Written by David I. Hines


Ever since I first saw the words, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...” my fantasy was to actually LIVE in those times. Hey come on! I was 12 when Star Wars first appeared on the silver screen. Now, thanks to the combined talents of Sinclair and Ajay Huff, we have a chance to experience The Empire Strikes Back from the first person point of view. Yes, I know it’s not an original idea -- it goes back to the old Atari console. Lucasarts even tried it with the first chapter from Shadows Of The Empire (the only chapter that was any good, in my opinion). There were even a few DF add-on missions that were set in the Hoth scenario. Using the SITH engine, it should be interesting to see what the authors come up with.

The project has just [gotten] halfway through pre-production,” Writes Sinclair, “and I am currently working on the Echo Base level. It’s going slowly but surely. I have talked with Ajay, and we decided to let the project out in three GOBs which will be: Hoth, Dagobah, and Cloud City. This will allow for easier development on our half and will let people see what it’s gonna be like. There is no release date for the first GOB file as of yet, but I would say within a few months. There are a couple of specific shots I want to do that will be tricky but possible, hopefully.” Naturally, no screen shots are available yet. “The project is being held off for a while, at least until the new version of Jed with MotS support comes out. In other words, we’ve switched platforms.

Ajay Huff agreed to join the party, but only after he finishes his current project for Dark Forces, “Darksaber: For Freedom.” As a side note; I’ve seen a few screen shots for Ajay’s level. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks like a great project. Ajay may not have any accredited DF projects to his name, but it certainly appears that he knows what he’s doing. However. he says “Don’t expect another Mt. Kurek or Bounty Hunt, my level will be more like Ramses Hed. You can read the mini-review and see a couple of screen shots at http://jediknight.telefragged.com/hut.

Sinclair and Ajay have agreed to remain true to the original shooting script, as designed by George Lucas. A copy of the script can be downloaded from the TESB’s main site. I must say, I am curious to see how they intend to set the main character’s feet in ice as we saw in the movie. Hanging upside down and trying to use Force Pull on the lightsaber ought to be interesting. I never did get around to asking, but I hope the team will be able to design a Tauntaun ride and a snowspeeder scene. Sinclair has said that he will do his best to complete the mission pack, “Even if it takes a few YEARS.”

The project will encompass six levels: Failed Patrol, Echo Base (already in design phase by Sinclair), Dagobah, Dagobah -- Tree Cave, Bespin: City In The Clouds, and Cloud City -- Carbon Freezing Chamber. When asked about who the main character will be, Sinclair wrote, “Let's see, it is supposed to reenact the major portions of The Empire Strikes Back right? It must be Han Solo .... wait a minute! Han Solo was only in a few of the scenes and misses out on Dagobah completely. The author of the FAQ said that Dagobah will be in the level series, maybe its that little astromech droid. What's his, er it's, name R2-D2....you'll just have to wait and see.”

It certainly is an ambitious project. Both Sinclair and Ajay seem to be dedicated to seeing it through. However, they do need help. Sinclair told me, “Feel free to mention that we NEED members; especially coggers.” Go to the main TESB website for more information. Stay tuned for more updates -- this is a project to watch for.


Over a year ago, Matthias Von Herrman (Hoerby) released a three-part add-on for Dark Forces entitled Outpost D-42. It was one of the first custom missions to contain a cohesive plot and storyline. The level won a number of awards and received excellent reviews from around the DF gaming community. Praise Allah, He’s doing it again! His next project in the works is “Prelude to Harkov’s Defection,” and it looks to be a winner.

Hoerby generously allowed me to beta test this mission a short time ago. Even in beta form, with missing textures and incomplete sectors, it is one of the best levels I’ve seen. Set in Nar Shadda, the mission is to infiltrate the imperial-held sectors (big surprise) and snatch a set of data tapes. At first glance, that seems to be all there is to it.

The fun begins as you land in the neutral section of Nar Shadda. Yes, I did indeed say LAND. The very first sequence is a ride in the Crow. Believe me -- you’ll love it. You must then fight your way through various corridors and rooms. However, not everyone you see is an enemy. Some are just innocent bystanders. Be warned: you haven’t enough ammo to go wasting everything you see. The mix of enemy forces and innocents makes for a nice touch of paranoia.

The architecture is first-rate. Many doors remain locked, giving the impression that the level is much larger than it really is. The rooms that are accessible have windows overlooking the city. If you look closely, you can see figures standing in corridors across the way -- a subtle touch that makes Nar Shadda seem like a busy space port. Not all of the areas you see can be accessed, which is fine by me. It definitely adds a certain degree of realism.

Further along, you must hop a train to reach the Imperial sectors. Hoerby obviously spent a lot of time on this sequence. The station is reminiscent of a subway -- complete with ticket dispensers and passengers standing around. The ride across is something to see. The subway has plenty of windows so you can see the buildings gliding by. This and the ride in the Crow are well worth the download time alone.

I promised Hoerby I wouldn’t give too much away. Let me just add, the ending sequence is superb. There’s plenty to keep you busy. Also, look for a few surprise cameos by other Lucas Arts characters. They’re scattered around here and there. And don’t be surprised to find a few hidden rooms and secret panels to play around with.

There are a few bugs, however. One is that you have to be very careful moving around in the train and on the Crow. First, a spin-move/morph bug in the original program that makes the player fall out of the Crow or through the wall of the train. Irritating, but doesn’t affect gameplay too much. Second, there is a little HOMing reported in some of the larger spaces, although I didn’t notice it. Lastly, there is a forcefield in one of the train stations that seems a little balky when you’re ready to leave. All bugs are minor and don’t affect the flow of the game.

Overall, Heorby has turned out an impressive level. I would have to give it a 98% total rating, three attaboys, and one official welldone. Don’t forget the gold star and the cookie.


A long while back, I heard about a new mission pack for Dark Forces. It was described as DF part II. The author announced he was beginning work, but nothing else was heard -- until now. Jim “Crix Madine” Maxwell has decided to forge ahead and launch into production.

The Dark Forces of Zsinj is going to be a HUGE project. The plot is fairly straightforward: Imperial Warlord Zsinj has discovered the original plans for the Dark Trooper Project. He is bent on reviving the line and it’s up to you (naturally) to eradicate the DT threat Once And For All. Seems simple, right? WRONG!

Jim took design inspiration from several movies -- mainly the Alien and Predator series. Let’s just say that things have an annoying habit of leaping out at you from dark corners. Jim plays it off to good effect. There are more than a few places where that happens, but widely separated so that it doesn’t get repetitive. The first one I ran into startled me so badly that I damned near flipped my joystick out the window. The second time it happened, I got very paranoid. Jim did a great job of keeping the pressure on -- sometimes you can see your foes coming at you, sometimes not. The placement of the enemies is very well done. There aren’t so many that it turns into a shoot-fest, but not so little that there are long, boring stretches of running around looking for goals.

Jim layed in a number of interesting traps to avoid also. There’s a nicely done collapsing bridge sequence, and a great tunnel run -- with a BIG something chasing you the whole way. I think it was supposed to be a monorail, but the texturing wasn’t done on it yet. Even so, it was a great idea.

The layout and architecture are first-rate. In the first chapter, the rooms and hallways are laid out in a logical, organized pattern. The dynamic lighting also adds a wonderful feeling of depth. The beta I played had some texture problems, mostly with alignment, but showed great promise. I found only one flaw. This chapter is more of a key hunt than anything else. There aren’t any puzzles to figure out, nor traps to avoid. However, the effects of lighting, enemy placement, etc. overcome this easily. To be fair, the first level is just a set-up for the second level. This is where the fun REALLY begins.

The second chapter begins on an ice field above a city. The player must negotiate a series of ledges and passages to reach the city proper. Jim laid out a great combination of ice and rock -- two textures you don’t often see together. The combination is decently challenging without being too difficult.

The City itself is VERY well done. The design is such that the streets feel like streets -- not a flat plain the city happens to be perched on. The walls seem to tower over the player as he races from apartment to apartment. I did notice some HOMing here, but not enough to seriously upset the flow of events. Much of the city was unfinished at the time, which may have contributed to that a wee bit. Rumor has it that Jim has polished that up.

When I last spoke to him, Jim said the first two chapters are basically done. He is hoping to finish the briefing files and cutscene editing by the time Peter Klassen and crew release Condition Red. Hopefully, this will be very soon. Jim has shown real promise as a game designer -- one to follow closely.


When I first saw a preview of Ruins of Talos, I was thinking “Oh, great -- another shoot-em-up.” Well, I was wrong. John Johnson released a simple kill-fest a short while ago called Archon Raider. It had a good storyline, similar to the Early Missions of Kyle package, but fell short on both gameplay and design and was plagued by numerous bugs. I was looking at Ruins with a somewhat jaundiced eye, and for that I apologize. Ruins has easily surpassed all my expectations.

The storyline is deceptively simple -- you launch with a squad of stormtroopers. The squad is killed, leaving you as the only survivor. You start out with weapons you find scattered around the crash site. Waste a bunch of enemies to get into the ruins, kill the Big Bad Boss, then go home to a nice cup of Corillian ale. But there’s a catch.

Halfway through, the plot takes a neat twist. Instead of a bloodbath, the game becomes more of a puzzle-palace. It’s much more than find the button or grab the key -- there are some genuinely original problems to solve. One involves finding a lost scepter. Another requires careful attention to detail. And that’s all I’m going to say about it -- you’ll just have to see for yourself.

John has made vast improvements in design style. The layout of the catacombs is very well done. There are a number of traps to avoid, jumps to master, and a few very careful balancing acts. I found only two flaws with the architecture. First, some of the rooms seem to be a bit cramped, especially with the logic he selected for the enemies. There are a few places where you must battle critters that use Boba Fett logic -- and there simply isn’t enough room to dodge. Second, the tunnels could stand a bit of decorating in spots. Some spots were very well done, others were sort of bland. Largely, that has to do with the texture he selected. All of the hallways have the same yellowish-tan color with little to break up the pattern. John tried to compensate for that by introducing various degrees of lighting, but couldn’t quite pull it off. But to be fair, the lighting does add to the feel of being underground. I can also understand the walls all being the same color, as if dug through bedrock.

But despite these flaws, the gameplay is smooth and challenging. John included a bunch of hints that appear in the form of text messages at the top of the screen. Many are blatant pointers to what you must do next, but some are far more subtle. It’s a great combination that keeps the frustration factor low and keeps you heading in the right direction.

Enemy placement has it’s ups and downs. There are places where the enemy is clustered thicker than flies on cowflop, and others where they’re kind of scarce. Outside the ruins, there’s not much logic in the placement of the enemy forces. They seem to be just milling around, waiting for you to stroll by. Once inside the ruins, it gets much better. The enemies are guarding various passages and switches that you need to get to. There’s a good section in enemy logic also, with the exception I mentioned earlier. There’s enough variety to keep you on your toes without overwhelming you.

As with Archon, John is showing off a ton of waxes. The combination of mercenaries, troopers, and natural creatures is done quite well. The troops don’t look like a faceless mob, they appear to be more like a rag-tag army. The creatures you run into are interesting and sometimes difficult to kill. John used a lot of Kell dragon and Gamorrean guard logic to good effect. Arachnophobes beware -- you’ll see a ton of creepy-crawlies once you enter the catacombs.

As a whole, the mission rates a good 96%. There were some things that could have been better, a lot that are great, and a few that are exceptional. Keep up the great work!

Download Ruins of Talos at http://www.swgamers.com/ftp/incoming/ruins.zip.