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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

Review - Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster

It was the year 1995, and I was living in the future. Nintendo's Gameboy invented handheld gaming. Movies were going 3D with the introduction of Pixar's Toy Story. Music was being made crispy and clear on something called a compact disc. Sony introduced the PlayStation to the United States. Among the ensemble of games that arrived was Star Wars: Dark Forces.


If one were to put Rambo in the Star Wars universe, it would be through Star Wars Dark Forces. Putting players into the shoes of one-man army Kyle Katarn, Star Wars Dark Forces is an old-school first-person shooter in the Star Wars universe. This past week, Night Dive Studios brought the classic game back in the form of Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster and the end result is a sublime experience that fans of modern games and retro enthusiasts need to check out.



Back in the 90s


The year was 1995. The first-person shooter has been invented. Wolfenstein 3D laid the foundation, and DOOM built that foundation with fire and demon guts. Everyone was all in on making labyrinthian first-person shooters. Ideas went wild, and eventually, that infectious mindset got Lucasarts to create Star Wars: Dark Forces. The game pit players against the Empire and its Imperial military, with more stormtroopers to fight than the entire Star Wars film saga combined. To put it simply, Star Wars: Dark Forces is if you mix Rambo with a Star Wars game and focus on the war. No Jedi. No Sith. No force prophecies or green aliens that speak in backwards.


Star Wars Dark Forces Remastered tells the story of Kyle Katarn. Kyle is a former Imperial special operations officer trained in the art of firearms, close-range combat, and special equipment. Assassination, sabotage, Kyle can do it all. Recent events have turned him into more of a mercenary who defected from the Empire and slowly grew fond of the Rebel Alliance. In original Star Wars canon, it was Kyle who intercepted and stole the Death Star plans, which set off the event of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. This was retconned in 2016's Star Wars: Rogue One, but something more sinister awakens following the destruction of the Death Star.



Dark Forces and the Dark Trooper


In a howl of explosions and binary screeching, Yavin's base is destroyed. The Empire creates the newest form of soldiers: the Dark Trooper. These cyborgs and robots are tough and extremely dangerous, with heavy armor, cutting-edge firepower, and cold, calculated thinking. While they may have been introduced to TV audiences in The Mandalorian Season 2, they debuted in Star Wars: Dark Forces. As a grave threat to the Rebel Alliance, Kyle suits up to take the Empire head-on.


Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster is a remaster of Star Wars: Dark Forces, an old-school, old-fashioned shooter. It doesn't just look like a classic game but is built like one, too. There are no waypoints or auto-healing. Each of the game's 14 missions is a maze filled with deadly enemies, puzzles, and an objective to complete. Each mission varies. One mission has players running into a prison to liberate an imperial defector. Another mission has players planting charges to destroy a base. Between these aspects are various droids and soldiers to shoot as they undoubtedly recognize you as a threat that must be stopped.



What's old is New Again


Playing Star Wars Dark Forces Remastered constantly feels action-packed and dangerous. Every mission crawls with enemies, and there's no telling where they'll come from. Acquiring weapons, ammo, batteries, and health is a must. Like other shooters, there are secrets to uncover to help in certain missions, but this is a game that will not hold hands except to put an E-111 Blaster rifle in them. Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster is an action-packed extravaganza that anyone will enjoy.


There's no denying how great Star Wars: Dark Forces but the real meat of this review is how the game stacks up nearly thirty years later, and with a full remaster treatment from Nightdive Studios. With their proprietary Kex Engine, the studio has brought various shooter classics back to life, such as the Turok trilogy. The studio has been lauded for its treatment of the material, maintaining and recapturing the magic of the original game with modern conventions woven. Star Wars Dark Forces Remastered is easily their best effort yet.



A remaster worthy of a Jedi Master


For starters, Star Wars: Dark Forces Remastered comes with a bevy of Accessibility Options. These include auto-aim, head bobbing, always run, HUD flashes, subtitles, and to have the mission automatically end or end it manually through the pause button. There are three difficulties as well. It's clear the team wanted to reach as many players as possible.


The entire game has been meticulously remastered. Star Wars: Dark Forces is smoother, brighter, and visually more refined. Animations and gameplay visually look better. The visual presentation is more than just a coat of paint added as smaller details noticeably make this a more appealing venture this time around. This new enhancement also includes updated audio and the ability to play the game in widescreen. For nostalgia and classic game enthusiasts, the new remastered look of Star Wars: Dark Forces and the older look can be changed at any time.



Galactic Civil War


Gameplay-wise, the experience is the same sublime experience as before, made even better by the enhancements. There are a host of control options to better suit one's playstyle, but the same euphoric shooting is back. The sound effects are pulled straight from the Lucasfilm archives, giving every weapon a tremendous cinematic sensation. No weapon is a bad choice as each one has punch and impact, including an actual punch you can use to knock the helmets off those stormtroopers. Players have a variety of enemies but have a variety of fearsome firepower to handle any threat.


With the new textures, each level has new life breathed into it. It almost feels like a new game. Nightdive clearly went above and beyond in respecting the material and treating it properly. In this age of remasters, there are examples of remasters done right, like Company of Heroes on the Switch, and those that don't quite make the grade, such as Tales of Symphonia. Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster sets the example of how it should be done.



Use the Force


There are glowing hallmarks to Star Wars Dark Forces Remaster, but a few things to consider. Once again, this game does not hold your hand. A mini map or waypoint system would have been beneficial to implement for newer players. Fortunately, a wireframe map can be toggled and displayed on screen to help guide players where to go. Still, players will undoubtedly get lost as they play. This might mean going on Youtube to look up a solution. Moreover, the game is challenging, especially in one stage with hidden mines concealed in the doors.


Additionally, Star Wars Dark Forces: Remaster may have missed an opportunity with its levels. The game was cutting-edge for the time, but certain aspects could have used more of a facelift. With the exception of textures and color palettes, there isn't much to differentiate each level. Soon, things blend, and you'll remember levels by " The red planet" or "The blue planet." Some exceptions include levels at a military base or aboard a starship. The studio could've done a bit more here, even making brand new levels to expand the experience.



Many Bothans died to deliver this information


The original cut of Star Wars: Dark Forces had over 30 missions. This was cut down to 14. Nightdive Studios supplied plenty of goodies from the development and production side of things, including a playable prototype level that has players fight on a Star Destroyer. It's a nice touch, but I cannot help but feel more could have been added in regards to remastering levels and adding more to the gameplay. Perhaps down the line, the studio can remake the game in the vein of 2023's System Shock remake.


There isn't much to complain about here. For older players like myself, I can relive a golden era in games and finally beat the thing, given how hard it was. For newer players starved for Star Wars content but tired of the same story of the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars Dark Forces Remastered keeps things simple: Wage war against The Empire and down every last stormtrooper you see.



The Force is Strong with this one


You may have played or never heard of it, but now is the time to jump into Star Wars Dark Forces: Remaster. This retro shooter has been called one of the great Star Wars games for a reason, and Nightdive Studios clearly put the love and attention it deserves. There are many Star Wars games making a return, and Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster is strong in the force. Star Wars Dark Forces: Remaster is an excellent game.


Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch OLED with the Nitrodeck attachment



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1 Comment


Straw Hat Rican
Straw Hat Rican
Mar 31

This was one of the first games I brought back when I had an IMB Tandy from Radio Shack.


No way I was gonna miss out on Star Wars in FPS form!

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