When is comes to Star Wars, I’m a bit of a passing fan. Sure, when I do get in the Star Wars mood I’ll definitely binge on the series but once that high vanishes I’m back to normal and forgetting all about Star Wars. The thing is, with the announcement of Episode 7 looming I became surprisingly interested in Star Wars, more than I have been in years. So, with the upcoming film, I started watching through the entire Clone Wars series. On top of that, I dug though my Steam account and found my Knights Of The Old Republic games so I can play through ’em. I decided that I should talk about this venerable series, despite the fact that everyone and their Star Trek loving moms talk about it. So, let’s dig in!
Plot And Setting
So, what is Knights Of The Old Republic all about? Well, this game is set 4000 years before the prequel trilogy. And it’s a pretty epic story, reminiscent of the original films, though not without its faults. The story takes place on a ship about to be destroyed, you are a republic solider and you make a dash to escape. Running across a legendary war hero named Carth, the two of you escape the exploding ship and find yourselves stranded on the planet of Taris with outerspace travel completely forbidden by the Sith. You and Carth now embark on a mission to rescue the Jedi known as Bastila Shan, find a way to escape the planet and deal with the threat of a powerful Sith lord known as Darth Malak.
After escaping the planet, the game opens up to you. You enter Dantooine and train to be a Jedi and then embark on a galaxy-spanning quest to either save the Republic or doom it. In typical Bioware fashion, the game features a ton of allies who help flesh out the lore of the world. The problem? Some of them just felt really lame and unlikable to me, especially Bastila Shan and Carth, both of whom wave their finger and scold me if I do something that is negative in any way. Bastila Shan I found to be fairly stuck up in my eyes, but despite that I still enjoyed her company. What makes the game truly epic is the twist at the end, which I won’t spoil. In a fashion similar to Star Wars Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back, it’s a plot twist you will not see coming.
In terms of how the game plays, it plays very similar to the Neverwinter Nights series. You are given a team of three party members: Your custom player character and two allies who you can select from a group of 9 different partners to assist you in combat. The party members vary wildly from Jedi to Droids and even a Wookie or two. Some of them focus on combat in order to back you up and some focus on assisting you with long-ranged weaponry. Your player character is the main focus and can turn out much stronger than your other party members if you level him up the right way.
The game boils down to a strategy-laden RPG system. You click your enemy and cycle through turns while attacking each other. You are also able to select force powers, grenades, or health items in order to give you more variety and strategy in combat. Outside of combat, you can explore the many different areas and partake in the dozens of side-quests that the game offers. There is no real time limit for primary quests and you can return to most planets in-game whenever you wish to finish certain side-quests. Be warned that some quests are failed if you take certain choices in the main quest, I had to learn that the hard way!
Another focus of gameplay is modifying your gear and weapons. You’ll acquire upgrades throughout your mission that can be applied to your armor and weapons. For example, you can have your weapons do certain kinds of attack damage or have your armor resist certain kinds of attack. You can also customize lightsabers in the game, which is a welcome addition. Using special crystals you can acquire on caves in Dantooine, you can upgrade and modify your weapons to your heart’s content. These give the lightsabers special bonuses, as well as allowing you to change the colors of the blade. While the customization is welcome, there are very few lightsaber colors and it’s impossible to change the overall look of your other weapons and equipment pieces.
The game itself boils down to a rather large campaign with an estimated completion time of about 30-40 hours, longer if you take on the side-quests. If you don’t have a lot of time to put into large games of this caliber, I suggest you look elsewhere. Still, it’s a fun ride from start to finish with a fair bit of customization and secrets to find. Something to note is that the solutions to certain side-quests may not always be easy to solve, some side-quests can be downright tricky. If you like good side-quests that toy with your mind, then you will feel right at home with this game!
Also, be forewarned that this game can be a fair bit more forgiving than older Bioware games. Each vendor is stocked with an unlimited supply of healing items, quests generate a large amount of Credits (Cash) and you have a bottomless inventory that never fills up. If you’re looking for an experience that caters more towards hardcore RPG veterans, your best bet is Dragon’s Age or Baldur’s Gate as Knights was built with a more general audience in mind. It’s still entertaining to RPG fans though, just don’t expect the complexities of older games.
Graphics And Performance
The game looks pretty good for the time. Character models are nice to look at and the graphics are serviceable, but have not aged very well. Character movements can be somewhat jerky and bugs will cause characters to start walking away in the middle of cutscenes or cause you to get stuck on invisible walls behind your teammates. It’s buggy, but not borderline unplayable. The bugs are certainly noticeable, but they don’t mire the experience in any way, shape or form. The designs of the planets and races certainly evoke the Star Wars feel as does that classic music that permeates the background of each planet and area you visit. It all oozes nostalgia from every orifice and it’s truly an enjoyable sight to behold.
The game has a problem of reusing alien sound-clips and facial textures, making a lot of the NPCs blend together. It’s hard to remember half the people I encounter in this game when they all look and sound exactly the same. The game may have some performance issues on newer computers, but there are workarounds in the way of mods that will certainly help you in this regard.
Conclusion And Summary
Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic is a game that is built upon a solid foundation and an interesting universe with much untapped videogame potential. It’s fun, easy to wrap your head around and expands on a universe that many people love and grew up with. It’s simpler than older Bioware games, but still entertaining to veterans of the older games that the company is known for. It’s plagued by some bug and performance issues, but it still runs fairly well and retains it’s amazing nostalgic feel even to this day. If you are looking for a game that caters to that inner Jedi hiding deep down in your mind, than definitely play this game and bring balance to your inner nerd force.