Video Game Review of the Week
--Review by KenshiroKing @ 8/5/03 15:45 PST.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
At last, I finally have, in my hands, another quality game. After the last two tragedies I have played, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is sweet mana from heaven. I say two, because I actually played oh, 15 minutes of Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness before I decided that it would be better put to use weighing down Blockbuster's game shelves. God DAMN if that wasn't one of the worst games I have ever played. Seriously.
But I digress. KOTOR, (that's Knights of the Old Republic, genius) takes place in the oh so familiar Star Wars universe. The only catch is, instead of taking place during the current time frame of the movies, KOTOR is set almost 4,000 years before Episode 1. When I first heard this I thought, oh great, all they did was slap the Star Wars name on some futuristic RPG with Jedi. I was worried that everything that I loved about Star Wars would have yet to be developed. Quite on the contrary. Apparently, technology progresses VERY slowly in the Star Wars universe. For instance: the Republic, at the point of KOTOR is over 15,000 years old. I mean, holy shit, the longest government on earth was what, the Egyptians? They only lasted 3,000 years or so, and they didn't even control the whole world. We're talking 5 times that, with thousands of planets, and let's not forget, the United States has only been around for about 200 years. 15,000 years is an unfathomable amount of time for one government to be in power, but it goes a long way towards explaining why all the technology and cultures are the same, even after 4,000 years.
The plot of KOTOR goes thusly: You are a crewman aboard a Republic cruiser which is attacked by the Sith, a band of evildoers led by dark Jedi. The plot is fairly complicated and discovering more about the history of the Sith/Republic war is an interesting part of the game. Additionally, since you are not given much information concerning your character's past, discovering who you are while at the same time learning the background of the game makes for a more involved gaming experience. After crash landing on the planet Taris, you and another crewman must find, and subsequently rescue, a female Jedi by the name of Bastila. After you accomplish this, your mission is to oppose the Sith and save the Republic while at the same time becoming a Jedi. Fun stuff.
The reason I really like this game is because it is a roleplaying game that doesn't feel like a roleplaying game. All the traditional RPG elements are there, stat building, quest completion, character management and turn based combat, however, the game flows more freely than your traditional RPG. Also, the combat, on the default settings, is continuous and doesn't pause unless you want it to. This enables you to fight as you wish, either as a free-flowing, real-time deal, or as a more traditional method where you give specific instructions to your party then watch it play out.
For those of you who have played other Bioware offerings such as Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, or Interplay's masterful Fallout series, the quest system will be nothing new to you. As you progress through the game, following the original plotline, many smaller quests become available to you. Some serve to further the story and some are side quest that reward you with items, cash-ola or my personal favorite: light or dark side points.
Speaking of light or dark side points, one of the most interesting features of this game is how your character, through his or her actions, shifts between the light side and dark side of the force. Most people find themselves gravitating towards the dark side for two simple reasons. One: dark side powers are freaking cool, and two: as your character becomes more evil, their appearance changes. In my character's case, he began to grow a goatee, his eyes turned yellow and his skin became pale and pasty. While that may sound pretty nasty (and in the extreme case is) you actually look much more badass as a slightly dark sided player character. Plus, it's more fun to abuse NPCs and take their lewtz.
Okay, into the nuts and bolt of said game. Graphically, I found KOTOR to be a hoot. Everything from the character animations the the backgrounds were beautiful to behold. The combat animations were pretty damn sweet as well. For my money, it doesn't get much better than when one character is swinging dual wielded lightsabers around in a very dangerous fashion, while another at the same time is lobbing an frag grenade, while STILL ANOTHER is shooting goddamn blue lightning out of his fingers and all this is happening while you engage 8 opponents who are shooting blasters at you. Fucking beautiful.
As can be expected with anything with the venerable Star Wars name on it, the sound for KOTOR is outstanding. Traditional Star Wars themes are woven into the well composed songs that comprise the score of KOTOR. The effects are similarly impressive with true-to-film blaster whines, lightsaber hisses and wookie howls.
High marks all around, sound team.
Damn, as I sit and edit my review I have found that this game sounds pretty freaking good, and it is. There is almost nothing I would change about this game. The one exception is that the game falls victim to the second rule of videogames, namely that no matter how successful you are, the villain can still do any damn thing he wants. Other than that, buy this game. Buy it now. Mr. Lucas commands you.