Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Save the galaxy! Or destroy it! Whatever!
I waited a long time for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to come out and for good reason. Not only was it promised to be a good Star Wars themed game, but it was hyped to be a really impressive role-playing game on its own merits. Surprisingly, it is one of the best Star Wars games to be released with very few exceptions.
The game follows the story of …whatever you want your name to be. I gave my character the awesomely cool name of Paul. Whatever your call him or her, she/he wakes up on a Republic ship under attack and surprise, they don't have any memory of who they are or what they're doing there. I'm glad to see that Bioware, the makers of this game, have used the oldest RPG cliché in history. But I digress, your character escapes and finds himself of the planet Taris where all the fun begins. On Taris, you begin to assemble your party and learn what is going on in the galaxy. It's in turmoil, of course, with the Republic losing a war against the Sith. It is your character's destiny to either save or destroy the Republic.
Your character begins as a lowly standard level-one loser. You, of course, get to pick what type out of three classes that affect his or her stats. I never noticed much of a difference between the classes while playing, though. Since the game takes place when Jedi are more common than ducks, you eventually get to be one yourself. That is a Jedi, not a duck. Although, you don't get to start out with awesome Force powers. A few hours of game time will go by before you get a crack at being the next Luke Skywalker. Who said the road to Jedi-dom was easy? You must work your way up from lowly nothing using blasters and swords until you finally make it to your Jedi training. It doesn't take overly long to get to the fun lightsaber stuff and, most surprisingly, I really enjoyed the non-lightsaber part of the game.
The style of KOTOR is much closer to my favored type of role-playing game than most Japanese RPGs. There are multiple ways of doing tasks and completing missions. There's also enough freedom to choose where you want to go or what you want to do in what order. The only qualm I have about KOTOR in this respect is that the levels seemed a lot more limited than I would have liked them to be. Even the big worlds had a quality of "you can go here and that's it.”
One of the games biggest downsides is the amount of bugs that litter the game. Usually, these bugs and glitches are pretty small and don't cause much of a problem, but there are at least two huge bugs that I found that consistently crashed the game. My word of advice is to save often and use several different save slots.
*****SPOILER ALERT: HIGHLIGHT TO READ*****
One bug in particular drove me nuts. Near the end of the game if you are turning to the Dark side of the Force you have the opportunity to have Big Z kill Mission. Its when I Force persuaded him to do so that the game crashed. In fact, there was no way I could do it without the game crashing. A truly horrifying and dramatic moment in the storyline was completely lost by this game ending bug. This is unacceptable and I actually modified the final score of the game based on this bug. Knights of the Old Republic should not have shipped with these kinds of bugs.
*****END SPOILER ALERT*****
Another irritating aspect of Knights of the Old Republic is the limited amount of character models. It seemed like there are only about five or six humans and the same amount of aliens in the time-frame depicted. Coming up with a wide variety of character models might have been on the low end of things do before the release, but it really is annoying staring at the same faces over and over. At least the voice acting is good so you can pretend that you're not conversing with the same guy you've seen for the millionth time.
The most aggravating thing of all in KOTOR is the load screens. There are about ten million of them. There's a load screen to get out of your ship, to enter a spaceport, to enter a building, to exit the building, and to enter the wilderness. There are enough load screens to read an entire novel between gameplay if you add all of them together. If the game wasn't as good as it was, I'd have stopped playing entirely because of all this damn loading. And on the same note, the same footage is shown every time you take off and land at a planet. You can't skip most of this footage either, and to make it worse there are random times where your ship will be attacked by enemy fighters. Each time you are attacked there is the same number of fighters at same difficulty, complete with the same annoying cut scenes. Why did they think this was necessary or fun? The first time I experienced this attack it slightly enjoyable, but the 20th time it was well past fun.
Okay, back to the good stuff. The action itself is from a third person perspective with the combat looking like that of an action game, but it's really not. I'm big into turn based combat in RPGs and KOTOR has a nifty button use that pauses the action in order for you to give commands and let your party do its thing. If you prefer to just let things happen in real time you never have to touch the pause button, but it's something I'd recommend getting into the habit of since some of the action can get pretty hectic.
The replayability of the game is amazing. You can play through the whole game as a goody-two-shoes or a badass evil Jedi. Out of the two paths, light and dark, I'd say I prefer the dark side as more fun, but both ways have their own merits. The difference between the two is great, although there are a few things that stay the same no matter how evil you are. I think it's hilarious that your party members may despise the actions you take when evil, such bribing and robbing characters, but they don't leave the party and they even help you when you're doing it. Either way, the main story line and the hundreds of subplots kept me enrapt the entire time I played. The game's main strength is in the story, where it should be in an RPG.
The graphics are rather good, but pretty plain. KOTOR is not aging gracefully. There were a lot of moments in the game that seemed ridiculous like a Sith "Party" I attended that had a bunch of generic character models standing around in an empty room. Combat does look pretty good though, and some of the environments are beautiful. The CGI cut scenes look great, but unfortunately many of the cut-scenes use in-game graphics.
KOTOR is a long game. I managed to beat it the first time in about 42 hours and in about 35 hours the second time. That's a lot of good game for only around twenty bucks.
Aside from my problems with Knights of the Old Republic it still is really fun to play. If this wasn't a Star Wars game I'm not sure I like it as much as I do, but as a Star Wars game its one of the best.
Extra: Xbox Live Downloadable Content
I was excited when I first heard about the downloadable content for Knights of the Old Republic, but after got it I was sorely disappointed. The new area is a space station in orbit over the gas giant of Yavin. There you'll find a Rodian that will sell you some high ticket items. That's it. Sure you can get some nice stuff, play some high stakes Pazaak, and even deal with some angry Transdoshians, but that's it. The least you'd think you'd get was an extra few missions or something.
Downloadable Content: 5.0