The Road to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A retrospective look at old Star Wars games in anticipation for Episode 7, releasing later this year.

Posted by Brian on May 11 2015

With the newest movie in the Star Wars saga releasing later this year in 2015, I thought it would be fun to do a retrospective on some old Star Wars games. I couldn't possibly play all the Star Wars games that are out there, so I've decided to focus on ones that I've never played before. Namely, the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series of games. If I get far enough, I might try to load up the TIE Fighter/X-Wing games, since I've never played them either, and I did just buy a shiny new Saitek x52 HOTAS flight stick (Thanks Andrew).

I don't plan on reviewing these games, per se, but since this will be my first experiences playing them, I hope to provide some interesting thoughts about them. Especially when compared to the Star Wars games I have played like the Knights of the Old Republic games (including the MMO), Rogue Squadron, NES/SNES platformers, Jedi Power Battles, Galactic Battlegrounds, and various others.

I will be updating this article as I go, so be sure to check back periodically. Now, onto the games!

Dark Forces (PC, 1995)

Introducing Kyle Katarn...

So, this first game I have actually played before, but if I'm going to dive into the Dark Forces series, I might as well start at the beginning. I played the original Dark Forces back on Playstation, and loved it. I played it over and over again, got all the secrets, and tried all the cheats. At the time, I thought opening the game with (spoilers) stealing the plans to the first Death Star was brilliant, though, being the first level, was incredibly easy. After that, the game has Kyle Katarn (introduced in this game and would become a Saga regular) tracking down a dangerous new Imperial weapon called the Dark Trooper. And what was really neat back in 1995 was this game features classic original trilogy characters like Darth Vader and Mon Mothma in hand drawn animated cutscenes.

The game makes great use of Star Wars imagery, including Stormtroopers, Imperial Officers, characters, building interiors, and weapons. Like most Star Wars games, the sound design is excellent as well and every blaster shot feels powerful. The game uses classic Star Wars music played in MIDI. I found myself humming along as I played.

Interestingly, this is one of the few Star Wars games that doesn't have you playing as a Jedi or using Force powers in some way. This game is just a run and gun shooter with a variety of hard hitting weapons. In fact, other than the variety of space-focused Star Wars games to come out over the next several years, almost all future games have the player playing a Jedi.

Instead, this game reminds the player of scenes like Han and Luke sneaking into the Death Star, or Han taking over the Endor shield bunker and installing explosive charges. Back in 1995, the only Star Wars movies to exist were the Original Trilogy, so the idea of action packed Jedi had not been tapped into very much. Dark Forces is all-scoundrel gameplay, Han Solo style.

Dark Forces takes some creative license in the weaponry, inventing an arsenal not yet seen in Star Wars. In addition to the Star Wars classics like standard blaster pistol, stormtrooper rifle, and even thermal detonators, there's a mortar launcher, land minds, an ion disruptor rifle, and a plasma cannon. This maps to traditional first person shooter weaponry like grenade launcher, rocket launcher, and machine gun, but with a Star Wars flair.

Overall, Dark Forces is a good representation of Original Trilogy-era Star Wars. After this, most Star Wars games started to focus primarily on Jedi. Starting with the next game on the list....

Coming Soon: Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight...





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