In the games 14 missions, Kyle Katarn takes on numerous types of enemies including Stormtroopers, Imperial Commandos, Imperial Officers, Probe Droids, Trandoshans, Gamorreans, Grans, Dianoga, Kell Dragons, and Dark Troopers. Other Star Wars characters make an appearance of some form such as Darth Vader, Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett.
You move around using WASD on the keyboard, hold shift to sprint, space-bar to jump, E to interact with switches, tab to bring up the map, and the number-keys switch weapons and equip items.
Gameplay wise, people will always compare to Doom. Sadly, this style of FPS is rather dated and is hard to enjoy its antiquated game-play style. At the start of the game, you struggle to pick out interactive objects like switches since they are only a flat texture placed on a wall. The poor graphics also obscure passageways that are key to progression, so unless you check the map regularly, you will fail to recognise them. Lots of backtracking is required which drags out the game length. Due to the constant feeling of being lost, it becomes frustrating when the mission objective is to get back to your ship and all you remember is trying several paths before progressing and you therefore fail to work out the correct way back. The map could be much clearer and it would be beneficial if landmarks and key doors were marked to help with your navigation.
That said, it is about 18 years old, so maybe it was pretty good at the time. On the plus side, you can differentiate between the enemies even at a distance, so can prepare adequately since they take a different amount of shots to kill.
As you navigate your way around the maps, shooting all the Empires forces in your way, you will come along obstacles to mix up the game-play. These can be switch puzzles, or timed platform jumps but they end up adding to the frustration, especially when you plummet to the floor below and have to climb your way back up to have another go.
If enemies are attacking from above or below, you can, rather awkwardly, use the page up and down keys to reposition your gun. Most of the time, when you are in the heat of battle, you don't need to do this since there is a partial auto-aim mechanic where bullets will travel up or down towards your enemies. It can be rather unpredictable causing you to waste ammo until you reposition, which is annoying as well as looking a bit ridiculous.
In darkened areas you need to activate your night vision goggles which is a nice touch. Sometimes you find that the Imperial Forces have forgot theirs though and are bumbling about in the dark. There's plenty of choice of weapons which are progressively unlocked as you go through the levels. Plenty of pick-ups (health, ammo, shields) are found throughout the levels to keep you stocked up. There's plenty of secret areas to discover which have plenty of pick-ups and sometimes extra lives.
As long as you have lives left, you respawn pretty close by to where you died. When you lose all lives, you have to restart the entire level. There are 3 difficulty levels, and cheats can be activated (as well as a super shield which is strangely enabled in the pause menu), so players with any level of skill should be able to complete the game.
I found Dark Forces to be a very frustrating experience. The level design seemed to have the aim of frustrating you, either by hiding keys, doors, and passageways, or the inclusion of annoying platform sections. All of which slow down progression and drag out the levels far too much, stripping out the enjoyment from the game. If you like old FPS games such as Doom and can work with the dated design, then you may enjoy it, but otherwise I just cannot recommend it.