So what is with the first-person shooter aspect of the game? Why? Well to be honest the story of Dark Force isn't actually about Jedi's or Sith…well there is a mention but in all reality this story focuses on a new character of the Star Wars universe. Kyle Kataran, the possible "lasts hope" of the republic as this takes place before the discovering of Luke Skywalker. Kyle's mission is simple; destroy the separatists and that means doing whatever he wants as long as he's shooting at enemies. Dark Forces owes a lot to its Doom counterpart and while almost everything of this Star Wars game is ripped off that doesn't make it less great than what it is. One thing that sets it apart from Doom is the voice acting in the game. During cut scenes lips would move indicating that someone was talking, this was a first for the first person shooter genre and it certainly lived up to its name. Luckily the game was not in 3D space so easily 2D images were able to be drawn and give the characters lip movement and while the sound is a bit flakey it still holds up today. The voice acting is also very well done and the voices don't come off as gimmicky or cheesy but with enough dramatic flair and realism that captures our attention during the length of the cut scenes. The cut scenes are also given some brushing up in graphics engine for when a scene with the robots happens through elusive trickery the image looks almost 3D, not great 3D but 3D nonetheless.
The missions are where the real fun is at as there are in total 13 missions to partake in each one having in some cases the same objectives which isn't a bad thing in any stretch as the entire experience is jam packed with the sweet game play content that one would expect to be in a Doom copy. Dark Force pretty much bluntly rips off every aspect of Doom and inputs a Star Wars twist to them allowing for some fun weapons and enemies to be had in the game. Naturally, this should be a terrible combination, after all Doom made the formula and all Dark Force is doing is just straightforward copying and pasting in the mechanics. Somehow though, the game remains still superb and addictive as its inspiration. You enter into the view of Kyle Kataran and take hold of a number of guns such as his trusty blaster to the powerful and destructive Concussion rifle. What makes these fun to use is their simple shooting mechanics and how well made they are, their sound is simply superb and the second use of them is also a thrill. There are two weapon attacks on each gun, the simple shooting gun using the left mouse button or you can tear it up with the second feature on the right mouse button. They switch from a normal gun attacks which might not be all that good to a much more accurate attack scheme. These work well as they give the game some diversity as you have to switch up tactics and think on the fly which attack should you use for the given situation.
When on a mission, be on the lookout for other key items that help in your campaign through the Star Wars world. These include Ice Cleats, Air Mask, batteries, Infra-red goggles, and of course keys to open up secured doors. These break up the action as sometimes you are thrown into a dark room and have a choice of either the head lamp or the goggles and it is also tense as you're traveling through a level with your gas mask on but have to hurry before you run out of air. The batteries help give power to the items and can be found by destroying droids. These are somewhat useless as most of the game is just straight forward run and gun with no need for the items but it is a good diversion that breaks up the action nicely. Dark Force does come up with its own bells and whistles that makes it stand out from Doom, it makes sure to not have any blood so that the game is verily accessible to everyone and it also includes physic engine like game play mechanics. For example, without the Ice Cleats on, Kyle is just slipping and sliding everywhere on the ice stage and we don't want that when you're next to a cliff. Other items like the head lamp are eye candy at how well the light affects you're surrounding that instead of just having the entire place light up it works almost like a real head lamp.
These weapons are cool to use but also be sure to look for power ups, health items, ammo, and shields. These are your standard first person shooter items that help give you an edge in battles. Energy units is ammo for your weapons, shield units help replenish your shield energy, power cells are ammo for the Concussion rifle, med kits to heal you up, and shells for the Mortar gun. The power ups are also good but nothing really amazing as they are the simple shield supercharge, revive power up, weapon supercharge, and extra lives. These are typical but they work and also look a lot cooler than most of items with flashing lights and great change in pace. One minute you're under heavy fire, you could lob you're grenade but you want to save it for a boss; then out of the corner of Kyle's eye you see the powerful weapon supercharge. Grab that puppy up and mow down the competition. All the weapons are once again some simple standards of Doom and even Wolfenstien but that doesn't mean they aren't fun especially with the great sound design.
All weapons have a distinct sound that's different from the other and makes using all the weapons a spectacle to behold and a sweet music to the ears. As stated the voice acting holds up well even though the game is old and does have some scratches in the sound it still is great and the music is also good. What's also great is the stellar background sound such as water, monster sounds, and even space ships. They all come with that Star Wars sound charm which is great for the movies and it's great for the game. What's also nice to know is that even sounds like the Air Mask, Kyle's breathing, and Stormtroopers are brought to life with great care. The Air Mask sounds like a real air mask as it's put on and the astronaut breathing of Kyle starts up. When Kyle doesn't have the mask the breathing quickens as he is running out of air and you take damage; it kills you but it's really amazing sound design at work as well, just not that pretty sound design. Stormtroopers also have a voice as well and when you kill them they go down, the sounds they make are simple phrases like "You there, Halt," yet with great sound design you believe that they really are Stormtroopers and not just images on the screen. Even the pow sound that Kyle's hand makes when it connects is also good and it gives you that feeling of satisfaction when an enemy goes down. Monsters also have some good sounds such as the sewer monsters and Jabba the Hutt's Komodo-Dragon-like pets. Water, ice, monsters, weapons, grenades, droids, every aspect of Star Wars: Dark Forces is brought to life with great care and great realism.
Another thing to note is the graphics engine that powers all this shooter go happy fun game. They have a brilliant mix of 3D objects combined with 2D sprites which makes for a good fun romp. The game also has some neat effects such as the flashing lights of the power ups and general items, and there is even the "physics" engine at work secretly within the game. As you're going through levels fighting monsters, droids, monsters, aliens and of course troopers; blasters will fly and sometimes they may hit objects like lights, this will actually destroy the light and leaving a bullet wound right in it. It's a simple system but in 1995 it was a pretty new thing and it's great that Dark Forces was able to copy that system well and have you admire your work of carnage as you trek back through levels sometimes. There are some things in the game that aren't really eye candy such as some walls; walls are sometimes bland and boring so at times it will feel like you're a mouse in a maze rather than a rebel in a base. Still there are some visual touches such as background images of mountainous regions that give the game some art visual fluff. Although keep in mind that the backgrounds are sometimes blocked by things like walls and such so it will be difficult to see but it's nice that it's there and gives us something else to look at from time to time.
Dark Forces has some things that you may not like about it. It has a bit of a difficulty curb in parts and it even happens on the easy mode, there is no multiplayer mode for Dark Forces which doesn't improve the longevity, and of course it's a simple clone of Doom so even though it's not a bad thing to me it could be to others. As the game progress you encounter the Dark Troopers which end up being just tough droids and troopers in suits and these do increase the difficulty quite a bit. Dark Trooper Phase 1 is a droid like attacker with swords on both hands and will kill you if he gets too close but one thing to note is he's also quick so you have to be quicker. Phase 2 is the real trooper in a suit but be careful as he has an assault rifle with him and a jet pack as well; with their powers it can take you down fast. The final phase, Phase 3 has everything Phase 2 had but instead has the Concussion rifle, fire blasters from his chest guns, and is piloted by the man himself, General Mohc. Each one offers a challenge but what's a bit sad is that even on the easiest difficulty they can be way too tough. Along with this there is also level 10, in level 10 you are captured by Jabba the Hutt and must fight his Komodo-Dragon-like pet to win; except you have to do it without any weapons. Plus the droids can be a bit of a hassle as they can be big and hulking which is easy but also small and zippy which is difficult to destroy. Dark Forces certainly has challenge but when you keep dying to the enemy time after time after time it can be a little frustrating. What's also a bit sad is that there is no multiplayer for anyone itching to blast friends away with your very own Mortar gun; although the game is still so much fun and challenging in a good way that you'll want to come back for more even after the game is done. Finally there is the major gripe, it's a blunt rip off of Doom in a Star Wars universe. Since it ports everything of Doom people who want something new and original won't find it here. With Doom having multiplayer and Dark Forces not having it people can also complain that Dark Forces is a blunt and stripped down version Doom in a Star Wars setting. While it is true that Doom started the style, Dark Force does absolutely nothing to harm it and stays true to the source material.
-Sound design is superb
-Voice acting is pretty good
-Gives us a new Star Wars story
-Great art style for cut scenes
-Stays true to the Star Wars material
-Stays true to the Doom formula
-Ooooo…flashy power up…
-POW! Right in the kisser
-Just simple mindless fun the old fashion way
-Diverse shooting mechanics
-Great items to use
-Different locals are fun to play in
-Plain old shooting
-Neat "physic engine" effects
-Difficulty spikes even on easy
-Blunt Doom copy in a Star Wars setting
-Some 3D graphics aren't very good
-Not much diversity in enemies
-Droids can be annoying
Dark Forces has some problems but they are overshadowed by one aspect of the game, fun. There is just something oh so fun of blasting Stormstroopers in the face that just can't be explained. There's just something great about the game even if it is a copy game. There's just something inside Dark Forces that can't be explained but one thing's for sure it is just so darn fun to sit back and relive the glory days of shooters, in a galaxy far, far away...