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Video Game / Dark Forces

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The New Order of the Empire stretches
its evil clutches across the galaxy,
consuming planets with devastating
results. Through many struggles, the
Rebel Alliance has learned of a new
Imperial battle station, the DEATH
STAR, with enough power to destroy
an entire planet.

Unable to acquire the plans to the
deadly space station, the Rebels have
employed the skills of Kyle Katarn.
Known to most as a mercenary for
hire, Katarn is a rogue figure who has
a partial alliance with the Rebels.

Armed only with a blaster pistol and
an intimate knowledge of Imperial
methods, Kyle prepares to infiltrate
the Imperial base where the plans are

Star Wars: Dark Forces (1995), the first game in the Dark Forces Saga, is a standard FPS with the trappings of the original Star Wars trilogy. It is an origin story for series protagonist Kyle Katarn, a spy working for Mon Mothma, leader of the Rebel Alliance.

The intro showcases Katarn as the one to steal the plans for the first Death Star and transmit them to the rebellion, thus leading into the events of A New Hope. Afterwards, the game time-jumps to after the Death Star's destruction and goes its own way, uncovering the Emperor's top-secret "Dark Trooper Project".

The game was a dramatic leap for graphics and level design, being one of the first to feature multiple floors. It was also one of the first successful examples of looking up and down (although it did not feature true mouselook), jumping, and mixing 3d objects with sprites.

In August 2023, a remastered version of the game for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Nintendo Switch was announced by Nightdive Studios in collaboration with The Force Engine Project.

The game contains examples of following tropes:

  • Airborne Mook: Imperial probe droids, interrogation droids and remote droids fly around freely and attack at range. There are also the Phase II Dark Troopers, who spend most of their time in the air due to having jump packs.
  • All There in the Manual: "Dark Forces: Soldier for the Empire", a novella released two years after this game, explains how Kyle went from loyal Imperial trooper to a mercenary after he met Jan Ors and defected from the Empire.
  • Badass Normal: Kyle Katarn's connection to the Force is only hinted at in this game, leaving him a One-Man Army who mows down armies of stormtroopers, droids and Hutt Cartel thugs, and at one point brings down a kell dragon (potentially several) with nothing but his bare hands.
  • BFG: The Concussion Rifle, the Mortar Gun and the Assault Cannon are all big and powerful guns.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: The phase I Dark Troopers are skeletal battle droids, each sporting a vibrosword attached to the wrist of their right arm.
  • Blood Knight: Rom Mohc is described as a decorated veteran of the Clone Wars with a passion for man-to-man combat, distrusting any technology that removes the need for troops on the ground (to the point of openly criticizing the Death Star project). When Kyle Katarn sets out to destroy the Arc Hammer, Mohc eagerly dons a suit of Powered Armor to challenge him.
    "It's been a long time since I've challenged a man to battle. I'm glad my opponent is so worthy."
  • Boring, but Practical: The stormtroopers' E-11. All you can do is spray and pray, but with its rapid fire it can chew through all the lighter enemies in no time, and since you'll mostly be fighting stormtroopers, you'll nearly always keep your ammunition stock near full. Also, in terms of damage per unit of time, it is among the best weapons in the game.
  • Bounty Hunter: In the intro to level 6, General Mohc assures Vader that Kyle won't get anywhere near the Arc Hammer — "My new hire will see to that." Cue Boba Fett emerging from the shadows. Fett then shows up to confront Kyle on Coruscant (level 11) as the final enemy of that level.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: Unlike Doom or Build Engine games, Dark Forces has no in-game save feature, only a level select screen and Video-Game Lives, so each mission has to be beaten in one sitting.
  • Down the Drain: The sewers come into play as early as Level 3: they combine a confusing maze of corridors, underwater creatures that are very difficult to spot and hit before they spot and hit you, limited supply of ammo and battery cells and being all around just a chore to get through.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • You have no lightsaber or Force powers. Also, Kyle lacks his famous beard.
    • Storywise, this game is the only one in the Katarn saga to explicitly take place before Return of the Jedi. The others are set in the New Republic era.
    • The game was one of the many 2D "Doom clones" of the mid-90s, though like those on the Build engine it included many innovations such as true room-over-room. All the later games were fully 3D.
    • Unlike most PC first person shooters, you can't save whenever you want. The game uses a lives system instead. From Jedi Knight onward, you can save at any time.
  • Elite Mooks: The black-clad Imperial Navy Troopers (referred to as Commandoes in the game files) can take more damage and have noticeably better aim than the Stormtroopers (who are supposed to be the ones who are the Elite Mooks).
  • Emergency Weapon: Your first weapon slot is given over to Good Old Fisticuffs, to save you from being completely defenceless when you run out of ammo. At the start of the No-Gear Level on Jabba's ship, you'll need to bring down a kell dragon with melee before being released to the rest of the level.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: The cutscene at the start of level 6 (the detention center on Orinackra) ends with General Mohc ominously stating Kyle Katarn will never get near the Arc Hammer — "My new hire will see to that." Cue Boba Fett stepping out of the shadows.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: When you are stripped of all your weapons and other equipment on Jabba's ship (level 10), it only figures you should try and retrieve it. What's the name of the item you need to pick up in order to get your gear back? "Your Gear".
  • Fake Difficulty: Land mine placement in Level 10 and, though not to such an extent, in Level 14, pretty much defines this tropes. Not only are the mines themselves very hard to detonate and their blast radius is huge but they tend to be located in places that render them practically undetectable until they blow up right into your face, such as immediately behind closed doors or around corners. The only way to not get hurt by them at all on your first playthrough would be to keep throwing thermal detonators every step of the way clearing the path ahead of you.
  • Fed to the Beast: Attempted in level 10. Kyle and Jan are captured and taken aboard Jabba the Hutt's star cruiser, and Kyle is thrown in a pit to be eaten by Jabba's favorite kell dragon... which he promptly punches to death, before having to face up to nine more (on the hardest difficulty setting) on his way to retrieving his gear and Nava Card, rescuing Jan from her cell and escaping the ship.
  • Final Boss: In Level 14, after setting explosive devices across the Arc Hammer, Rom Mohc shows up just before you can reach your ship. For the battle, he wears a prototype Phase III Dark Trooper suit that's more than twice as durable as a regular Phase II Dark Trooper and equipped with an Assault Cannon and a Homing Missile launcher that can do a lot of damage. He also has a jump pack that allows him to be airborne.
  • Fisticuffs Boss: In level 10 (Jabba's ship), Kyle is captured and stripped of his weapons by Jabba the Hutt, then forced to fight a kell dragon unarmed. After he is done punching it to death with his bare hands, another kell dragon-infested part of the level opens up (with ten total appearing throughout the entire level in Hard mode, counting the first one Kyle fought in that pit), but the odds can end up a little more balanced in his favor if he chooses to force some grenade-carrying Mooks to part with their weapons.
  • Foreshadowing: Kyle's Force sensitivity is hinted at by Darth Vader in the ending.
  • Game Mod:
    • For a long time, the only 3D source port to play the game on modern systems with OpenGL graphics (like ZDoom for Doom or EDuke for Duke Nukem 3D) was DarkXL, which could play the game from start to finish but lacked a number of features such as the last few weapons, and bugged A.I. on the Dark Troopers II and III.
    • A fully feature-complete modern source port finally came about with The Force Engine, built upon the discontinued DarkXL. It has been in an early development alpha state for some time, but finally became playable from beginning to end with all features and no major flaws around late 2021, with the full 1.0 release finally coming out on December 19th, 2022.
  • Giant Mook: The Dark Troopers are huge Stormtrooper-shaped battle droids who can soak more than 40 blaster bolts or several direct explosive hits before falling, and are armed with rapid fire plasma assault cannons. Unlike most examples of the trope, they're also Lightning Bruisers with jetpacks who can fly around surprisingly quickly.
  • Glass Cannon:
    • Trandoshan goons aren't any more durable than regular mooks, but they carry powerful concussion rifles that deal heavy damage and will even blow you backwards a couple dozen feet.
    • As Giant Mook enemies go, the Dark Troopers are relatively below-average in terms of tankiness (the Phase IIs are about on par with Doom Hell Knights in terms of their hit points, with the Final Boss having about the same hit points as a Baron of Hell), but they're quite fast with their jet packs and equipped with powerful rapid-fire plasma assault cannons that deal massive damage and can even fire rockets.
  • God Mode: Players can enable the Super Shield in the options which will make them impervious to energy weapons and explosions; however the player is still vulnerable to physical damage like falling, punches, medical droid and dianoga attacks, and Dark Trooper Phase I blades.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Darth Vader. He appears frequently in cinematics, overseeing the Dark Trooper project as General Mohc's superior, but he has no involvement otherwise and is never encountered in-game.
  • Grenade Launcher: One of Kyle's ten weapons is the Packered mortar gun, essentially a grenade launcher that fires explosive shells.
  • Herd-Hitting Attack: The Stouker concussion rifle that Kyle first acquires on Nar Shaddaa, which fires bullets of ionized air that explode in shockwaves, hitting multiple targets within an area at a time.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: This game was the first to provide an in-universe explanation for the infamous stormtrooper aiming skills. The standard issue blaster is mercilessly inaccurate. No two shots fired in the same direction will ever land in the same place.
  • Improvised Weapon: One of Kyle's ten weapons, the Jeron fusion cutter, is actually a portable mining tool used to cut rock that Kyle repurposes as a ranged weapon.
  • Inconveniently-Placed Conveyor Belt: Since half of the game is spent slogging through the various construction facilities of the Dark Trooper project, these are available in all shapes and colours, culminating in a horrific sequence made up entirely of these and long falls in the final two levels.
  • Item-Drop Mechanic: Slain enemies drop ammo (or weapons) and energy cells — for example, Imperial officers drop generic ammo refills (or "energy units") for the Bryar Pistol and E-11 blaster rifle, stormtroopers and Imperial commandos drop the E-11 blaster rifle and its ammo, Grans drop thermal detonators and Trandoshans drop the Stouker Concussion Rifle and its ammo, while Probe Droids and Interrogation Droids drop energy cells used for the Repeater Rifle, Jeron Fusion Cutter and concussion rifle, and Phase II Dark Troopers drop plasma and missile cartridges for the Assault Cannon. A number of Imperial Officers also drop keys, both regular and code keys, to let Kyle traverse further through their respective levels.
  • Kaizo Trap: The Robotics Facility level on the ice planet Anteevy (level 8) ends with a boss fight against your first Phase II Dark Trooper. Immediately afterwards, you get chased through a maze of vents by a pair of Phase I Dark Troopers (three on the hardest setting), with the tight maze-like corridors giving them a significant advantage over you as you're unable to properly use explosives against them and can't just shoot them because of their blaster-deflecting hand shields.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": I.M. Mines, both the ones Kyle uses and the ones planted by the enemy, make an odd noise before they explode.
  • Mighty Glacier: Gamorrean guards are slow and limited to melee attacks with their axe, but they can soak more damage than any other regular enemy.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted, unlike the films. In one spaceport level there's a bathroom with a communal urinal, somehow being used by stormtroopers in full armor.
  • No-Gear Level: Level 10 (Jabba's ship), where Kyle's had all the weapons he'd been acquiring throughout the game taken away, and has to fight with what he can scrounge off killed enemies until he can locate his weapon stash.
  • One-Man Army:
    • Just a few Dark Troopers deployed on Talay as a test wipes out an entire Rebel force.
    • Kyle fights his way through two large Imperial ships, countless Stormtroopers and every remaining active Dark Trooper by the end. On Hard mode, he faces 31 in total throughout the game — fifteen each of the Phase I and Phase II troopers, plus a single Phase III model.
  • Plasma Cannon: Kyle's tenth and final weapon is the Assault Cannon, the same weapon used by the Phase II Dark Troopers, which fires powerful plasma shots.
  • Powered Armor: The final boss, the Dark Trooper Phase III, is General Mohc wearing a specially designed Dark Trooper exosuit.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The cover art features a Stormtrooper blasting at you, while you get a hit in on one of his squadmates. The different cover art for the PlayStation version features this as well, minus you shooting back. It's also pretty amusing that both covers have the Stormtrooper's aim being rather off-center.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Anteevy on level 8. Downplayed, as only specific patches of ground are slippery, and they are easily identified. Kyle also gets to pick up a set of retractable ice cleats for his boots to dampen, if not eliminate, the effect.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: Kyle's hands and all enemies are sprites, but various objects like mouse droids and the Moldy Crow are true 3D.
  • Sticky Shoes: Kyle picks up a set of ice cleats in level 8 (Anteevy) for use on slick surfaces, though they only really come into play on that level.
  • Stone Wall: Gamorrean guards have an impressive 90 health (compared to 20 health for a Stormtrooper), but are slow and are limited to a short-range melee attack with their axes. They mostly just get in your way while Grans spam you with grenades and Trandoshans blast you with concussion rifles.
  • Storming the Castle: Three levels — 5 (the Gromas Mines, where the phrik metal is being dug up), 8 (the robotics facility on Anteevy, where phrik metal was refined for use in constructing Dark Troopers) and 14 (the Arc Hammer, where the Dark Troopers themselves are built) — see Kyle invading an Imperial base for the express purpose of blowing it up, stalling and ultimately putting an end to the Dark Trooper Project; his invasion of the Arc Hammer also sees him facing and killing General Mohc, mastermind of the Dark Trooper Project.
  • Tentacled Terror: The Anoat sewer system of the third mission is home to tons of Dianogas, which just love to lurk around in the sewage and scare the hell out of you. And you have to wade through a ton of sewage, often in the dark. Have fun. Dianogas still appear sparingly after Anoat; true to A New Hope, where there's a trash compactor, you'll probably find a Dianoga.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: Most, though not all, of the Grans in the game throw the explosive Thermal Detonators as their weapon (though considerably nerfed — Boussh threatened Jabba with one in Return of the Jedi, with implications that it would have killed him and most everyone else in the room, while one later destroyed an entire floor of a building in Shadows of the Empire, causing the rest of the building to collapse on itself; in contrast, the game version takes three or four to take out a single Gamorrean guard). Luckily, Kyle can use the same weapon, most of them coming from the Grans he kills.
  • Variable Mix: Dark Forces did this with MIDI using the iMuse system, previously used in LucasArts adventure titles and the X-Wing/TIE Fighter series.

Alternative Title(s): Star Wars Dark Forces