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Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic

Developer: Bioware | Publisher: LucasArts
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 07/17/03 | Genre: RPG

When most people think of Star Wars, they think of one of the best sci-fi movie series’ ever made. When most people think of Bioware, they think of one of the most renowned RPG makers in the gaming industry today. So it’s only natural that the offspring of the two names is one of the best sci-fi RPG’s ever made. Heck, it may even be one of the best RPG’s period. So whether you’re a Star Wars fan, an RPG fan, or just a gamer looking for some good fun, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is sure to please. And yes, it’s worth every single delay.

An instantly noticeable aspect of KotOR is its beauty. Granted it isn’t the best looking game to date, but some of the lighting effects are jaw-droppers, notably the glint of the sunlight reflecting off your blades or armor. The character detail and facial expressions add to the visual experience, with plenty of eye-candy to be found in the environments themselves as well. Though in some in-engine cutscenes the animation is somewhat below par, the CG cutscenes are a sight to behold. The lighting effects and detailed ships abound in these, making for some cool space flight transitions between planets. While you’re sitting collecting dust on your open mouth watching the game progress, your ears are also being treated to some of the best audio I’ve heard in a game.

LucasArts has long been known for making sweet sound effects and great music. These both appear frequently in KotOR, through various weapons and environmental effects or music. The familiar blaster shots and lightsaber zwooms are present, joined by metal blade chinks and grenade blasts. To any Star Wars fan this will put a grin across your face, and to anyone else it’s just as awesome. Though at times it seems eerily quiet in the absence of music, before you can think on it too long it starts playing. It seemed as though there wasn’t enough emphasis on the music, though when you do hear it it’s always fitting to the situation or environment. While the music appeared to be lacking somewhat, the voice-acting was very top-notch. Well, that is the human speech was top-notch. The aliens seemed to repeat the same grumbling, squeaking patterns over and over. More than once I found myself thinking that they had just made the same grunt twice in one conversation, though both times it meant something different. This was only one of two major gripes I had with the game, so it’s not necessary to dwell on it long, since the gameplay more than made up for it.

One of the greatest things about KotOR is that Bioware has successfully created a battle system friendly to newcomers to the RPG world, though at the same time steering from the simplicity of a children’s game. Granted, it takes an hour or two to get used to, but once you catch on it’s a blast to play. After beating it once I went back and started another character just so I could fight some more battles, among other things we will get to later on. The battle system poses as a cross between a Final Fantasy style turn based system and a Legend of Zelda style real-time system. It’s confusing in words, but take my word for it that it’s a blast to play with. However, my second major gripe is also in the game’s combat. This is because at times your characters will just skip around the battle or glitch right through enemies. Because of this annoyance I more than once came near defeat. Hopefully in the future a downloadable update will fix this glitch and others found in the game. Don’t worry about this though; it’s not something to warrant boycotting or shunning the game by far. It is, like I said, only one of the two worst things I saw in the game. But what good does it do to have a great looking and sounding game with fun gameplay unless the story is solid? Well fear not, because the story is as solid as steel.

Once you look past the battle system that you either love or hate, the beautiful graphics, and the high-quality sound, you are left with the backbone of it all, the story. The gist of it all is that you are the deciding factor in the battle between good and evil taking place four long millennia prior to the world of Star Wars we are familiar with. The grisly Sith, led by none other than Darth Malak, have amassed an enormous fleet and have set their sights on the Republic. The weakened Republic’s last hope is you, if you want to help them. Enter one of the coolest parts of the game. You get to choose which path you wish to follow, whether it be to the light side or the dark side. This is determined through your responses in conversations with NPC’s throughout the game, and whether you decide to help people or just slice them into fodder. Be careful who you pick fights with, however, because some NPC’s later become your teammates in the game. I found this out the hard way when my temper got to me and I chopped down someone I later found out was supposed to be an ally. Not only does your selection change the course of the game, it also changes your character.

I personally went down the path of the dark side, so I can’t say specific details on the light side. However, I do know that journeying towards the dark side causes scales to form on your character, giving him (or her) a mean, reptilian appearance. Also, the Force Powers in the game are listed as Light, Dark, or Universal. Choosing either path gives a deduction on the cost of casting the respective powers. For example, dark characters can cast Force Choke for fewer Force Points than a light character using the same power. This all combines to form an incredibly epic and cool story that makes it hard to stop playing, even after a first trip through the game. This brings me back to why I’m playing through again. The reason of course is to experience the “2nd Versionâ€? of the game. Basically that means I’m taking the other route, and seeing the game from another perspective by taking the path to the light. If the fact that I’m playing through for a second time and still haven’t gotten my fill isn’t enough to show it’s greatness, perhaps the Downloadable Content that’s promised to come in the next few months is. Either way, whether you’re hyped or not, the Force is with this game, and I give it an A.

By Matthew Sheahan - 08/11/03
ESRB Details: Violence
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Screenshots for Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic

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