A Doom Clone Attacked with Star Wars Authenticity
Since its release in 1993, id Software’s Doom has spawned many imitators. While Star Wars: Dark Forces is another one, it brings just enough more to the table to keep the genre moving forward. It would probably be overlooked if not for its use of the Star Wars license, yet it does the universe justice, telling a fun sideline story that takes plenty of intriguing turns.
You are put in the shoes of Kyle Katarn, a roguish mercenary hired by the Rebel Alliance to work against the Imperial Empire. The first few missions will take you on a brief fan service tour before you eventually uncover the secret Dark Trooper project, a super soldier addendum to the Empire’s current Storm Trooper program. Upon this discovery it’s left to you to make sure the program never sees the light of day.
Mechanically, Dark Forces isn’t all that distinguished from other first-person shooters, but it succeeds in capturing that Doom-like flow and momentum. It also doesn’t hurt that it is bolstered by its smart use of the Star Wars license, telling a fun and intriguing story, then following through with mission briefings and objectives a bit more involving than simply finding a color coded key. The midi cuts based around John Williams’ iconic scores are also great supplements to the action, and adding to the authenticity are all the classic Star Wars sounds, from blaster fire to Darth Vader aspirating.
Like many shooters of its ilk, Dark Forces does suffer from its labyrinthian level design, hiding key items and vital pathways in random or obscured corners. It’s not quite as gross an offender as some, but it’s still a shame this problem is so persistent in these sorts of shooting galleries. The individual levels are at least pretty distinct visually, as you’ll travel to ice and desert planets, blast through sewers and docking ports, and scavenge starships and space stations. Some even twist the action by altering visibility with fog or darkness.
The arsenal of weapons you’ll get to play around with in these arenas unfortunately leaves something to be desired. There are a couple of cool laser cannons and wielding genuine Star Wars blasters is a treat, but there isn’t anything to match Doom’s iconic BFG, nor the simple satisfaction that comes from its shotgun.
If Doom’s cloning process got attacked with Star Wars DNA, Dark Forces is what would come out of the vat. It might be another Doom clone at its core, but around the edges there are enough glimpses of what the future of the genre holds. The stronger narrative and more varied and coherent objectives, along with its compelling use of the Star Wars brand lend for more a authentic shooting experience.