Knights of the Old Republic

Knights of the Old Republic

Written by Charles Husemann on 7/31/2003 for Xbox  

Space the final frontier...whoops wrong Sci-fi franchise. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KoToR) is a role-playing game set 4000 years before the events in the holy trilogy and the not quite as holy and not as bad as everyone says prequels. After a war with the Mandalorians, the Republic is left weak. The two Jedi heroes of the Mandalorian wars, Malak and Reven, disappear into the outer rim. Years later, they return with a full fleet of ships and begin attacking the Republic. Luckily, the republic has a young Jedi named Bastila who, through unique jedi tricks, allows the republic to destroy Reven. This exposes Bastila to Malak who begins to hunt her across the galaxy, and that’s where you come in. It’s up to you to protect Bastila, figure out how Malak and Reven came up with such a big fleet, and then put a stop Malak’s evil plans.

While this sounds pretty thin, there is a lot to do in this universe and there are dozens of small side quests off the main mission that you can complete. The depth of the game is just amazing. The general consensus is that the game takes about 40 hours to complete but I have to think that number is fairly conservative and would be only hitting a few of the side quests.

Not only do you have a ton of things to do in KoToR but the replay is enhanced by allowing you to choose if you want to follow the light side of the force or the dark side of the force. You can play the game one way and then get a completely different experience by going back and doing it the other. Oh yeah, there are three different classes you can choose so that adds even more replay. Of course, if you add in the different genders, then that once again increases the game play value.

The missions themselves are excellent and the writing behind the game is remarkable (even surpassing most of the movies). You really feel drawn into the world of the game and there’s a near constant need to see what’s around the corner (this is the kind of thing that turns “I’ll just play for twenty minutes” into “Wow, it’s 3 a.m., what happened”). A word of caution, this is an RPG and not an action game. There is a great deal of character development and puzzles and you have a lot of reading to do. At one point, my girlfriend turned to me and asked “When are you actually going to play the game” so take this into consideration.

The one drawback to the writing is that there are many familiar things. The Ebon Hawk (your primary mode of transportation) looks much like the Millennium Falcon and you see a lot of familiar things in the game (You end up on Tatooine at one point. I’m starting to think this is a mandatory part of any Star Wars game). For the ass-end of space, it seems like a major pit stop on the galactic tour. It’s not a big complaint and the game does a good job of expanding the Star Wars universe but more subtle references to the films might be a little better.The graphics in the game vary from good to fantastic. The character models in the are top notch and it helps because some of them are used over and over again. The other problem is that they’re a little uneven. The Sith Troopers are pretty kick ass looking in their shiny metal outfits but tsome of the other models aren’t quite as good (they are good but not as good if that makes any sense).

The backgrounds for the game are simply fantastic. Each world has its own unique look and feel. The art designers for the game deserve major kudos for creating such rich worlds to explore. I want to say more but I don’t want to spoil the game for those who haven’t played it yet. There are also a great deal of nice little touches such as sand being kicked up from doors opening and footsteps as well as bubbles in the water level. It’s these nice touches which really help immerse you in the game.

Bioware also did a nice job of mixing in-game cinematics with pre-rendered CGI sequences. Engine technologies have finally come far enough where you can almost mix the two without seeing a significant drop off. Some of the in-game cinematics are a little clumsy but, for the most part, are excellent.

The biggest drawback to the graphics is that they really push the limits of the Xbox. If you get into a large city area or a place where there are a lot of NPCs, the game slows down and you start dropping frames. The engine also doesn’t let you pan up very high which is frustrating since there is a ton of stuff going on to check out. Hopefully, these limitations will not be present in the PC version when it comes out in a few months.The sound in KoToR is excellent (not that you would expect anything less than amazing in a Lucas game). Everything from the blaster fire, to the doors opening, to the hum of a light saber is present. I have to admit I spend a lot of my time walking around with the light sabers on just for the cool sounds (I know, I’m a big dork).

What really will put KoToR above the other games is the voice work behind the game. Every bit of dialogue has an excellent voice attached to it and the work on the alien voices is just amazing (although all of the wookies kind of sound the same). The new aliens in the game have exceedingly cool voices and all of your old favorites from Rodians to Jawas are in the game.

Do I really even need to talk about the in-game music? It’s Star Wars and a Lucasarts game so you know it’s going to be fantastic and KoToR does not disappoint. Some of the original score is present but the composers have done an excellent job of continuing this great tradition.

My biggest concern going into the game was the controls. RPG’s as a genre require a lot of controls since there are many things to do. KoToR is no exception and for the most part it delivers solid controls. Getting around is pretty easy with the left thumbstick, while the right stick controls the camera. You can even push the right thumbstick in to switch to a quick first person view (not that you really need to). You can toggle through usable items by using the left and right trigger. The A button activates the current action (selectable using the D-pad). The X and Y buttons are used to add items to the Action queue (more on this later). The B button is used to cancel actions. The control system actually works well once you get used to it.

The only real complaint with the controls is the inventory management system which is pretty much just one long list. You can sort by new items but additional ways to sort through the inventory would have been nice.The combat system is solid, as well. You basically queue up combat actions (attacks, healing potions, Jedi force attacks, etc) and let them rip. You can pause the action with the white button and toggle through your party members with the black button. Then setup a series of commands for them to execute before un-pausing the action. There’s also an option to play in more of a real time mode if you want but with three people to look after it can be a little much to handle.

The game isn’t perfect and some parts of it feel a little rushed. It did hang on me a few times and there are some small glitches here and there but nothing too significant. Hopefully, these glitches will be ironed out once the PC version comes out.

Bioware has also promised to provide some new content via X-box live and while there’s no official word on what will be in the downloadable content, the fact that there will be new content is pretty impressive.

Overall, the game is a blast and a massive time sink but I can’t help but wonder how good the PC version is going to be. If you like Star Wars or Role Playing games this is right up your alley, if not then it’s still pretty good and I’m guessing it’s going to sell a lot of X-box’s.
While not a perfect game, the game’s depth and pull are amazing. If you don’t have any patience or a decent PC, then this is the version for you. However, you might want to hold out for the PC version.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom.   I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.
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