If you look back on the history of games based off of Lucas’ billion dollar saga you can notice a pattern. Some define their particular genre such as Jedi Knight for the PC and some make a mockery of said genre, example Bombad Racing for the PS2. But before we pass judgement on the latest game to be spawned from the house that Lucas built let’s run down the statistics. First off this is an RPG, a genre less traveled by Skywalker and company with almost limitless possibilities for great story and intuitive game play. Next it is being developed by Bioware, arguably the best when it comes to creating RPG’s on this side of the globe. Just look at their track record, Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gate, and even the underappreciated MDK 2 for the PS2. Finally the game is being developed on the XBox console, easily the most powerful console in this day and age and with their PC background Bioware were more than familiar with it’s hardware. Taken into account all of the above mentioned facts Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic is already destined to be a classic whether it was any good or not. The end result? Without flinching, batting an eye, or even thinking twice this game is the best RPG of all time and quite possibly the best game to grace the XBox to date. Read on as I take a journey through one of the finest achievements in gaming history.
The Force Is Strong With This One
Creating a Star Wars game has to be a strenuous task this day and age. You have the die-hard SW fans who will cut your throat open with words if you screw up the story then you must deal with the hardcore gamers always seem to be unsatisfied with any game that graces the market. Bioware has done an amazing job of keeping everyone in mind when crafting KotOR, the end result is an in-depth yet user friendly game that can be played by anyone with ease. The battle system is simple yet effective, the inventory layout is easy to navigate, and the upgrading options offer manual or automatic for those less acquainted with the traditional rules of western RPG’s. Creating a character is as easy as selecting a face, a gender, and a class but for the hardcores who want their stats distributed correctly you can simply configure them before heading out. The game is based on the D20 system which has been used in the realm of Dungeons and Dragons and traditional pen and paper RPG’s for years. While it may seem complicated to some (including myself) the game explains what you need to know very thouroughly and anyone should be able to comprehend it very easily.
A Long Time Ago On A Console Far Far Away…
The storyline of KotOR takes place 4,000 years before the events of the first movie and involves a war between the Sith and the Republic. The Jedi and Sith both number in the thousands and each side trying to gain an advantage in the ongoing war. Many Jedi have been turning to the dark side under the rule of Darth Malak and the remaining Jedi continue to search for the secrets Malak has uncovered ot obtain his massive fleet. Your role starts you off on a Republic ship under attack and takes you to many familiar and new worlds in the SW galaxy including Tatooine, Manaan, and Korriban the home of the Sith. Along your journey you can sway to either the light or dark side of the force thus effecting the outcome of the war as well as your destiny as a Jedi. Without divulging too many details or ruining any plot twists this game is easily one of the best epics in the SW universe and Bioware deserves much credit for keeping you entertained throughout the entire game.
A Wretched Hive Of Scum And Villainy
On the visual side of things KotOR is more than acceptable. XBox effects such as swaying grass and beautiful textures are in full effect and look absolutely jaw dropping. The worlds are painted with traditional XBox water and the characters are glossed over with the usual treatment of bump mapping. The Selkath look especially impressive as does their planet of Manaan. What is lacking is the frame rate, while it’s steady most of the time the game can tend to chug more often than I would like it to. Never does it detain from the action but when I pan the camera around during combat to get the glorious combat pose I wish it was just a tad more consistent. The lighting effects are also a mixed bag, while the sun glare and environmental lighting is top notch the characters seem sans any lighting at all. Shadows are mis-proportioned and when I spark my lightsaber in a dark cave there is no ambience to speak of, what gives? One last minor gripe, I swear I am being really picky here, is that there are very few facial variations. You see the same face repeated over and over along your travels. This is of course typical of western RPG’s but I guess I was just expecting more. Other than these few minor gripes this game is absolutely gorgeous and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better looking Star Wars game.
Imperial March 5.1
Everyone knows the SW theme, in fact it has made cameos in so many games that even non Star Wars fans know what it is. Thankfully KotOR is not just a collection of John Williams archives plastered into the background. The entire score is composed by Jeremy Soule, including some familiar themes as well as some incredible original work that would make Williams proud. The voice acting is also stellar, I am talkin Metal Gear quality here people and this game has numerous NPC’s and thousands of lines of dialogue. The alien voices are perfect, the unique sound effects they make while talking draw you further into the experience and appease the SW nerds alike. The English (that’s Basic for those uninformed) speaking is Oscar material featuring such recognizable personalities as Ed Asner. This game is written so well and presented so perfectly even the SW geeks would have a hard time finding a flaw. Bioware has gone and done something unthinkable, they have created the ultimate Star Wars game and the greatest RPG of all time in one package, a feat that will surely take years to overcome.
After an abundance of game time, countless hours perfecting my lightsaber skills, and travelling down both the light and dark sides of the force I still want more. Most game wear out their welcome after one time through yet KotOR still calls to me in my sleep. This game has forever raised the bar on SW games and RPG’s in general and expect to see comparisons to it even ten years from now. Quite possibly the greatest XBox game to date and easily the best RPG of all time SW KotOR is one of those titles that will still be talked about when the XBox reaches it’s NES stature. This game is an easy candidate for game of the year and should see many awards across the board for it’s level of excellence. Another fine addition to my XBox library and for those that do not own the console there is assuredly no reason not to own one now. Minor gripes and petty flaws aside this game is an instant classic, more than recommended..required!