video games

1995’s Star Wars: Dark Forces Remastered on the way “soon” from Night Dive

Announced today without any release date beyond “coming soon” or a price, Nightdive Studios shared this trailer today for the classic Dark Forces FPS from LucasArts to get a remaster. The footage in the trailer has a warning that this is pre-alpha footage, so not in any way final. So, I’ve got mixed feelings about this, one of the most significant games for people who enjoy Star Wars and First Person Shooters. It’s rare to find good Star Wars games in the first place, especially back in 1995. Fortunately it’s still possible to buy the original Dark Forces (gog, Steam), so it isn’t a case of the original being unavailable and brought back. What Dark Forces Remastered has on offer is instead updated controls with modern gamepad support (no more gravis gamepad needed!), graphics (Nightdive says it’ll support up to 4K resolutions), trophies and achievements, and most importantly the game is coming to a ton of platforms. You’ve got your PlayStations 4 & 5, Xbox One & Series X & S, Nintendo Switch, and Steam for Windows. The remaster uses Nightdive’s KEX engine, which as I understand it acts as a kind of wrapper around the original game.

I’ll say I have some mixed feelings about this remaster that are hopefully somewhat resolved by the fact that this trailer isn’t necessarily indicative of the final version. The updated cutscenes in the non-final trailer look kind of ridiculous to me but I have no idea what they would look like to someone who isn’t over 40 that had a chance to enjoy the original game, the lack of harshly pixelated tone may just make the game more approachable to a modern audience which is a great thing. Game preservation is sometimes about making games accessible and approachable. Presently, your options for playing the original Dark Forces are DOSBox and DREAMM.

There is also The Force Engine, a reverse-engineered version of the engine that powered the original Dark Forces and another LucasArts classic, Outlaws. Like all modern re-releases and remasters, the main issue with these is that they’re software released at a particular point in time and will stop being updated and support new platforms. Open-source software like The Force Engine can continue to be updated into the future.

Here’s what the original looked like:

Dark forces original cutscene

video games

Classic FPS Blood Getting Updated

Well I suppose this is more firey than bloody… Screenshot provided by Nightdive

There are family-friendly classics like Katamari Damacy getting remastered this year, and then there are the games we played as teenagers who thought that the coolest thing in the world was getting a little bit violent with our incredibly ridiculous games that just look silly compared to more modern gorefests like Soldier of Fortune. Blood falls into the latter category of goofy gore games.

For all of the once-youngsters who enjoyed it in 1997, Blood is being re-upped for modern systems by the old game professionals at NightDive. Here’s part of what their Daniel Grayshon had to say about the update, which sounds like it won’t be a big bloody change to get Blood on modern platforms:

Regarding the upgrading effort, Daniel said: “Blood stood up extremely well over time and we are taking care to preserve all the qualities that made the game so special. It really only needs minor updates to provide a better user experience for contemporary audiences. By using some of the functions of Nightdive’s KEX engine, we’ll be able to provide compatibility with today’s video standards, with DirectX and Vulkan support.”

He continued: “Similarly, we’ll provide compatibility with the current audio standards. We’ll add support for modern networks, Steamworks, and GOG Galaxy to bring this original game to more players. As part of this, we will preserve the accuracy of the game behavior. While these upgrades are relatively minor, we are confident that they will provide fans with a better, current generation gameplay experience.”

The only disappointing about this update is that the improvements won’t be open-source. Other games that Nightdive worked on have made it to other operating systems and platforms, and they do good work. However, like the original Blood this work will be frozen in time once Nightdive moves on.

That’s true for all commercial updates, releases, and remasters, but other games that were originally using the BUILD engine, like  Duke Nukem 3D, have had commercial and unofficial support through open-source projects once their individual game source code was released. Blood has never had it’s source officially released, which makes any work on it a little bit more crucial for preserving the game than other big BUILD engine games like Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior.

Nightdive hasn’t said when you’ll be able to check out their modern port of Blood, but you can also play the original unmodified version (and the sequel Blood 2) through Steam ($5) or gog ($6).