Review: Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic

Published on Sunday, November 30, 2003 By Brad Wardell In PC Gaming

I just finished Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Outstanding role playing game. I played the PC version though the game is available on the consoles as well.

Knights is an adventure/role playing game where you control up to 3 characters at a time. From a pure game mechanics point of view, it contains the standard fantasy role playing elements with fighters (soldiers), thieves (scoundrels), and various magic classes (Force powered things).

In the game, you begin as a low level fighter/scout/thief (your choice) and must help the Republic during the Sith wars that took place 4000 years before the Star Wars movies. What really makes the game stand out though is the story itself. It is like an excellent book where you control the plot. And what a plot it is. It's hard to go into much depth in the review on the story without spoiling things because there are so many twists and turns in the plot. Your character has an immense amount of control over the story and can elect to go down the dark path or the light path.

But my favorite part of the game had to be the incredibly seamless way in which non player characters fit into the game. Even though you decide which characters are with you at a given time, they chime in and add to crucial plot elements so perfectly that when you finish the game you can scarcely imagine how the story could have gone any other way -- except it could. And all of the dialog from characters is spoken -- and acted with movie quality perfection.

In countless scenes the characters I brought with me would say things that were so spot on for their particular character and often hilarious. In one adventure, in which I was trying to infiltrate a Sith base, I brought with me a psycho droid and a smart-ass old former Jedi. When the Sith overseer asked me why I have these two companions, I responded "Oh, they're just slaves" in which the smart ass old Jedi immediately adds, "I don't hear so well, just glad the Masta ain't beating me mo today." Shortly after that, the overseer says, "You will have to do something to impress me.." and the psycho droids responds, "How about if we slaughter every living thing on this base?" (the droid is constantly looking for an excuse to kill "meat bugs").

As a role playing game, the Star Wars universe, IMO, is actually better than the D&D role playing games. And I say that with Baldur's Gate (I and especially II) being one of my favorite games of all time as well as being heart broken when I finished Planetscape Torment. The reason I say that is that the abilities and powers one gains in the Star Wars universe are ones we've seen on screen.  For example, I quickly chose to get the various mind domination powers even though there were plenty of more lethal abilities available. BTW, you'll never get all of them in a single game, there are just too many (for instance, I didn't get the force choking power).  But with mind domination, I got plenty of chances to pull the old "These aren't the droids you're looking for" trick on NPCs.  "You want to let me into this facility." I was able to use this power to great advantage.  Other powers are similarly interesting (force push, force lightning, even the force speed looked like what we saw in Phantom Menace).

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The game's engine was also outstanding for a Star Wars game. The game just felt like I was watching a Star Wars movie. This one with good acting and a good story to boot. Blaster shots deflected harmlessly by light sabers automatically. Star Wars sound effects at full power. And the musical score was top notch.

If I have any criticism of the game on the PC, it is that it was somewhat buggy. I had several crashes during the course of the roughly 75 hours of game play along with multiple instances where my character wouldn't attack and even a case where my light sabers weren't glowing.  And it wasn't due to some weird machine problem. The game was played on a brand new Dell. And I mean new as in I got the game and the machine at the same time, it's the only non-preloaded program installed on the machine thus far.  But none of it stopped me from playing the game or damaged the enjoyment.

Overall, this was the best RPG I've played in a long time, possibly ever. I really hope LucasArts and Bioware collaborate on more games in the Star Wars universe. I think the game was immensely helped by having it take place so far in the past that they were free to do pretty much whatever they want without having the baggage from the movies.

If you even remotely enjoyed Baldur's Gate or Planetscape Torment or Neverwinter Knights, you'll really like this unless possibly you hate Star Wars or something and even then the outstanding story, production values, and game elements are likely to win nearly any player over.

4.5 out of 5 stars