Monday, October 3, 2016

Star Wars: Dark Forces - 19/20 hours

I skipped doing a post at 15 hours because I felt like I was close to beating the game, but I didn't count on the 1995-ness of it all. It turns out that Dark Forces is the sort of game where you can get all the way up to the end of a 45-minute level, fight a powerful boss, lose, and then have to start over from the beginning. I suppose it could be worse - the game could have lacked a save function entirely - but I wasn't thrilled to have to repeat levels I've 90% completed just because I choked in the last five minutes.

Nonetheless, I managed to get through the whole thing. There was a part of me that was expecting a big narrative payoff, but Dark Forces isn't really that sort of game. I think it is a product of the early exuberance of the 3D era, where simply being able to move around in an immersive world is novelty enough. So it can afford to have a bland story, ineffectively told.

I don't want to be too harsh here. I'm sure that the game is operating on some pretty severe technical limitations which stop it from devoting too much memory to a story, but I think it's also clear that people hadn't figured out how to tell an FPS story yet. The levels mostly didn't have any sort of build to them. They were pure mazes and any context to where you were or why was relegated to the debriefing text between missions. The notion that gameplay could inform the doesn't seem to have taken hold.

I have some hope for the later games in the series, though. Despite not thinking much of Kyle Katarn's adventure to stop the Dark Trooper program, which struck me as trying entirely too hard to expand the Star Wars canon without actually capturing the spark that made the movies great, I still want to see the later chapters in the series. If they can bring a greater narrative sophistication, more fully drawn characters, and levels that don't make me want to slam my head against a wall in frustration, then it's possible that I could grow to like this Kyle Katarn fellow.

For now, I'm just going to replay some of the earlier levels on "medium" difficulty and kill another hour or so. I don't expect to get much of anything out of this, but it'll be nice to have the round number to go along with all the others.

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