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With EA’s Star Wars shooter canceled, it’s time to revisit a classic

Star Wars Dark Forces Remaster key art.
Nightdive Studios

Amid a layoff wave at the end of February, EA canceled a Star Wars first-person shooter that was in development at Apex Legends developer Respawn Entertainment. Considering this is a genre that Star Wars once dominated, as well as Respawn’s mastery with games like Titanfall 2, the news especially stung, even if it’s small potatoes next to all the jobs lost in EA’s layoffs. If you’re yearning for a Star Wars FPS and don’t want to wait for the Star Wars: Battlefront remaster launching later this month, you’re in luck.

On February 28, the Atari-owned Nightdive Studios released Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster. Employing the proprietary KEX Engine used on remasters of classic Turok and Quake games, Nightdive enhanced the 1995 MS-DOS and Macintosh shooter that follows the escapades of Rebel mercenary Kyle Katarn. Playing this game for the first time in 2024, I’ve found that it still holds up immaculately and is worth checking out if you’re worried about the future of Star Wars games.

Star Wars™: Dark Forces Remaster - Available Now!

Rebel scum

Star Wars: Dark Forces follows Katarn as he pulls off a series of missions for the Rebel Alliance and attempts to stop the creation of ultrapowerful Dark Troopers that could eradicate any of the Empire’s enemies. Although its story isn’t that deep, for the time it was released, Dark Forces contained a surprising amount of cutscenes and well-voiced dialogue.

Dark Forces conflicts with Disney’s Star Wars canon — its first mission is about obtaining the Death Star plans — so this feels like more of a rerelease for the game’s sake rather than the franchise at large. Still it’s neat to see where ideas like the Dark Troopers, which have since appeared in The Mandalorian show, were first visualized.

It just so happens that it’s dropping at a sadly perfect time. According to Insider Gaming, Respawn’s canceled Star Wars game would have followed a Mandalorian bounty hunter as he traveled from planet to planet chasing down targets in an Empire-controlled galaxy. That sounded promising, and it’s a shame that space bounty hunter games like it and Prey 2 will not see the light of day. Although you aren’t a bounty hunter in Dark Forces, its structure is similar to what Respawn’s Star Wars game could have offered.

Dark Forces was part of the post-Doom FPS boom in the mid-1990s. That means it’s a level-based shooter with lots of weapons and maze-like levels full of secrets. Thankfully, Dark Forces‘ level design never gets too confusing — and there are plenty of guides for it available nowadays if you do get lost. The Star Wars aesthetic also gives the game a distinct look and feel compared to other shooters of the time. Even a sewer level looks pretty in Dark Forces thanks to the vibrant colors used. It’s a testament to the talent working at LucasArts in the 1990s.

The sewer level in Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster.
Nightdive Studios

Its mission design often has Katarn completing an objective —  killing plenty of stormtroopers, droids, and other foes along the way — before extracting. It feels old school, but also in line with what Respawn was reportedly going for. Thankfully, Dark Forces is still a ton of fun to play nowadays, especially now that “boomer shooters” are more popular. Nightdive also worked out any kinks to make the game feel good on a controller. Features like the weapon wheel and gyro aiming for even more precision are greatly appreciated.

Generally, Nightdive’s remastering work is fabulous. The KEX Engine also allowed it to make Dark Forces widescreen, drastically improving its textures, lighting, and rendering while staying faithful to the game’s original work. Even the cutscenes have been spruced up. There’s also a bit of bonus content that gives insight into the game’s development and a recreated version of a Dark Forces level that was previously only playable at 1990s trade shows. For purists, the original version of the game is also included.

Content from the trade show level in Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster.
Nightdive Studios

With all the layoffs and game cancellations happening in the video game industry right now, it’s a dark time for both developers and players. Playing Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster gave me a bit of a reprieve from all of that and reminded me of what talented developers can do when they can fully realize an ambitious idea with a popular franchise like Star Wars.

Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.

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Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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