over at BioWare have already distinguished themselves with their
impressive foray into the Baldurs Gate and Icewind Dale series. When it
comes to PC RPGs you know where to look. Console RPGs have
traditionally been another matter, though. Role-playing on the computer
is known for its open-ended nature, chock full of complexity. The
console experience is often characterized by a somewhat more simplistic,
linear stance. Naturally everyone holds their breath when developers try
to cross these boundaries. Companies like Bethesda have proven that
success can be had, but BioWare had an even bigger order to fill with
the Star Wars license being represented. How did they do?
the Old Republic is quite possibly one of the greatest games Ive ever
had the pleasure of playing. The folks over at BioWare have woven a tale
so compelling Mr. Lucas should be taking notes. This is the best Star
Wars game to date and easily one of the top five Xbox titles released so
far. Notable RPGs have the uncanny ability of making you lose track of
your life because youre off living another one. What does that mean for
those about to fire up this game? You had better put your affairs in
find Luke, Han, or Chewie in this adventure, though. BioWare opted to
root the story 4,000 years before Anakin ever thought he looked better
in black. I loved this idea because it allows for a totally fresh cast
of characters with less entanglements from the massive library of
literary work and of course the movies. In fact not much more can be
found than the Tales of the Jedi comic books outlining events of the
Sith War led by the villainous Exar Kun. In fact those familiar with the
comics will pick up several familiar names like Naga Sadow and the
Qel-Droma family. Being around when the Mandalorians still existed is
also a special treat.
new game will mean picking either a male or female from one of three
classes: soldier, scout, or scoundrel. Scoundrels fit closely with a
silver-tongued rogue while soldiers let their weapons do their talking.
Scouts are somewhere in between. From there you can either let the
computer generate a solid character for you or jump in and customize
every aspect yourself. Fans of BioWares earlier games will recognize
the attributes, abilities, and feats system used. Even if you are new to
the system each is thoroughly explained beforehand in the tutorial. Each
time a player gains enough experience to level up he or she can further
manipulate a characters attributes. Thankfully experience is shared by
all party members, even the ones not with you at the moment. This is a
very nice touch that will save you from having to concentrate on less
popular characters so they can keep up.
tightrope walker, Knights of the Old Republic maintains the fine line
between the go anywhere, do anything mentality of PC role-playing and
the structured universe of console gaming. Youre free to explore and
gain quests as you go, but several times unbeknownst to you, the main
storyline is advancing. Whats so great is that even though you are
participating in the main plot its on your characters terms. During
your conversations with NPCs you can react several different ways,
molding not only the tempo, but the ending of the game with your own
style of play as well. Youll be surprised at how differently people
react to you based on you gender and what side of the force you follow.
This game is all about choices. Early on players realize that there are
several ways to complete a quest.
also a few side items provided to help pass a slow day in the galaxy, as
if such a thing were possible. Players may involve themselves in swoop
races and a card game called Pazaak to help pay the bills. As you travel
from planet to planet you will no doubt run into Sith space fighters,
obliging you to jump in the turret of your ship the Ebon Hawk to
shootem down. Pazaak can become quite addictive, but the turret and
swoop sequences are a bit lackluster. Thankfully neither last longer
than a minute or two tops.
Knights of the Old Republic is top notch. Players will find that the
same holds true mechanically. Combat can be handled in both real-time or
in a turn based, strategic fashion. You can usually count on your two
party members to take care of themselves, but if you want pause the
action and issue commands if you want them to do things in a certain
order. Scripting of party members actions is also possible to ensure
that they act how you want before combat is ever joined. The interface
may seem intimidating at first, but inside of an hour it will take root
and become quite intuitive.
every action is ruled by the large expanse of statistics in this title.
From picking locks to force-strangulation the computer is behind the
scenes rolling your stats against your target using d20 rules. Curious
players can study a detailed log of each roll, but its safe to just let
the computer do its job.
the Old Republic features tens of thousands of spoken dialogue. Think
about this. You strike up a conversation with an Ithorian merchant one
day while on Tatooine. Each time you have the ability to speak there are
at least two or three options for you to choose from. You may decide to
be considerate or perhaps offensive. The Ithorian has different
responses to correspond with how you manipulate the conversation.
Consider not only the quantity, but the quality of the dialogue as well.
The voice acting is done quite well, making situations that much more
emotionally charging. On top of that each alien speaks in his native
tongue with subtitles in English. Who loves you? BioWare loves you.
else worth mentioning is the massive inventory youll end up acquiring.
The developers have given us a plethora of armor, guns, and melee
weapons. Many youll run into belonged to famous spacers and can be
upgraded at the workbench on your ship. Youll also have the pleasure of
building and tweaking your very own lightsaber. By finding and
installing various crystals you can change your sabers color and give
it some devastating bonuses.
are probably the lowest point of the game. Dont get me wrong, though,
in most cases the graphics are just fine. At times, though, various
landscapes may seem a bit bland. However other planets are simply
beautiful. One tropical planet seen later in the game is dotted with the
hulls of crashed ships and is absolutely breathtaking. The lighting is
done well and of course the lightsaber effects are noteworthy. After
seeing the raw power of the Xbox displayed on other titles, though, you
cant help but notice some unrealized graphical potential in Knights of
the Old Republic. Perhaps well see a marked difference with the PC
release later this year. Also another minor issue is the large amount of
generic looking NPCs seen walking around. Youll talk to several that
look and sound exactly alike. Still, though, thats a bit frivolous and
in no way detracts from the experience.
definitely provided us with an RPG of special significance. Experiences
like the one provided by Knights of the Old Republic are few and far
between today in the video game industry and none should miss out on
such a grand tale you as a player take part in telling. With Xbox Live
support we can look forward to new quests, equipment, and worlds to
explore in the future. One can only hope, though, that BioWare decides
to setup a dynasty of Star Wars titles. As it stands now, this game is
reason enough to own an Xbox.