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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

The Star Wars galaxy is a huge phenomenon across the world, the movies have grossed almost a billion dollars all together, but its influence on the gaming world has been minimal, until now.  Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is not only one of the best games I’ve played this year, but one of the best I’ve ever played, and this is coming from a man that until now has despised RPG’s. 

 

Storyline:

The Star Wars franchise has stretched over for more than two decades, and has always been known for the huge expanding storyline.  Tons of twists, action, romance, and desire, so I was a little skeptical when I heard about a deep involving RPG that would have just as big a story as the films.  I love it when skepticism turns into enjoyment.

 

The storyline is easily KOTOR’s best aspect.  It’s deep, extremely non-linear and is full of twists and turns that will leave you mouth a gasp. 

 

KOTOR is set approximately 5,000 years before the first Star Wars Film, so if you are looking forward to Darth Vader and Cinnamon Bun hair-dos, I’m sorry but you won’t find them here.  You wake up on a Republic Ship under attack by Sith battleships, upon waking up you have no memory of anything, you’re amnesiac.  Luckily a ship worker is in the same room with you and he shows you the ropes of not only control of the game, but also where you are, where you’re going, and who is attacking.

 

As soon as you gear up and head for the nearest escape pod, you are told that you are to try and find a mysterious Jedi woman, Bastilla.  You have little to no information on Bastilla, but you are given much info about her backgrounds, and what has happened to her.  She has been captured by Sith guards and is now being held captive.  You’d think that this is the main plot of the game, but if you thought this you’d be in for quite a surprise.  After you find and rescue Bastilla (about 4-5 hours into the game) she discovers that you are Force Sensitive, meaning you have traits of the Force flowing in you.  After this amazing discovery you are taken before the Jedi Council to undergo Jedi Training, before you know it you’ll be wielding lightsabers and saving the world from the traitorous Darth Malak, a menacing man you speaks in a robotic tone.  The game is filled with so many twists, turns, and new adventures that it’s bound to leave any gamer in amazement.  There is a HUGE twist toward the end of the game, which will literally change your outlook on the game, it totally knocks you on your back and you’ll never see the game in the same light.  It’s that shocking.

 

Gameplay:

Customization is key in all RPG’s; KOTOR takes that one step ahead with its emotion system.  Throughout the game you’ll encounter both NPC’s, and characters that play big parts in the game that will later be added into your party.  As you encounter these characters you’ll be swamped by lines and lines of dialogue, but don’t worry you antsy, hyperactive, ADD infested gamers, that character that is speaking with you speaks every line, so you don’t have to read it.  This brings an even BIGGER part of the game, the Light and Dark side system.  You are given the choice in the game to either go the way of a law abiding Jedi, or a troublesome dark Jedi.  To be considered Light or Dark you must gain Light or Dark points, sounds simple, but it’s a truly deep system.  Say you encounter a man who has been robbed by bounty hunters, you could go the light way and give him his lost money from your own pockets, or you could go the dark way and hunt down the bounty hunters, kill them, take the stolen money to keep from yourself, then killing the heart-broken man.  This can really bring out the best or worst of you, depending on the situation.

 

It’s actually a joy to go to members of your party and have conversations with them.  Throughout the game you will add a total of 9 people in your group, those 9 beings include a very interesting soldier, a badass warrior, three Jedi, two droids, a Twi’Lek, and a Wookie.  This can lead to some very intriguing conversations.  I couldn’t help but be absolutely magnified by the level of detail Bioware went in to, to develop all these back-stories to all these characters.  It’s a hard feeling to express, but it’s truly a wonderful feeling to have one of these digital characters agree with you or express feelings for you as if you were in the game actually talking to them.  It’s a wonderful experience.

 

RPG’s until now have always been divided into two fighting styles, Real-time, and Turn-based.  Well, KOTOR is such a unique and new RPG that it uses a hybrid fighting system with both Real-time, and Turn-based fighting used.  This style works well since along your journey you’ll add new people to your party, or group of people.  With this style you can either pause the fight, set up each characters move sets, then resume the fight and watch the battle ensue, or you can run up to the enemy, push the attack button, watch him hit the enemy, push it again, watch again, so on and so forth.  It’s a system that seems impossible on paper, but is executed beautifully in the game.

 

KOTOR is obviously based inside the Star Wars Universe, and later on in the game your main character will become a Jedi, so it’s obvious that you’ll get to handle a wide variety of intergalactic weapons, but of course all those weapons are belittled by the Jedi’s pride and joy, the Lightsaber.  Know what’s cooler than wielding a lightsaber?  Constructing you own lightsaber.  After you have completed your Jedi training, and have learned the ways of the Lightsaber, you are allowed to upgrade or modify your lightsaber as you see fit.  On a few select planets are Lightsaber crystal caves; here you can collect crystals to change the color, size, and power of your Lightsaber blade.  You can even collect the lightsabers of fallen Dark Jedi, and convert them into a Lightsaber that the Jedi Masters would approve.  You can also duel wield Lightsabers, and wield a double-bladed Lightsaber to bring out the Darth Maul In all of us.  Along with an overwhelming supply of weapons and upgrades, there are Force Powers. 

 

Depending on which side you decide to take you have about 20 force powers on both sides.  On the light side you can heal, force push, and even persuade, and on the dark side you can put fear into your opponents, choke, and turn enemies onto each other.  I will tell you that if you plan to go light don’t try to mix dark force powers in to your light persona, and vice-versa.  It will mess up your karma, and the force powers will be less effective.

 

Now if that somehow isn’t enough to satisfy your gaming pallet (and it really should) Bioware went the extra mile to bring you loads and loads of mini-games.  When you’re not twirling your sabers, or chatting it up with characters you can participate in Swoop races (similar to the Pod racing in Episode I), play a hand at Pazzak (the blackjack of Star Wars), you can even participate in arena battles against opponents.  I could go on and on about all each and every type of gameplay in this game, but you really need to see for yourself to get the level of things to do in this game, it’s absolutely amazing.

 

Graphics:

With all the great aspects in KOTOR, the little flaws that are present stick out like a soar thumb from the rest of game.  These flaws are the graphics, they are in no way bad, it just doesn’t blow you away.  The environments are beautiful and the levels of detail in the backgrounds are wonderful.  Unfortunately, this brings another problem.  Even though this is an Xbox title, the framerate can drag considerably at times, and the load times are atrocious.  Load times usually don’t bother me that much, and wouldn’t so much in this game, if there wasn’t so many sections of a planet, you’ll have to go through a variety of buildings, sections and doorways in a planet, and almost every section has a load time. 

 

Another minor yet surface flaw is the NPC character face models.  There are just too few types of faces.  The variety is too limited, and you’ll begin to recognize the certain faces in the game from planet to planet.  Again not a huge flaw, but with a great game like this It’s bound to stick out.

 

Sound:

If there is one aspect of every Star Wars game on the market does excellently it’s the sound.  It’s really hard to make a bad sounding Star Wars game.  John Williams has created an entirely new soundtrack to fit this game, so you’ll never here music from any of the movies.  The new soundtrack is excellent.  Live orchestra at it’s best.  The music picks up when you enter battle then dies down again when you’re exploring.  I know it’s cheesy, but it’s so good that I actually felt like I was this Jedi going around planet to planet on this amazing mission to save the galaxy.  It just has cinema worthy appeal, it does what the developers intended to do, draw you in.

 

In a game with so much dialogue like this one, voice acting is crucial, and luckily developer Bioware new exactly what every line should sound like, so they went out and hired the best voice-actors around.  There voices are so convincing that you’d think the character was built around the voice-actor and not vice-versa.  The hard, Mandalorian warrior Canderous speaks with a gravely and sometimes intimidating voice, and the lovely lady Jedi Bastilla speaks in a slight accent with her Jedi philosophy.  Enough can’t be said to describe the intoxicating feel of the game, much ado to the top-notch production values, absolutely mystifying.

 

Lasting Appeal:

RPG’s are known for their everlasting quests, KOTOR is right on key with this expectation and delivers in spades.  This game will take anywhere from 20-40 hours to beat depending on the amount of exploration, participation in all the side-quests, and mini-games played.  Two endings also are included in this enormous package depending on your side of the force.  You can even go through another time with the opposite sex as your main character.  It’s another category in which KOTOR succeeds in every right of the word.

 

Overall:

It’s hard to have a game like this, and not be praised in every respect.  Sure it may have some graphical issues, some glitches, and a problem in the NPC face models, but when you boil it down to it’s bare essentials you have a great game that will give you weeks and weeks of fun.  If you don’t like RPG’s this game will change your mind, it did for me.

 

9.5/10

 

-Blake Becker (GoinCommando)