Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Cover
Platforms Xbox, Windows
Genre Jedi Masterful Western RPG
Score 8  Clock score of 8Gameplay: 8
Fun Factor: 9
Gfx/Sound: 8
Story: 10
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Back in 2003, I played a bit of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the PC when it was released. It was college, so everybody was doing it, but for whatever reason, I only played a few hours. In 2009, I played the first hour of the game and rediscovered a gem. I loved Jade Empire and Mass Effect, but here was their older brother: slower paced and much more heavily based in the D20 rule set. It seemed like it wouldn't be possible to take the step backward from those action heavy games to Knights of the Old Republic, but after playing the first hour, I had to give it a try again.

I have a bit of an odd history with the game, like I mentioned, I played KotOR when it was first released, but gave up on it after reaching a key point in the game about 8-10 hours in. While replaying the game this time around, however, I couldn't remember how far I had played. I kept thinking, "oh, I remember doing this before, but there's no way I played beyond that" until I reached a point where I thought I really was playing all new content. Turns out, a few weeks ago I was perusing some random posts I wrote on a message board in 2003 and I was actually having a discussion with someone about reaching a particular scene I have absolutely no memory of playing. It was this really weird sense of deja vu, like I could have beaten the game but not remembered it.

I've beaten the game now though, here's my full review of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the Xbox.

Stellar cast

Knights of the Old Republic's best feature is not the D20 combat or light side vs. dark side choices, but its strong main cast. While I believe the overall cast including most of the recruitable characters are weaker than expected, our heroic trio are great. The player character, Bastila the Jedi, and Carth the Republic hero are strongly written and drive the game forward and a great pace. Bastila is such an incredible character, I was drawn to her presence immediately and Knights is as much her story as the player character's. Jennifer Hale, voice of female Shepard in Mass Effect and Naomi Hunter from Metal Gear Solid, is one of the best voice actors in the business and does a terrific job with Bastila.

It's difficult to talk much about the player character without spoiling major things, but even though he's unvoiced, he still has a powerful effect on the story and is central to the game's themes. Carth rounds out the bunch as a man who has had his family torn apart by traitors and has devoted his life to the Republic. He's not as central to the main story, but he's the game's moral compass and I couldn't help but keep him in my group throughout the game. It helps to have Raphael Sbarge voicing him, an experienced actor who also voiced Kaidan Alenko in Mass Effect. Yeah, this game has a great cast.

It wouldn't be a great Star Wars story without a great villain, and in Knights, that bad guy is Malak, Dark Lord of the Sith. His tale is so intertwined with the story that it's surprising how little screen time he actually gets. Plus there's a truly iconic scene where you see him with his mask off, I gasped! And unlike all the wannabe Sith apprentices running around, he uses a simple single bladed lightsaber. Classic.

Knights Of The Old Republic Darth Malak

A long time ago...

KotOR's story is the best Star Wars tale told in a long time, it might be the most entertaining and emotional since the original trilogy, but I haven't read all the expanded universe, so it's hard to say. For the casual Star Wars fan though, you will find nothing better, plus you get to play the game how you want to play. BioWare popularized alignment based plot choices with KotOR, and it was the perfect fit. What kid didn't grow up dreaming about being a Jedi and resisting the dark side of the Force?

The game features a mighty twist about two-thirds of the way through that will make you rethink everything you just played. I'm not sure how I went six years without spoiling myself, but I did, so I won't spoil it for anyone else either. It was so amazing seeing the reveal. I honestly thought the twist was going to go a different direction, and was very pleased and surprised it didn't. BioWare, you did an awesome job on this game.

Like I said earlier, Bastila really drew me into the game. I honestly don't think I would have been as emotionally attached to the story if the strong female lead wasn't written like she was. Bastila starts off as the obnoxious Jedi know-it-all who immediately wants to take charge, but slowly softens as the layers of writing are pulled back. I was moved by Jennifer Hale's performance and the writers' handling of her character development. You know it's a good character when you want to punch her out one hour, kiss her the next, and cry about her the last. She makes me wish I had played the game years ago.

Knights Of The Old Republic Sand People Bastila Carth

In a galaxy far, far away

The Star Wars tradition of traveling to many different, exotic locations is preserved in Knights of the Old Republic. The game starts off in the middle of a starship battle, but soon you find yourself stranded on the planet Taris. The Sith have put the planet under martial law and it's your job to get off the rock. This planet honestly overstays its welcome, in my opinion. I was on it for the game's first ten hours, and was totally sick of it by the time we left.

Once you arrive at the second planet though, the story picks up as well as the gameplay. You also can participate in some really unique side quests that have you investigating murder suspects or keeping the peace between two warring families. But once you're done with this planet, the meat of the game is available for you to tear into. You can now travel to any of four planets that are all very different. I reached this point about 15 hours into the game, completing all side quests possible.

So of the four planets, I headed to Tatooine first as it seemed like an easy one to get out of the way. It's honestly really surprising what BioWare cooked up for us even for a location as familiar as the desert planet. LucasArts really gave them a lot of liberty to establish some background and canon in unexpected ways. I never had a clue where the story was going but it was great to be along for the ride.

After Tatooine, you can travel Kashyyyk, the Wookiee homeworld, and two other new planets. It was awesome to play at these locations, but I was amazed at how different they all were. One has you performing quests around a city most of the time, while another has you enrolling in a dark school, and the third thrusts you in the middle of a civil war. Knights has more surprises for you, as the main story does not sit still. And right when you think you're heading to the final battle, a wrench is thrown into everything and you're forced to revisit the dark past of the cast.

Knights Of The Old Republic Kashyyyk Hk47 Carth

It ain't easy being evil

Knights of the Old Republic is rather famous for its light side vs. dark side moral choices. Be altruistic and follow the Jedi code, and you'll be a paragon of the light. But selfishness and violence leads to the dark side of the Force. It's all very black and white, there is little doubt what choice leads to what. Almost every single conversation gives you the option of killing whomever you're speaking with. The game really wants you to pick a side and stick with it.

I ended up with a complete light side main character, but some of those choices were rather uncomfortable. Someone is asking for a bit of money and one of the options is to give them five times what they need. Sure, that will give you the most light side points, but at some point it's just stupid too. Halfway through the game I honestly felt like switching teams because all the Jedi and their dispassionate nannyisms started pissing me off. But I stuck it out, and am partially glad I did. I replayed one of the major plot points with dark side choices and was appalled at the absolute evil! By the time the scene was done, three of my teammates were dead and another had run off!

So obviously BioWare has come a long way with their moral choices, just comparing it to Mass Effect shows off the improvement. The extremes aren't as extreme, but I suppose the difference between the dark side and the light side is pretty great.

Knights Of The Old Republic Bastila Lightsaber Duel

Dungeons and Rancors

Knights uses the D20 ruleset for combat, and while it's a solid system, things seemed a bit too reliant on luck at times. It's most evident near the beginning, where your dice-driven blaster shots will either hit or miss so wildly, you're wondering if your character is blind and dumb. As the game progressed though, I started getting the grips of system and I felt in control. Plus everything is more fun with a lightsaber.

At the beginning of the game during character creation, you can select one of three classes. I picked the stealth class, and went into stealth mode less than five times the entire game. It seemed like such a dumb choice to be a stealthy character in a squad driven game. Oddly enough, the game pretty much tosses you first choice out the window pretty early in the game, and you get to pick another class. Feats and powers I selected early on immediately became entire worthless with no indication they would. My style of combat was so incredibly different from the first hour to the last, it boggled my mind.

A few other things confused me, every time you leveled up you would have different things to power up. Sometimes you could increase your attributes, other times you would up your skills. Half the time you would get a new power, the other half a new feat. There was no rhyme and reason to it, and all of a sudden I was level 20 and couldn't level up anymore! Wish I would have known this as I would have definitely selected different options. Oh well.

Knights Of The Old Republic Tatooine Star Map

The look and sound of the Old Republic

So of course, Knights of the Old Republic is a six year old game competing for my time against the like of Modern Warfare 2 and Dragon Age: Origins. The game still looks really good though, and while some of the animations are a bit rigid, it's a pleasing looking game. We get a lot of up close looks at BioWare's facial models, and the main cast was designed excellently. The hundreds of NPCs start to blend together quickly though, as expected. But when the lightsabers start blazing, the game looks astounding. There's something about the glowing swords that brought a smile to my face every time.

As I mentioned earlier, the voice cast is superb and set the bar for the time. There's hours of spoken word and while there's some hokiness from some of the extras, the main cast was pleasant to listen to for a long game like KotOR. The game's sound effects are equally well done, undoubtely that smile from seeing a lightsaber battle ultimately rests with the iconic hum and clash of sabers. Finally, the music was excellent with each planet having a memorable theme.

I have to note though that the game has some major graphical and audio issues when playing on the Xbox 360. The backwards compatibility was simply not given the attention it deserves as the frame rate really, really suffers at times. It got to the point where I was seeing about 10 frames a minute at its worst. Now, it was only this bad maybe once an hour at most, but very frustrating when it did occur. And for the audio, sometimes the dialogue would have pauses in it every second or so, not only causing some conversations to be excruitating to the ears, but mess with cutscenes to. Subtitles required. Beware playing this via backwards compatibility on the Xbox 360.

Unexpected curveball

I was really cruising along for most of the game, I had the combat system down and had seemingly built my character pretty well. Battles even against bosses were a breeze and I figured I had the game in the bag. However, I reach the final location and all of a sudden I'm getting overwhelmed by bad guys! My old strategy was tossed out the window as I had to suddenly be a lot more conservative with my Force powers and had to reign in my teammates a lot closer. It was quite the shock, but the worst was yet to come.

Maybe my character just wasn't built right for the final battle, but I had a ton of trouble with the last boss. I did finally pull out a win, but it required a lot of luck and a lot of multiple saves mid-battle. It made for a lot less epic of a battle than it could have been. Pro-tip, you can apply many med-packs instantaneously from the pause menu if the game considers you out of battle.

Knights Of The Old Republic Sith Apprentices


Gameplay: 8
The combat system can be confusing at first and suffers from weird targeting and action queueing issues throughout the game, but that's about the game's only gameplay problems. Oh, besides all the characters in the game cheating at Pazaak! Very solid turn-based gameplay taking full advantage of the Star Wars universe. Oh, and BioWare: don't make us wear giant suits that slow us down to 10 feet a minute, that's not fun.

Fun Factor: 9
I had a lot of fun playing Knights, once I got a hang of the combat everything felt so smooth and fun. Get a crowd control Force power as soon as possible and you'll feel like you're in control.

Graphics and Sound: 8
The voice actors shine with Jennifer Hale leading the pack. If you can keep me listening after 40 hours, you've done your job well. The graphics did the job well, but the framerate problems were a real pain. Also, why are the eye pieces so freaking ugly? Every time I saw my characters I cringed at their ugly goggles.

Story: 10
One of the finest stories ever told with maybe the best twist in a video game ever. The BioWare writers should have written the prequels!

Overall: 8
Easily the best Star Wars game I ever played, and I've played a lot of them. For coming out four years before Mass Effect, the game sure has a lot of polish on it and really set the bar for console RPGs for years to come. Do yourself a favor and play this game, it's been really cheap on Steam lately.

The game took me 42 hours to complete with nearly every side quest done. I had a maxed out light side character and mostly used Bastila, Carth, and Jolee Bindo. My starting class was Scoundrel and then later on Jedi Sentinel. I used a single bladed green lightsaber and enjoyed employing flurry and whirlwind attacks.

Knights Of The Old Republic Bastila Darth Revan