (7 reviews)
Review scores
Publication Score
GamePro PS1: 80%[13]
GameSpot DOS: 7.6/10[14]
IGN PS1: 5/10[15]
PC Gamer US DOS: 92%[13]

Dark Forces became LucasArts' highest sell-in with more than 300,000 copies accounted for at launch.[16] The game went on to sell 952,000 copies over the next five years to become the eleventh highest selling game from 1993 to 1999.[17] Dark Forces achieved a following on the World Wide Web, and custom levels and maps were created for the game.[6]

The popularity of characters from Dark Forces resulted in LucasArts licensing toys based on the game. Hasbro produced Kyle Katarn and Dark Trooper toys, which are among the few Expanded Universe items to be turned into action figures.[18] The Dark Troopers were also included in books and comics.[2] William C. Dietz's novelizations of the Dark Forces storyline were adapted to full-cast audio dramatizations.[8]

LucasArts extended Dark Forces with Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II in 1997, and later two more sequels. The Dark Forces series continues the story of Kyle Katarn and has been praised for its quality as a whole.[19]

In September 2009, Dark Forces was re-released as a downloadable version on Valve Corporation's Steam network The game is available to purchase individually or as part of a package including all of the games in the Star Wars: Jedi Knight series.[20][21]

On April 29, 2010, the game was made available on the PlayStation Network as a "PSOne Classic."

Critical reception

The DOS and Macintosh versions of Star Wars: Dark Forces were received well.[13][15] Publications compared Dark Forces to Doom, a significant video game in the first-person shooter genre, but also indicated that Dark Forces improved upon the Doom features.[6][14] The game has been criticized for being too short, as well as lacking a multiplayer feature.[14]

Steven Kent of The Seattle Times believes that the general aspects of the game appeal to most computer gamers, not just Star Wars fans. The Star Wars setting is a high point to the game, saying that the level designs recreate the Star Wars style well: "Though most of the Dark Forces sets are original to the game, they were created in the 'Star Wars' spirit."[22]

Dark Forces' gameplay has been described as "challenging" and has generally received praise.[6] Ron Dulin, reviewing the game for GameSpot highlights the implementation of puzzles within levels: "The levels are diverse and ingenious, with plenty of creative obstacles standing between you and your goal. While they can be occasionally frustrating, Dark Forces' diverse gameplay requirements make this title more mentally challenging than your average key hunt."[14] The graphics and sound within Dark Forces were both praised as helping to immerse the player in the environment.[6]

The PlayStation version of Dark Forces received lower reviews than the DOS and Macintosh version. IGN indicates in its review that this is because the graphics and frame rate are significantly worse on the PlayStation.[15] Alex Constantides of Computer and Video Games offers the same view, saying that the game is "visually dated."[23]


  1. ^ Chen, Grace (2010-04-29). "PlayStation Store Update". (US). Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Mizell, Leslie (October 1994). "Star Wars: Dark Forces preview". PC Gamer (Future Publishing): 34–37. 
  3. ^ a b c d Ashburn, Jo; Mark Cartwright (1995), Star Wars: Dark Forces Manual, LucasArts 
  4. ^ a b c d e LucasArts. Star Wars: Dark Forces. (LucasArts). (1995)
  5. ^ a b "A Brief History of Star War Games, Part 1". Toms Hardware. 2007-05-20. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Staten, James (1995-12-04). "Dark Forces". MacWEEK. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  7. ^ a b c "Video game of the week: 'Star Wars: Dark Forces'". Knight-Ridder. 1995-03-21. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  8. ^ a b c "Katarn, Kyle". Lucasfilm. Retrieved 2008-12-17. 
  9. ^ Turner, Benjamin; Keven Bowen (2003-12-11). "Bringin' in the DOOM Clones (page 2)". GameSpy. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  10. ^ a b Baldazo, Rex (December 1995). "Today's hot first-person 3-D shoot-'em-ups". Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  11. ^ "Star Wars Dark Forces - PC". GameRankings. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  12. ^ "Star Wars: Dark Forces - PS". GameRankings. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  13. ^ a b c "Star Wars: Dark Forces". Moby Games. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  14. ^ a b c d Dulin, Ron (1996-05-01). "Star Wars Dark Forces Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  15. ^ a b c "Dark Forces - PlayStation review". IGN. 1996-12-13. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  16. ^ "LucasArts Milestones". LucasArts. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  17. ^ Dunnigan, James F. (2000-01-03). The Wargames Handbook (Third ed.). Writers Club Press. ISBN 978-0595155460. 
  18. ^ "Dark troopers". Star Wars Databank. Lucasfilm. Retrieved 2007-12-09. 
  19. ^ GameNOW (2003-11-01), Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Ziff Davis Media 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Bailey, Kat (2009-09-16). "Jedi Knight Collection Now Available On Steam". Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  22. ^ Kent, Steven L. (1995-05-19). "Tech Reviews CD-Rom -- Dark Forces". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  23. ^ Constantides, Alex (2001-08-15). "Star Wars: Dark Forces PlayStation Review". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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