Like many people, I consider myself a huge Star Wars fan. I've watched/read/played most of what the series had to offer, yet there is a huge gap in my Star Wars knowledge. This gap is in the shape of a gruff imperial trooper turned mercenary turned jedi named Kyle Katarn. I've somehow gone this far in life without ever experiencing the Jedi Knight series. Well that ends now. 2016 is the year that this Padawan finally corrects the course of his life and becomes the Jedi Knight he is supposed to be.
I'm starting off with the 1995 release Star Wars Dark Forces. I've only heard tales of how this game was incredibly fun and it was obvious that it was good considering it spun into an entire series. I was incredibly excited to start this bad boy up. I put on my best Star Wars pajamas, slid on my Chewbacca slippers, and sipped from my Darth Vader cup filled with soda as I sat down at my PC ready to begin my journey to Jedi Knighthood with my soon-to-be best buddy Kyle.
Right off the bat I noticed that Dark Forces plays a lot like Doom, which inherently makes it a blast to run 'n gun through imperial forces and the like. However there are a few differences from Doom that show Dark Forces has improved upon the mechanics doom layed out. One of such improvements is the ability to look up and down. Granted, it is downright clunky to use compared to modern FPS titles and the guns auto target anyway so it's not entirely useful.
Another big way Dark Forces separates itself from Doom is the level design. Dark Forces is able to stack maps on top of each other in sectors. So multiple levels can have floors to them and it can make certain levels incredibly tough to navigate due to the layers of the map. Other levels (like those damn sewers!) are hard to navigate because of a lot of reliance on backtracking. I was willing to look past this though, as it seems that was just the convention of the time.
Dark Forces tells a pretty straight forward story that takes place around Episode 4. The very first mission Katarn steals the plans to the Death Star that Luke and the rebellion use to take it down. After that Vader has a buddy, Rom Mohc, that wants to make super powered StormTrooper/robots called Dark Troopers and deploy those at random places to expand the Empire's power. Long story short, captain bad ass Kyle Katarn rips 'em to pieces single handedly, curb stomps Mohc, then blows up his remains with his star destroyer. Katarn gets his heroes welcome from Mon Mothma and then we are treated to a final sting from Vader himself while he broods in space, "the force is strong with Katarn."
Well then, color me excited! I could tell me and my 'ol buddy Kyle were using some serious force mojo to maneuver through those mazes and troopers. More than a few times I scraped through levels with under 20 health just full sprinting past everything and it was the will of the force that those Storm Troopers had the accuracy of, well, Storm Troopers and missed every shot. Kyle's merc work was a blast and I'm really curious to see how the next game handles force powers and lightsabers. Even if they don't work well I can always fall back on the sage like advice of Han Solo, "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”