21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Sharper than Yoda's Lightsabre,
This review is from: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox) (Video Game)
As someone who generally ignores RPG’s, and having only a casual interest in Star Wars, I found the hype surrounding this game to be irresistible, and parted with my £40 on release day. I kept my receipt safer than usual, in case the plethora of XP’s, DC’s, and HP’s etc got too overpowering for me. Fortunately, my trust in word of mouth was deserved. It’s superb.
KOTOR places you in a turbulent era of intergalactic history. With the Republic badly weakened after a great war against the Mandalorians, two former Jedi defected to rekindle the power of the once great Sith. One of these former Jedi, Malak, betrayed the more powerful Revan, to assume total control. With the Republic on its knees, and the Jedi seemingly powerless against such force, you are entrusted with the task of overthrowing the new Sith order, thus restoring peace and saving the Republic. Simple!
Quality and polish are evident from the intro, in the form of some impressive cinematic sequences. Although set millennia before Episodes I – III of the films, the official licence is used to good effect, with the familiar musical score and sound effects providing a suitable Star Wars atmosphere to whet your appetite.
So far, this will be familiar to Star Wars fans, who have shelled out in the past looking for a game to rival the films, only to be disappointed. Mercifully, BioWare has shown respect to the Star Wars licence. The level of effort applied is apparent from start to finish.
You are in complete control from the outset. Initially, you need to create a team leader, who conducts all of the main dialogue, and will be a permanent fixture in your party. You can determine gender, appearance, skill sets, and strengths; almost every attribute has been included, and applied with a great measure of depth.
To start with, you’re on your own, attempting to escape a besieged ship, but the first sequences introduce you to team play and resource management, and also guide you through some battle sequences. The learning curve is pitched just right, allowing novices to get to grips with turn-based combat, while not interfering with the more proficient players’ enjoyment. It’s a finely tuned balancing act, which has been perfected and consistently applied throughout.
As your character progresses and acquires other party members, you have the option to get your hands dirty with the stats, or let the CPU do the brain work for you. I thought it would be a pain in the backside, but the interface works so well I hardly noticed myself getting involved in the makeup of my characters. Your party grows up to a maximum of nine, so you’d imagine catering for them all would become tiresome, but clever use of the Xbox controller allows you to sweep through the nitty-gritty with ease. Limiting exploration to any three members from your total party also staggers the brainwork into bite size portions.
Alongside the technical development of your characters, you also have the opportunity to converse with them, discovering more about their background and personas. This often leads to side-quests and opportunities that are entirely of your own creation, increasing the feeling that you are in control of your own destiny and path through the game. Some amusing dialogue, reinforced by good voice acting, also gives you the chance to interact with your group the way you want. Do you sympathise with the Wookie, or call him an eight-foot walking carpet? It’s up to you. General conversation is also spiced up by some funny one-liners, which you should use sparingly if you want to avoid making too many enemies.
This feeling of freedom doesn’t just cover dialogue. The core of the game is your choice between the dark and light side of the force. Almost every scenario is geared towards decisions that contribute to your standing as a force for Dark or Light. Example: - You need something from a store to progress, but you don’t have enough credits. Do you threaten to relieve the shopkeeper of his head(s), or go and earn the credits in a swoop bike race, solving a dispute in the process? Your decisions add weight to a gauge that works like a seesaw, constantly reacting to your decisions, and reflecting your struggle between dark and light.
Even more intelligent is the way that your dark/light decisions impact other areas of gameplay. In combat, Light side skills are less of a drain to use for a Jedi, and the dirtier, (more entertaining) dark side skills work the same way for a Sith. In addition, using the dark side in conversation may grant you a short-term advantage, but this may backfire later on.
On the downside, the frame rate is quite choppy at times. Other minor glitches are there, such as your teammates’ infrequent but appalling moments of stupidity when controlled by the CPU. Like their frustrating habit of following you into a corner and standing behind you, idiotically blocking your path, or getting hopelessly stuck behind scenery, leaving you to run into the distance completely unaware.
More frequent problems are the relatively small areas you can explore before being confronted with the ‘loading’ screen; or approaching somebody for a quick chat, and being bombarded with a ream of unwanted peripheral information. At least you get the option to insult their tedious ranting when they finish.
In summary, these minor problems are completely irrelevant when held against an achievement like this. It’s a victory for honest and thoughtful games design, but a loss for your other half/boss/friends/family!