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Developer:
BioWare
Publisher: LucasArts
Platform: PC
Release Date: November 2003

by Nicholas Bale




I am not a huge Star Wars fan, but this game is one of the best RPG's out there.


Now, if you're a normal, average person, you've seen the Star Wars movies, perhaps played a couple of the flyer games, and perhaps one or two of the FPS's. Well, whether you are or not, this is one game that should definitely be played, no matter what your interest in Star Wars is. Knights of the Old Republic(KOTOR) was able to draw me in and keep me playing for a solid 40+ hours.


KOTOR takes place roughly 4000 years before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV, and is the story of you, a new Republic recruit. You wake up upon a Republic cruiser that is under attack by the evil Sith. With a little help, you escape with the captain, Carth Onassi, and land on a nearby planet in order to search for a missing Jedi who is the key to winning an ongoing battle against the Sith, an evil army that intends to conquer the galaxy. From there the story continues, one so strong that it kept me interested throughout the entire game, especially when you find out why the Jedi are so interested in you...


At first you get a choice of class between soldier, scout, or scoundrel, which will determine your stats for your first 8 levels or so. Then you will learn the ways of the Jedi, which will give you a choice of being a Jedi Sentinel, Consular, or Guardian, each coming with unique abilities and advantages. The Consular, for example, has few feats, but learns force powers faster than the rest. The Sentinel learns feats much quicker than any other, but suffers from lack of Force Points. The Guardian is somewhat in the middle of these two. (For the non-RPG savvy, feats are special abilities usable by characters.)


The game takes place from a camera that is situated behind your selected character, whoever that might be. You can cycle between selected characters in your three-person party, which is composed of your main character and two others. There are a total of nine other characters to choose from, ranging from a stealthy Twi'lek to a powerful Wookie to a couple Jedi's to a dual-blaster captain. Each of the character's have their own personality, which is great, because it's too easy to create cardboard characters without personality or emotions. As you talk to each character, you can learn more about them, their past, and who they are.


My favorite character personality is an assassin droid who, in calm tones, always asks you if he can shoot the person you're talking to. Or the person around them. He just wants to kill something.


And what makes this game's replayability factor rise is the fact that practically every decision you make can have an effect on your Force alignment. Will you spare the life of a prisoner or execute him for credits? The choices you make will shift your alignment meter either to the Light Side of the force, or to the Dark Side. And playing the game either way definitely makes for a different experience. While a light-aligned player might take out a room of enemies by stunning them all and taking each of them out, a dark-aligned player might use lightning blasts to just kill them all in a couple swift strikes.


Of course, there are Force powers. A Star Wars game where you play the Jedi but have no Force powers is like....well, Rogue Squadron games. But anyway. There are over 40 different powers for you to choose in this game, ranging from the offensive Dark Side powers, to the in-the-middle universal powers, to the non-violent and beneficial Light Side powers. Adding this distinction in the powers was a good choice for BioWare to make, because where your alignment is determines how many Force Points (FP) a power takes to use. A Dark-aligned Jedi will find his FP sapped if he tries to use Cure, but a Light-aligned Jedi will have no problem using it over and over again. Likewise, a Light-aligned Jedi will have problems if she tries to choke her enemies with her mind, while this might be the Dark Jedi's choice of attack. I liked this balance, as it made the alignment meter seriously affect your gameplay, not just be there for show and story.


Speaking of gameplay...put simply, this game is lots of fun to play. Not just for the story, not just for the levelling up. It's fun. About halfway through I failed a quest that I really did not want to fail. So I started over again. And it was no less fun the second time than it was the first. I still loved getting my own lightsaber, and cutting down those blasted Mandalorians with it. Learning and using Force powers still hadn't lost my interest, and so forth. I have finished this game, and if it wasn't for serious time constraints, I would love to play it again, perhaps as a Dark Jedi this time, corrupting, killing, and destroying all those in my way (as opposed to saving, sparing, and helping them, like I did).


The system that the game runs on is a d20 system, which is well known for its use in Dungeons and Dragons games, like Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. At first I was a bit worried at how well this would be implemented in a Star Wars game, but BioWare was able to use it well, implementing it naturally. However, due to a lack of good description in some of the items and Force powers, some people may have some trouble deciphering how Fortitude saves and such work.


The graphics in this game have been improved from the Xbox, and if you have a capable card, the worlds of Star Wars just shine. The settings are vibrantly produced, whether it's the sand-scarred plains of Tatooine or the thick forests of Kashyyk (that's right, the homeland of the Wookies!), you will be treated to a beautiful display as you travel to each of the seven planets in the game. Even without a top-of-the-line computer, the highest resolution can be used with minimal problems. I found this extremely comforting, in a time where some games require graphics cards that have just been released.


Most games that are released on multiple platforms are often alike, but this is not the case for KOTOR. The PC version is very different from the Xbox, in graphical quality, the layout of the screen, and even an entire new area to go to! The controls of the game have been changed to implement a keyboard/mouse interface, and it makes the controls very easy to learn. What I liked about this scheme is that you can play with one hand, either using your mouse to move and click on objects, or using the keyboard to cycle through available interactive objects.


As I noted above, there is a new area, a space station that orbits Yavin 4. It only appears in the PC version of the game, and it is full of very powerful items, as well as a location for some more experience and money!


I've just got to say a few more things about the special qualities in the game. One, the script is superb, and the voice acting for it is done spectacularly. Few games get this kind of quality. Two, the lightsaber duels are awesome. No longer is there merely two people hacking away at each other. Your character will parry, dodge, kick, swing blades, etc, resulting in a battle that has to be seen. Plus, the addition of either one blade, two blades, or double bladed swords is great, adding a level of depth to melee battles.


What I liked about this game was the way the Star Wars universe was presented. I don't mean the graphical quality of the game, but the essential Star-Wars-ness of the game. Anyone can make a fantasy game based in some made up world, but it takes some serious skill to create one in a galaxy that, despite being far far away, is so very well known.


BioWare has done it again, and made an incredible game that will enchant anyone playing it. Whether you're a Star Wars fan or not, this game will definitely keep you enthralled for hours at a time. The only thing keeping it from a perfect score was the lack of more planets, because in a time where we can play a game as open-ended as Morrowind, we got to have more planets. But it detracts little from the game, and the planets you explore are large enough anyway. You will play this game. You will play it...immune to Jedi mind tricks are you? Well, play it anyway!


Final Grade: 98%


                  
Just RPG Award of Excellence!


Official Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Website


Minimum System Requirements:

  • Computer: 100% DirectX 9.0b compatible computer
  • Operating Systems: Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP
  • CPU: Intel PIII 1 GHz or AMD Athlon 1 GHz required
  • Memory: 128 MB RAM required for Windows 98, 256 MB RAM required for Windows ME/2000/XP
  • Graphics Card: 32 MB OpenGL 1.4 compatible PCI or AGP 3D Hardware Accelerator with Hardware Transform and Lighting (T&L) Capability required
  • Sound Card: 100% DirectX 9.0b compatible Audio Device required
  • CD-ROM: Quad Speed CD-ROM drive required
  • Input Device: Keyboard and mouse required
  • DirectX: Microsoft DirectX 9.0b is included on this CD. NOTE: DirectX may require the "latest" drivers for your particular hardware
  • Installation: 4.0 GB of free hard drive space required




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