27 Year Old Star Wars: Dark Forces Gets A Modern PC Port With 4K And Gamepad Support

hero starwarsdarkforces vader
Dark Forces is an extremely notable game from an entirely different era of Star Wars. Created before the prequels, it hails from a time when all official Star Wars media was based on the original three films. It also doesn't include any Jedi or Sith characters. You play as Kyle Katarn, former Imperial Stormtrooper turned mercenary for hire. The first mission has you stealing the Death Star plans for the Rebellion.

Despite being largely overlooked by modern Star Wars fans—after all, in the wake of the Disney acquisition, it's no longer accepted as canon—Dark Forces is one of the best Star Wars video games, and arguably the very best. It's classic Star Wars at its strongest. Instead of interpersonal drama and flashy lightsaber battles, it's grungy sci-fi action as Kyle blasts his way through 14 long levels set in familiar locales like Nar Shaddaa, Coruscant, and the inside of a Star Destroyer.

darkforces narshaddaa
The original game is still awesome, but hard to play in 2022.

As much as your author adores the game, it has been difficult to recommend to new players because setting it up required using DOSBox to play the original release. Compared to modern FPS games, it had clumsy controls, with no mouse support and an awkward layout. It also ran in the typical DOS VGA resolution of 320×200, which isn't just a matter of improved visuals—the resolution is so low that it can be hard to understand your environment and what things are.

All of that is resolved now thanks to the very hard work by LuciusDXL, the creator of the Force Engine. This is a reverse-engineered version of the Jedi engine that powered Dark Forces and another Lucasarts game, Outlaws. It targets SDL, which is sort-of like an open-source version of DirectX, and it completely re-implements the original Dark Forces game with limited mod support as well.

Thanks to the Force Engine, fans new and old can play (or re-play) Dark Forces with full mouse look support, an "always run" toggle, and of course, high-resolution and perspective-correct rendering. Actually, the app supports both modern hardware rendering as well as software mode if you prefer the chunky pixel look. You can choose to play in scaled 4:3 aspect ratio as the game was intended to be played, or open things up for widescreen. You can also rebind all of your controls, and Xinput gamepads are supported, too.

dark forces widescreen gameplay
Widescreen support and mouse control make the game a lot easier to settle into.

The whole game is playable in the 1.0 release of the Force Engine, so what's next for LuciusDXL? The roadmap page for the project lists editor and mod tools as the next item on the docket, followed by Mac and Linux support. After that, the developer wants to get support for voxel items implemented. Those aren't used in Dark Forces, but could be useful for mods. Once all of that is completed, it's full speed ahead on support for the other Jedi engine game, Outlaws.

Of course, if you want to actually play Dark Forces, you'll need a copy of the game. If you don't have the original CD laying around like your author did, you can pick it up for cheap on GOG. The classic FPS is part of that site's Winter sale, and is available for just $2.09 right now.