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We love Star Wars. We write about Star Wars a lot. For a tour of every Star Wars game on PC, check out our complete history. And for our favorites, check out the best Star Wars games of all time.

In the last months of 2015, Star Wars was everywhere. Everywhere. TV ads. Billboards. Sneakers. Mac n cheese. Cars. PCs. It s hard to remember a time when Star Wars wasn t all around us. Even before the Force Awakens marketing blitz, Star Wars has been omnipresent for a decade now, with a steady stream of cartoons and toys and games and books and comics, some good, many bad. This is what we ve come to expect from the Lucasfilm and Disney empires. We don t expect Star Wars spin-offs to be bold and daring, and it wasn t until I spent the holiday break playing Dark Forces that I remembered Star Wars games were once genuinely groundbreaking.

After watching Force Awakens, my Star Wars fever drove me to replay Dark Forces and Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II for the first time since my childhood. This was actually my first time playing all the way through either; I only had demos as a kid. Despite being released just two and a half years apart, in 1995 and 1997, the games feel like they belong to distinct eras of FPS design. Each is forward thinking in some ways I found fascinating with 20 years of perspective, and comically dated in others.

But not really comically. Like, Jar-Jar-and-his-stupid-tongue-funny. It s 2016. We know better.

Dark Forces

21 years on, Dark Forces feels almost prehistoric for a 3D game, and its ambition dates it in a way that the arcadier Doom will never age. The 2D sprite enemies, their simplistic AI and repeated audio clips, the labyrinthine levels and obtuse puzzles are the essence of first-person PC games from 1995. Made today, Dark Forces would probably feel like a sanitized Call of Duty clone with lasers.

And yet. And yet. The same way Star Wars took the basic structure of the Hero s Journey and turned it into a movie unlike anything we d seen before, Dark Forces cloned Doom and created something amazing from its DNA: a game that placed you into a three dimensional world that was new and yet recognizably Star Wars.

LucasArts s Jedi Engine added jumping and looking up and down on the vertical axis, so you could explore Dark Forces world like it was a real place. The stormtroopers and Imperial officers may have been crudely animated 2D sprites, but they looked just like they did in the movies. The blasters sounded the same. The music captured the essence of John Williams in simple MIDI.

Instead of revisiting locations from the films or playing out some hackneyed video game version of the battle of Hoth, LucasArts took places we d glimpsed, like the interior of a Star Destroyer, and spun out their own creations with the scope and detail to bring them to life. The world is gray more often than not, but Dark Forces keeps switching out tilesets as you reach new levels. One Imperial base looks different than another. Ship interiors take inspiration from the Death Star. Natural canyons, blocky and angular as they are, admirably lend scale to Dark Forces representation of the galaxy far, far away.

Even the hundreds of stormtroopers spread across the campaign makes it feel like you re struggling against the Empire, a Rebel underdog deep inside an overwhelming military machine. The mostly static cutscenes and briefings between missions feel rudimentary next to the 3D world—possibly Dark Forces at its most dated—but Mon Mothma lends the story an air of legitimacy, too.

21 years on, Dark Forces feels almost prehistoric for a 3D game.

I found Dark Forces additions to the Doom template simultaneously the coolest and the most frustrating bits of its design. I appreciated some of the puzzles I had to solve to make my way through Imperial strongholds, and not always knowing where to go in its layered and complex levels. Other relics of the time—like how difficult it was to discern a random decorative texture from an interactive control panel—really do add depth to the world, making it feel more real and less like a linear guided tour through some Cool Shit, as so many shooters today are.

But I spent more of my Dark Forces playthrough appreciating what it pulled off in 1995 than I did really having fun. The shooting doesn t have Doom s oomph, and I ground my teeth in frustration while trying to navigate the sewers early on, and while trying to make one particular series of jumps between rising and falling platforms later on. If you ve played Dark Forces, you know the one. And the computer core in mission 11? Fuck that hexagonal nightmare.

I'd recommend playing with a guide on-hand for the most obtuse bits, but Dark Forces is still worth a run through to get to Jedi Knight, where the series really finds its way. And it's easy to play on modern hardware thanks to DarkXL, a rebuilt version of the game that supports high resolutions and Windows.

Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II

What a difference two years makes. When LucasArts started using scale models for Star Wars in 1977, they first had to figure out how to make them look like real spaceships. A couple years later, for Empire Strikes Back, they had that down—the next step was making them look good, leading to the invention of Go Motion. Jedi Knight followed a similar path, going fully 3D, telling a far more complex story with full motion video, and slowly unlocking Force powers throughout the campaign. Dark Forces great success was putting you inside a Star Wars world with the best technology available at the time, and Jedi Knight amplified that tenfold.

Its FMV story is unfortunately every bit as bad as the words full motion video usually imply. Hero Kyle Katarn has the gruff voice down, but can t do much more than frown and deliver terrible dialogue from awkward bluescreen-turned-CG-graphics sets. Everyone else is even worse, especially Dark Jedi Jerec, who is wearing the banana hammock equivalent of a pair of sunglasses and has chin tattoos that I mistook for a bad fu manchu for 90 percent of the game.

There s no passion to be found here, but the story loosely justifies Jedi Knight s strength: the experience of gaining badass Force powers over the course of 20+ levels. Where later Bioware RPGs would much more deliberately tie your Force skills and alignment into the narrative, Jedi Knight mostly just gives you points to assign between missions, and bam, you re a Jedi. Believable? Not really—but the FMV cutscenes already threw immersion out the window. Accept Kyle s inexplicable mastery of the Force, and Jedi Knight will hand you a really satisfying skill progression from blaster-wielding slowpoke to Jedi superhero.

Gaining Force powers in Jedi Knight gave me one of my favorite experiences playing games: the feeling that I m using abilities to play the game in a way it wasn t meant to be played. To outsmart the designers by navigating the environment and defeating enemies in ways I wasn t meant to. The best-designed games give me this sensation even when it s not true: they make me feel clever and powerful, even when I m following the path I was meant to.

When you first start gaining powers in Jedi Knight, they re a convenience. You can use Force speed to get around more quickly, or Force jump to leap over a gap that would ve taken longer to cross by foot. Gradually, the game starts introducing areas you need Force powers to navigate. By the end, you re jumping a dozen meters into the air, yanking blasters out of your enemies hands, and sprinting across levels to avoid unnecessary combat.

Jedi Knight ties its high-level light and dark Force abilities to some key story decisions, which would be a great idea if the story wasn t such a galactic suckfest. Star Wars games have done it better since. But Jedi Knight deserves credit for doing it first, and for doing Force powers so, so well. Dark Forces let you view Star Wars from an angle very different than the films, and in making Jedi Knight, LucasArts did the same with the Force. This was the Force we imagined watching the films, letting a heroic master run faster, jump farther, sense enemies that can t be seen, heal his body when he s injured. I don t know if Jedi Knight s powers were directly influenced by the novels filling out the Expanded Universe in the 90s—almost two dozen were written between 1991 and 1997, with different authors granting Jedi new skills—but it nailed the toolset, making the powers fun to use and believable within the Star Wars fiction.

The story loosely justifies Jedi Knight s strength: the experience of gaining badass Force powers.

Acquiring those Force powers is unfortunately tied to the most archaic part of Jedi Knight s design (aside from the FMV, I mean). Completing each level earns you a measly one point to put into the Force skill tree. Most of the points come from discovering secret areas in each level. And there are a lot of them. These secret areas are usually packed with health and ammo, hidden in dark corners or behind stairs or on top of structures. Finding them is a fun excuse to explore...until you miss one of the six or eight or ten hidden areas in a level and miss out on the entire Force point bonus. Fun, that is not. The secret areas feel like a holdover of Dark Forces older design, and as poor match for the Jedi power system.

It's no coincidence my favorite level in the game has only a single secret room right at the outset. Jedi Knight is even more varied in its level design and settings than Dark Forces, but one really stands out: The Falling Ship, which has Kyle rushing through a ship before it hits the ground and explodes. The ship and gravity are both twisted, making for some surprisingly fun platforming on a tense time limit. I failed on my first time through but enjoyed going at it again, racing the clock to make it to the hangar bay and escape in a smaller ship. This is the kind of setpiece you'll see in a blockbuster AAA game today, but Jedi Knight managed to pull it off in 1997.

When I played Jedi Knight s expansion, Mysteries of the Sith, I skipped most of the secret rooms, and was nearly crippled by my meager Force powers in the last few levels. They really felt like a necessity, and only save scumming and dodging tougher enemies carried me through to the end. Freakin vornskrs, man. Most of Mysteries of the Sith feels like an uninspired retreat of what Jedi Knight has already done, which is a disappointing first (and only, really) outing for EU heroine Mara Jade in a Star Wars game.

But the last few levels, hard as they are, are its salvation: they take you deep into an old Sith temple to bring Kyle Katarn back from the Dark side, and it feels every bit like the hallowed, dangerous ground it should be. Well, mostly. The leaping dog creatures and yeti monsters may be based on Timothy Zahn s novels, but they come across as goofy video game enemies. And the zombie wizards? Maybe a step too far.

Nothing in Jedi Knight or Mysteries of the Sith is as challenging as getting the games to run in the first place. To play them yourself, I recommend slavishly following the directions on JK2DF, which was the only way I could get the games to run on Windows 10. The GOG and Steam versions each have their own problems, and patches and mods are often not fully compatible with one version or the other. You can also grab a Mysteries of the Sith texture pack to make the game look comparable to Jedi Knight retextured.

Hoo boy, are the original models and textures ugly. But they're still better than the FMV.

WaterloggedCreepyCanvasback  (gfyCat video)

Becoming an outcast

I haven t tackled Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast yet, but it s next on the list, and I have high expectations. LucasArts wisely handed the series to FPS maestros Raven Software, and by 2002 3D games could do far more advanced cutscenes than the awkward first steps of Mysteries of the Sith. I expect Jedi Outcast to be the game that turns Kyle Katarn into a genuinely interesting character.

And I hear the lightsabers are pretty cool.

Shacknews - Shack Staff

Last Friday we announced 1997's Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II was the next addition our growing list of video game classics, presented by MobyGames.com.

Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II finally gave Star Wars fans the power that they've always wanted: the ability to use a lightsaber. Released as a follow-up to LucasArts' first shooter, Dark Forces, it continued the story of the mercenary Kyle Katarn as he raced against Sith Lord Jarec to find the legendary Valley of the Jedi, and realize his true Force potential.

Many folks like Shacknews user reznory remembers Jedi Knight quite fondly, especially it's vertigo-inducing level design. He calls it "One of the best FPS of all time," adding that, "The vertical scale in most levels was insane. I actually felt the sensation of being afraid of heights."

Shacknews user timmie concurs. "The scale of the maps in that game were awesome," he writes. "The one map where you have to walk along some girders of a bridge freaked me the fuck out when I was a kid. It felt like I was 10 miles up in the air."

For Shacknews user jipey, Jedi Knight served as an early inspiration to get into game development. "JK was the game that lured me into editing," he states. "The user community developed a custom level editor (JED), documented JK's scripting language (COG), and shared dozens of tutorials and hundreds of levels and mods. The homegrown nature of the editing community inspired creativity and openness long before any gamers got their hands on engines like Epic's UDK."

"I can't believe the game came out when I was 11 years old; looking back 14 years later, it's hard not to smile as I prepare to start a gig at an awesome game studio," jipey writes. "Bigger team, faster computers, but it's still a community of dedicated folks working to inspire and entertain. Thanks for starting me on this journey, Kyle Katarn. Even if you did find a lightsaber in your dad's garage and call yourself a Jedi."

Check out the original Chatty thread for more stories and memories from Chrono Trigger.

Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II on MobyGames.com

Kyle Katarn, a former mercenary and now an ally of the rebels, discovers that he is in fact a Jedi, and is on a quest to find his lightsaber and learn the techniques of the Force. The evil Sith lord Jerec, who was responsible for the death of Kyle's father, is on a quest of his own, searching a mythical place called Valley of the Jedi, where his dark powers could be unleashed. Will Kyle be able to stop Jerec and become a true Jedi without falling to the dark side?

Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II is a sequel to Dark Forces. The game is set in Star Wars universe and its events occur after those depicted in the movie Return of the Jedi (Episode VI). Primarily a first-person, 3D shooter, the game also allows the player to switch to third-person perspective. Kyle can use blasters and rifles to take care of his enemies, and later in the game is also able to fight enemies with a lightsaber.


    Moby Games Classic is our chance to look back at the games that helped shape the video game industry with the help of our sister site MobyGames.com. It combines a short history lesson on the title and anecdotes from the Shacknews community.

    Shacknews - Shack Staff

    Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II finally gave Star Wars fans the power that they've always wanted: the ability to use a lightsaber. Released as a follow-up to LucasArts' first shooter, Dark Forces, it continued the story of the mercenary Kyle Katarn as he raced against Sith Lord Jarec to find the legendary Valley of the Jedi, and realize his true Force potential.

    Today we add 1997's classic shooter, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, to our growing list of video game classics, presented by MobyGames.com.

    MobyGames reviewer Chris Martin highlights two of his favorite aspects of Jedi Knight: the high-quality soundtrack and effects. "John Williams," he states. "The name alone means that LucasArts was smart enough to put REAL soundtracks from the movies into the game, and not just MIDI recreations of them. The weapon fire, the whine of Tie Bombers, and Crunching sound of AT-ST's walking around give the game that much more 'authentic' atmosphere than most 3D-shooters."

    While fans were excited to try out the lightsaber, LucasArts certainly left some room for improvement. "The game's biggest selling point is, of course, is the chance to brandish a lightsaber, and it is precisely here that the game blows it," notes MobyGames reviewer Zovni. "When it comes to lightsaber fights the game really comes apart," he explains, "since the collision detection between the swords is poorly realized and you simply go at it smashing all the buttons you can and praying that you hit and don't get hit."

    Tell Us Your Stories! We want to hear about your experiences with Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. Tell us your stories. Why did you love it? What drove you crazy? Remember it fondly with us in the comments below. We'll select some of your thoughts and memories and add it to a Weekend Update to this feature.

    Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II on MobyGames.com

    Kyle Katarn, a former mercenary and now an ally of the rebels, discovers that he is in fact a Jedi, and is on a quest to find his lightsaber and learn the techniques of the Force. The evil Sith lord Jerec, who was responsible for the death of Kyle's father, is on a quest of his own, searching a mythical place called Valley of the Jedi, where his dark powers could be unleashed. Will Kyle be able to stop Jerec and become a true Jedi without falling to the dark side?

    Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II is a sequel to Dark Forces. The game is set in Star Wars universe and its events occur after those depicted in the movie Return of the Jedi (Episode VI). Primarily a first-person, 3D shooter, the game also allows the player to switch to third-person perspective. Kyle can use blasters and rifles to take care of his enemies, and later in the game is also able to fight enemies with a lightsaber.


      Moby Games Classic is our chance to look back at the games that helped shape the video game industry with the help of our sister site MobyGames.com. It combines a short history lesson on the title and anecdotes from the Shacknews community.

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