The license applies to MSDN text/images and to my levels

4th of May 2024

Phantom Menace TC (demo), Star Wars 3D (demo) and Escape from the Empire (demo) by various authors

Highslide JS Highslide JS

It's early 1999 and there's a ton of hype surrounding the impending release of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. I went to see it with a friend and immediately considered it "meh". Some remained in denial for a while longer (I was never a fan of the franchise and thus didn't feel compelled to try to like it), but even they eventually came around and realized what an utter disappointment Episode 1 was, especially considering the sky-high expectations. (And the two sequels turned out to be only marginally better. Now, of course one could argue that if we had seen the originals as adults, they wouldn't have seemed so impressive either; they're admittedly kinda silly and childish.)

Considering the hype, it was no wonder then that there were several Star Wars themed Total Conversions in the works at the turn of the millennium. Three projects managed to put out a demo: the Phantom Menace TC, Star Wars 3D and Escape from the Empire. Each of these is very short and they all seem to rely heavily on assets from Dark Forces (duh!). Regrettably none is packed neatly into a GRP file, and they all require the three-episode v1.3d of Duke3D, so if you only have the Atomic Edition, consider yourself lucky.

We start with the Phantom Menace TC Demo (released in September 2000), based on "one of the best movies ever". It's the only Star Wars Total Conversion I have memories of from back in the day, but I don't think I ever actually tried it. New art for the title screen is pretty good, as is the new pistol/blaster art. (This is worth mentioning because back in the day custom art assets often looked like they didn't fit the game's graphics and palette at all.) Menu music is, expectedly, a midi rendition of the Star Wars theme, and it's actually pretty good. Unfortunately background music for the demo map itself is quite bad, being repetitive even for such a small map. There's only one new enemy, the lanky droid (dunno what these are called) from the movie. They go down easily and explode after a short delay. The new blaster is basically a pistol with laser projectiles. The Force Push replaces the freezer; it functions like a gun with invisible projectiles, and the droids always get destroyed the same way no matter which weapon you use. The map itself is a miserable journey through a sewer. Every wall has the exact same shade value, texturing is dull and everything looks the same, making the map annoying to navigate despite its short length (around 5 minutes long). I get it; it's a sewer, but even with this theme you could pull off some nice lighting effects and clanking machinery.
Verdict: Don't bother with this one

Highslide JS Highslide JS

Next we have the Star Wars 3D Demo (released on the 24th of April 1999, making it three days younger than MSDN!) by Nuclear Creations. This one isn't actually that bad; I'd even argue it's not a complete waste of time. You get three new enemies, one new weapon (a blaster, i.e., a pistol with laser projectiles just like in the Phantom Menace Demo) and a new map that takes place on Hoth (the snow planet with the walkers). You're given the shotgun & chaingun as well, but the pistol actually seemed the best gun and most fun to use, so don't waste your time with the others. This one too has the Star Wars theme as menu music (what else!), but this version is truly awful, bringing out the worst aspects of midi music. As for the demo's 5-minute map, the mapper seems to have had at least some understanding of shading and detailing; the map is not of "Hot Map" quality, but it's not that far off the mark either. I was positively surprised at seeing several assets from the movies (including one of those smaller walker types, the spaceships in the hangar and a dead Luke - in this iteration he got killed by the snowman) used so well. The map is a bit narrow and occasionally cluttered though, and if you manage to slip past a certain collapsing wall near the start, you'll cut the level's length by at least half. Also worth mentioning is that you can actually use those pesky midichlorians in your blood to pull some small objects toward you. It's not terribly useful, but a neat little trick nevertheless from the pre-EDuke32 era.
Verdict: Consider checking out, but don't expect too much

Last, we have Escape from the Empire. I don't recall this TC ever existing. The readme doesn't have any info about its author, but the files seem dated to May 1999. The map is actually surprisingly detailed with some curved surfaces, good texturing and even a bit of spritework here and there. The scale is bad though, as you're constantly bumping into corners and objects. Also, if you miss the jetpack early on you'll get stuck in the lower levels with no way out. There's just one button you need to press, so the level can be completed in a few minutes. It uses the same art assets as the other two demos, but Escape's menu art is straight from Duke3D, and the map's background music is just dethtoll. Considering the map even has a few Enforcers and Sentries as enemies, the presentation seems a bit rushed.
Verdict: Take a quick peek at the map in Mapster32

And that's the last we heard from these projects. As the prequel sequels got only marginally better, the hype eventually died out and the authors of these projects probably realized it's not worth devoting so much of one's free time on something they were no longer excited about. Then Dukeworld's collapse happened in early 2001 and took many projects with it.

Conclusion: Not worth the hassle of installing, especially if you don't even have v1.3d. Instead, play something like DeeperThoughts Duke Forces or Mike Beaulieu's classic Boba Fett.

Download: Star Wars 3D (demo), Phantom Menace (demo), Escape from the Empire (demo) (originally spotted here)
Version: v1.3d
Archived websites: Star Wars 3D, Phantom Menace

Highslide JS Highslide JS