The marriage of Dungeons
and Dragons to Star Wars sounds like something that only happens in the
wild fantasies of pudgy comic book store owners, but thats exactly what
BioWare has to offer with Knights of the Old Republic. Using the same
third edition D + D rules that brought Neverwinter Nights to life, so to
has been recreated the Star Wars universe in KoToR.
KoToR falls somewhere
between traditional computer RPGs and console RPGs in terms of
malleability of story (remember, this launched on the Xbox first). The
story has a fixed start point but several fixed end points: your actions
throughout the game define how NPCs perceive you, and, ultimately,
whether you will become a Jedi or embrace the Dark Side. Unlike the Jedi
Knight games where the difference between light and dark basically
boiled down to whether you got to shoot lightening or not, in KoToR it
defines your character, your abilities and you interactions just as such
a crucial factor should in an RPG.
The controls, though
designed with a console controller in mind, translate so well to the PC
that I almost wonder how it could have worked on the Xbox at all. Combat
plays out essentially as in Baldurs Gate, where interaction occurs in
real time, but you can pause at any point to issue a different directive
to party members.
Unlike Baldurs Gate
which used a strict isometric view, KoToR is rendered in full 3D, and
you can move the camera around any way you like.
This is a game that
breathes fresh life into the RPG genre, almost seeming to fill it with a
new kind of blood. Its been a while since anyone has attempted an epic
science fiction role playing masterpiece, and having one set in the Star
Wars universe is just icing on the cake. The only bit of bitterness I
have is over some technical issues.
The Xbox version was
widely lauded for its gameplay and criticized for some bugs. While I can
say that most of the Xbox specific bugs Ive read about have been
eliminated, there are a host of new ones specific to the PC platform. On
one system I simply could not get the game to run at all, and on my main
system infrequent crashes seemed inevitable. There is now a patch out
that addresses some of these issues; my guess is that LucasArts did not
spend enough time in the late beta phases making sure cross system
compatibility was implemented well enough. However, on a title this big,
its almost a guarantee that patches will continue until all major
technical issues have been resolved, so in this regard the PC version
gains a big advantage over the already excellent Xbox version.
Ultimately, if you like RPGs, if you like Star Wars, if you like games:
this isnt one to miss.
The sizable 4 GB install
is probably due in large part to the spoken speech, which, while
extraneous, is well dictated, well acted and well thought out. I wish
the lip-synching had been done a little better, as in general the models
look excellent and they often look slightly foolish whilst conversing.
However, this is a minor gripe against models that otherwise look
KoToR is set 1,000
years before the events in the cinematic sexology, when the Jedi were
still numerous and their foes more mystic and dark. Beyond that, its up
in large part to the player to run with the events and make a linear
narrative in their head. As I mentioned before, the start point is
fixed, but the end point is dependant on any number of minute details,
including things like which branch you choose in conversation trees.
This is a must-have for
any gamer with a box that can handle it.
Tristan Mayshark (12/19/2003)
Compelling roleplaying in the Star Wars universe, stunning graphics,
deep story, excellent sound