Star Wars: Dark Forces, the first Star Wars FPS and the predecessor to the Jedi Knight series, has finally gotten ZDoom (opens in a new tab) treatment. Developers luciusDXL, winterheart and gilorem560 have released the 1.0 build of Force Engine (opens in a new tab)an open source reverse engineering of Dark Forces (and soon, its lesser-known cousin, Outlaws) that lets you play it with modern conveniences and in high resolution.
Released in 1995, Dark Forces is defined by the “Doom Clone” era of first-person shooters. It has the smooth, fast boomer shooting motion, a great weapon selection and sprawling, maze-like levels, but it’s really innovative in its presentation. Dark Forces looks for the music, sound effects and look of Star Wars, while telling a fairly in-depth story about Kyle Katarn, who looks like Han Solo, fighting against the Imperial remnant.
These days, Dark Forces is somewhat overshadowed by the sequels in the Jedi Knight series, where Kyle becomes a Jedi and engages in what remains the best lightsaber battle anyone has ever done in a game. outlaws (opens in a new tab), meanwhile, is a western-themed Lucasarts FPS that reuses Dark Forces’ original Jedi Engine. This shared DNA will allow the lesser-remembered Outlaws to ride the Dark Forces’ coattails into the 21st century with just a little extra effort from the Force Engine team.
In its 1.0 release, the Force Engine allows you to play Dark Forces to the fullest with a highly customizable selection of quality-of-life features such as mouse skins and high resolution support. The Force Engine now also supports GPU rendering as opposed to the original’s archaic software renderer, and has a mod loader for past and future user-made creations. The Force Engine team has indicated that full Outlaws support will arrive at a later point in the project’s 2.0 update.
Installation of both the Force Engine itself and mods is a snap. You’ll still need a copy of Dark Forces to start—it’s not freely available and included in the source port like Bungie’s Marathon is with Aleph One—and you can find it on Steam (opens in a new tab) or GOG (opens in a new tab) for $6 usually (at the time of writing it’s on sale for $2 on GOG!) After downloading the mod, running the Force Engine executable will automatically detect the installation path for the game.
You can simply drop any user-made maps or tweaks into the Force Engine’s “Mods” directory, and select which ones to load from an option on the Force Engine’s startup screen. I took the fan quest Among the Shadows: Fortress Quadrigon from DF-21 (opens in a new tab) repository of Dark Forces mods and had it up and running in seconds. As with GZDoom (opens in a new tab) or Aleph One (opens in a new tab)Force Engine opens up a whole world of free FPS levels as well as letting you play an old classic more comfortably and conveniently.
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