Never Played: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (aka KOTOR) is one of those games that I always heard was great but I never played it myself. Like Escape From Butcher Bay, I didn’t play this great game as a kid because I didn’t have an original Xbox. This blog is the perfect chance to play it, especially with my recent reinterest in the Star Wars universe, thanks to the excellent Marvel comics and of course the new films. KOTOR was developed by Bioware for the Xbox and PC in 2003. The game takes place in its own corner of the Star Wars storyline, it does not include or conform to anything from the original movies. It is a semi-live action RPG, with a game system strongly influenced by the Star Wars Roleplaying Game. KOTOR had fantastic reviews and sales which led to it receiving a sequel the very next year.
My first Bioware game was the first game of the Mass Effect series, which I’ve become obsessed with over the last decade. Playing through KOTOR was a fun experience for me because I got to see these early beginnings of several design choices Bioware used and improved on later in Mass Effect. Things like the Paragon/Renegade mechanic, the short skill tree system and the focus on conversation choices. All of these mechanics help me become more easily engrossed in Bioware games and KOTOR was no different. I really liked the base plot and character set-up I was given and how I was able to shape him over the next 36 hours through my own decisions. The skill and leveling systems, while not deep in any way, are more than adequate and are easy enough to pick up. Ease of use is important to me personally because while I’ve enjoyed tons of RPGs, I’m not one of those die-hard RPG players who want a million options and an endlessly deep skill tree. I like just a touch of hand-holding and that’s what I got in KOTOR.
From a technical aspect KOTOR was very hit or miss as a game to come back to and play now, over a decade after its release. Graphically it is quite unappealing, as it attempted to look (and at the time was successful) realistic, but certainly doesn’t look the part on my gigantic modern day Plasma TV. The soundtrack I personally found unimpressive, but overall true to the Star Wars themes we’ve heard in its various media. The controls were perfectly adequate and I had no problem with them at any point in the game. What I do appreciate about KOTOR and is actually still impressive even to today’s standards was the voice acting. Like Mass Effect, KOTOR had phenomenal voice actors, who must have recorded thousands of hours of footage in a game with dialogue as diverse as KOTOR. Again, this great dialogue helped me feel more in tune with the plot and my character. Speaking of plot, I very much enjoyed it. For those who don’t know, in KOTOR you are given control of someone who wakes up on a ship as it is crashing and being overrun. You escape and are in search of a powerful Jedi named Bastila. After meeting her and other very interesting characters of various races of the Star Wars universe you start to unravel what is truly going on in this world, especially concerning a Sith named Darth Malak. I won’t spoil any more for you so I can avoid the many plot twists. While certainly not ground breaking or unique in the Star Wars setting, it was one that was interesting enough and had enough twists to keep my attention and keep me wondering what each character’s true motives and roles were throughout the story. The personality of the characters and their involvement in the plot was a high point of the game and held my interest.
All in all you will notice that I brought up many times the theme of KOTOR holding my interest. I bring it up because to me it is a cause for concern in long RPGs. If the plot line or character development isn’t top notch I tend to get bored quite quickly. So for KOTOR to hold my attention and make me not want to go to sleep, to want to keep diving into the story and get to the bottom of things was an impressive feat. I think anyone who’s a fan of RPGs would enjoy a play of this old gem, whether they’re a Star Wars fan or not. It has all the ingredients you need in a good RPG: interesting characters, intriguing base plot, adequate leveling systems and adequate combat systems. I’m very glad I chose KOTOR to play through now and as soon as I’m done with this entire blog project KOTOR II is near the top of my “Games To Play” list.