The Star Wars franchise has a staggering following, despite the mediocrity often associated with various Star Wars titles. It’s obvious that the reason these people keep their devote following, aside from the pure love of the series, is the occasional diamond in the rough that comes along to blow everyone’s expectations away.
Every now and then, there’s a Star Wars game that blows everyone away, and this time, it’s Knights of the Old Republic. Developed by Bioware, famous for the Baldur’s Gate series, Knights of the Old Republic takes place thousands of years before the original Star Wars trilogy launched so long ago in 1977. While KotOR certainly utilizes features from the other games developed by Bioware, it’s fair enough to say it stands on its own two feet in reference to game play. As a Baldur’s Gate player, don’t expect to be alienated from the game play system, but expect a few tweaks and alternations.
As previously mentioned, KotOR takes place thousands of years before the fall of the Republic and rise of the demented Empire. At the end of the Mandalorian War, two of the most respected commanders of the Republic fleet were changed after a trip to the outer rims. These two dominant force users, Darth Revan and Darth Malak, were changed for the worse after an unknown encounter. The game begins as one of Lord Malak’s ships are bombarding the Endire Spire, the ship which you currently reside. A local hand on deck tells you that you must rescue Bastila, as she is the key to winning the war due to her battle meditation (hardcore Star Wars fans – think of Palpatine’s will).
As it turns out, you’re going to escape the Endire Spire, with a man named Carth, to the planet you happen to be orbiting, which is Taris. This is where the adventure really begins. Throughout the game, you’ll journey to several planets, and Taris is simply the beginning. Going along with standard video game environmental procedure, each area is drastically different in forms of climate, EX: You have the urban area, water, desert, etc. The fantastic thing about visiting all of these environments is the fabulous graphical capability of KotOR. The developers have done a fantastic job of bringing the world to life in the latest Star Wars title.
However, the graphics aren’t the only compelling feature of KotOR, please be sure not to play this one muted. Jeremy Soule, of Morrowind and Icewind Dale fame, creates a wonderful atmosphere for these areas. Soule is quickly becoming a rising star in the arena of video game soundtracks. From background music to compelling, aggressive tracks, Soule does it all in fantastic fashion.
Once the overwhelming aspects of the musical score and graphical presentation have settled in, it’s time to bite in to the meat of the game. Combat is a turn-based-real-time setup. Actions, damages, rolls, and so forth are all calculated on a ‘turn based’ engine. However, things flow through in real time – unless you choose to have it pause every round to promote emphasis on the turn-based aspect. To further that end, you can pause it at any time to queue actions from all of the party members. I found it more enjoyable to simply focus on my character and allow the computer to take care of the other two party members. People more interested in the turn-based strategical aspect of the combat system might wish to put more focus on dividing their attention equally with all of the characters.
Knights of the Old Republic features a ‘trait/feat’ system, based on that of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition. Anyone who’s familiar with the pen and paper RPG will feel at home here. In addition to traits, characters have stats which affect traits indirectly. At X amount of levels, characters are allowed X amount of trait points. Some have prerequisites, an example being Heavy Armor requires knowledge of Medium Armor – nothing out of the ordinary.
Characters like thieves can learn stealth tactics and feats that relate to their profession, this is no exception for the Jedi. As you progress through the game, your character will become force aware, allowing you to utilize both sides of the force – light or dark. This leads to one of the better features of KotOR, the player can choose to consciously commit negative and wicked acts, or benevolent and forgiving acts. These will mold your character to the light or the dark side. Attention to detail is fantastic, as your character falls down the path of the dark side, the skin begins to decay and your character soon portrays a ghastly image before you’re even aware the transformation has taken place. As far as force power is concerned, your alignment directly effects how many force points it costs to ‘cast’ or ‘use’ an individual force power. A light Jedi can still use grip, it will simply be much more taxing than that of a Sith.
KotOR will last you a good 30 hours or more, but there isn’t much for replay value. You may wish to finish the game as the opposite of whatever alignment you chose the first time around, but you’ll probably reconsider about 30 minutes in to your new game. However, this isn’t that important since the first time through is well worth the price of admission. Knights of the Old Republic is easily one of the best offerings of the Star Wars universe ever.
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