Star Wars: Dark Forces was on the index in Germany for 25 years. But those times are over! The first first person shooter in George Lucas' science fiction universe has finally been freely available again since the beginning of October. I'm pleased … but at the same time it leaves me very cold. Because I associate Dark Forces with an obscure love-hate relationship whose memories take me back to my youth.

The game was released in 1995, at a time when the shooter revolution was in full swing. I was also gripped by the action fever: After Doom, which was published in 1993, I just had to have every shooter and was looking forward to Dark Forces like a snow king. After all, this game supposedly brought together two of my favorite hobbies: Star Wars and first person shooter!





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/12/darkforces02-pc-games.jpg" alt = "Dark Forces picked up some monsters and creatures from the Star Wars universe – like Take this Kell dragon, for example. However, you'd better not face this beast unarmed …
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Dark Forces picked up some monsters and creatures from the Star Wars universe – such as these Kell dragons. However, you'd better not face this beast unarmed …

Source: Moby Games





Unsatisfactory taboo break
However, there was a small problem: Dark Forces landed on the index faster than I could say "May the force be with you". And so it took a few months before the game appeared on the pirated swap exchange – aka Schulhof -. When I finally got the first version in my hands, I expected nothing more than an absolute taboo break. How so? At that time, my circle of friends rose into a real Dark Force hysteria: Star Wars license, shooter genre and then on the index – that just had to be better than Doom! As a teenager, I was naturally drawn to the forbidden area, and, unsurprisingly, Dark Forces quickly grew into a cult game in my head – without ever having seen it in action.





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If you study the report of the former BPjS (now BPjM), you might think that little Olaf was even right. You have to know that Dark Forces even landed on the index twice: the uncut, English version distributed by Virgin Interactive on September 30, 1995 and the subtly adapted German version published by Softgold on October 20, 1995. The examiners raved in the indexing notice of the original of "killing instruments that can hardly be surpassed in perfidy", of the "destruction of the enemy and the use of large-caliber weapons" and also of the "highly realistic mode of operation" of the cannons. The adaptation of the "German" version, however, saw the BPjS as a failure. After all, it was made clear with the first notification of the indexing that it was not the depiction of violence itself, but the game principle behind it that justified the decision, which is questionable from today's perspective.





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/12/darkforces03-pc-games.jpg" alt = "Dark Forces contained a total of ten weapons, including thermal detonators, stormtrooper shotguns or this one heavy repeating rifle.
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Dark Forces contained a total of ten weapons, including thermal detonators, stormtrooper shotguns or this heavy repeating rifle.

Source: Moby Games




In that sense, I could actually have been more than happy with Dark Forces. But I actually hoped for something like an "adult" Star Wars. That's exactly what I didn't get: Dark Forces was the pure star war – including a midi version of the iconic soundtrack and the sleek pew-pew of the blaster.

This is not my Star Wars!
In 1995, "Star Wars" stood for the original film trilogy, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. I knew that there were books that expand this story and introduce new characters. However, at that point in time I had never dealt with the trappings. And so it was above all the lack of known caregivers in the story that prevented me from immersing myself in Dark Forces. No wonder, after all, the events there take place before the said first trilogy.

Despite searching for the Death Star plans and seeing Darth Vader again in the cutscenes, I struggled hard with a Kyle Katarn character. An Imperial officer turned mercenary and supporter of the rebellion? That didn't fit into my Star Wars worldview at all!

I also lacked a connection to power. For me, when it says Star Wars, lightsabers and power skills were always part of it. There was none of that in Dark Forces, as well as really imposing cutscenes. Years before I had real aha moments with a rebel assault, in this shooter I suddenly had to be content with all sorts of texts and rather rudimentary animated cutscenes. Pity!





<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/12/darkforces05-pc-games.jpg" alt = "Again and again you receive messages and orders in text version. User guidance and navigation of Dark Forces are from today's perspective more than getting used to.
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Again and again you will receive messages and orders in text version. From today's perspective, user guidance and navigation of Dark Forces take more than getting used to.

Source: Moby Games





Where am I?

I have to say one thing at this point: Even if Dark Forces was a bitter disappointment for me at the time, I enjoyed the shooter gameplay. Because of course I enjoyed shooting stormtroopers down and making my way through space stations and other areas. The Jedi engine specially developed for the game allowed significantly more three-dimensional levels in which – in contrast to Doom, for example – I could even jump over platforms. The game combined the exploration of the areas and puzzle passages on the basis of switches or key cards more strongly than other shooters of the time.

But these freedoms brought problems: Within the missions, many areas looked very similar. That made orientation difficult. How much I hate escaping the sewer to this day! For hours I wandered through dark shafts and got lost countless times with the help of the map. The texture problem went so far that it was not always completely clear whether there was a door in front of me or just another wall. Dark Forces was perhaps a little too progressive for my gaming taste at the time.

Incidentally, I got my dose of Star Wars two years after Dark Forces, namely in the direct successor Star Wars: Jedi Knight. I loved the story behind the game and especially the path of Kyle Katarn, who discovered the power and could switch to the dark or light side through my choices. Jedi Knight was everything I had hoped for from Dark Forces – just a tad better!

How do you judge Dark Forces in retrospect? Let us know in the comments!

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Kyle Katarn is looking for the Death Star's plans in Dark Forces and is supposed to deliver them to the rebels. But between him and the data stand stormtroopers and Imperial officers.
(1) (Source: Moby Games)

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