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|Subject: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic Review 23rd September 2013, 3:03 am|| |
Developed by BioWare and published by LucasArts, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic was released on the Xbox in July of 2003 and then became available on the PC several months later. KOTOR is a role-playing game that takes place 4,000 years before the rise of the Galactic Empire where the evil Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Malak, a former Jedi turned Sith with his master Revan, rise to power after the death of his master and launched an all out attack against the Republic. A force of which threatens to crush everything in its wake. Huh, is it just me or are the Sith ALWAYS the stronger of the two in these stories?
As soon as you select “New Game” we're shown the Character Generation menu. The game offers you three classes to choose from, available in both male and female, which are the Scoundrel, the Scout and the Soldier. Scoundrels are rogues that get by on wit and guile. Their best attributes are Intelligence, Dexterity and Charisma. Scouts are explorers who traveled the farthest reaches of the galaxy, their advantages going more along the lines of Dexterity, Intelligence and Wisdom. And last but not least, the Soldier. Masters of the vibroblade and blaster, Dexterity, Constitution and Strength comes more naturally to them. Each class has their advantages and progress faster and slower than others in skill and feat progression, which I'll cover in just a moment.
After you choose your class and gender the next is the Character Portrait, which will be the base of what your character looks like. I'm afraid you get no real character editing in this game, just a selection of heads to choose from and select, whatever's on the head is the skin, hair and eyes you'll have for the rest of the game. BioWare wouldn't offer more options for character creation until much later.
From there we have our attributes to set. Your choices of attributes are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intelligence and Charisma. Most of these are self-explanatory, but for those who don't know Constitution represents health and resiliency. Dexterity have to do with agility and reflexes. It's important to set it to your class' needs and if you don't know how the “recommend” button will set your attributes for you. That button will also come in handy for setting skills and feats.
Skills have to do with noncombat situations such as Computer Uses, Demolitions, Stealth, Awareness, Persuasion, Repair, Security and treating injuries. Throughout the game there will be terminals you can access and hack into with computer spikes. The higher your skill in this area, the less spikes you require to hack. This can come in handy when bypassing obstacles in order to save your strength. Demolitions have to do with the disabling of mines, which you'll actually find quite a lot of as you progress through the game. Stealth helps you to sneak by some enemies, Awareness helps you spot hidden objects more effectively, Persuade will unlock further dialog options when talking to some NPCs and Security will help you bypass locked doors instead of having to bang your ways through them. Should you ever stumble upon a broken droid that needs fixing that when your Repair skill will come in handy, the advantage if you can set them up to patrol an area and take out enemies for you. Treating injuries is also self-explanatory, I feel. Each skill relates to a particular attribute.
The feats are more battle-central than the skills. Allowing you learn more attacks like Critical Strike for melee weapons and Sniper Shot for blasters. Feats can also provide bonuses to skills in your possession like Demolition and Stealth or Persuade and Awareness. You can also gain feats like being able to wield two weapons at once and there are more passive combat feats which affect what kind of armor and weapons your character can use. After you've done all that just name your character and be done with it.
From there we get the ever so classic Star Wars opening crawl that gets us up to date on the plot before cutting to a Republic ship, named the Endar Spire, under attack by Malak's forces. Your character is awakened by this attack and joined by their bunk mate Trask who informs you that the Endar Spire is under attack. Is it just me or do RPGs always start you off where you're at risk of being brutally murdered? After speaking to Trask you'll want to get your equipment out of a footlocker nearby and then you're all set to begin the game.
Controls: To move forward hold down on the W key, and S if you want to go backward. To move left and right press Z and C. To rotate the camera left or right you'll want to press A and D. Caps Lock is how you'll toggle free lock and holding down CTRL or the Mouse buttons is how you can look around. You can pause the game at any time with the space bar. The mouse is your main source of selecting members of your party, opening up menus, going into Solo or Stealth Mode and cycling through attacks on your blasters and melee weapons with a simple left click. It's what I'd recommend using when playing on the PC. During a conversation with a character you can select your dialog option by scrolling over it with the mouse or pressing the assigned number on your keyboard that's next to the dialog option.
Like in most BioWare games you have the option to be a saint or a complete and utter douche bag. Certain dialog options and choices you make in the game will award you with either Light Side points, or Dark Side points. This will affect how your character is viewed throughout the game by others, also the more Dark Side points you gain your character's appearance will change until they're as ugly as sin. You're start out at the default gray area when beginning the game and make your choice from there. Keep in mind that regardless of which side you choose, there will be a point in the game where you get to pick once and for all if you wish to join the Dark Side or stay with the Light. Depending on which side you choose you'll get a different selection of abilities you can learn as you progress.
You're notified when you level up through a yellow arrow pointed upward on your character's portrait, from there you click on it and takes you to the level up menu. After that you can choose whether to raise your character's stats up manually or automatically level them up to save you some time. Next to your portrait are the portraits of the members in your party which you can click on any time to switch to them. This comes in handy when you require their skills for something, like bypassing security on a door if your character can't do that by themselves. The bar is your health gauge, turning green means you're poison and require an antidote and a blue bar by the red represents a character Force gague. You won't start off with that at the beginning but it'll come to you soon enough.
On the opposite side of your portrait is your Action Menu. This is where you toggle between items like energy shields, health items, antidotes and others by pressing the arrows above and below each one. This is also where you can select your Force powers when you get that far. Your Target Action Menu comes up when you select a door, mine, container, NPC or enemy. When it's selected over an enemy the game will pause automatically (unless you changed it) giving you time to select a feat to use in battle. You have to keep clicking on it to use the feat otherwise the character will start attacking normally. It's recommended to switch to a melee weapon at close quarters like a vibroblade instead of a blaster.
Let's go over the in-game menus you'll be seeing a lot of as you play. We have Equipment, Party Inventory, Character Info, Scripts, Abilities, Map/Party Management, Quests and Options. Equipment is where you go over your characters clothing, weapons, and equip other items to help raise your defense like headgear and energy shields. The Party Inventory allows you go over all the items you've collected over the course of the game. The Character Info screen highlights each character name, class, vitality points, Force points (if they have Force powers), attributes, experience, Light/Dark side meter and states. The Scrips menu sets how your party members not under your direct control will act in the face of enemies. It can range from attacking, to using grenades and using their Force powers.
The Abilities menu highlight each ability, accompanied by a descriptive window explaining each one with related attributes, a rank level, bonuses and a menu for Force powers and Feats. Your Map/Party Management is, well, for looking at the map of the area and setting which party members you want with you. You can look over all available quests in your Journal for active quests, quest items and completed quests. There is also a Messages menu that records all the conversations you've had in-game so you can go over them again. Options is self-explanatory.
Later on in the game when you go through your Jedi training you'll have the option to choose three different Jedi classes. Jedi Guardian, Jedi Consular and Jedi Sentinel. Jedi Guardian puts more emphasis on lightsaber combat, where as Consular is the complete opposite of that, having more focused on Force powers and diplomacy than in combat. Sentinel strikes the perfect balance between lightsaber combat and Force abilities while also being more prone to use dual-bladed lightsabers (like the one Darth Maul used). The crystal you'll get to create your first lightsaber is your badge and will reflect the class you choose: blue for Guardian, green for Consular and yellow for Sentinel. Of course you aren't limited to these colors and can modify your lightsaber any way you want once you find the proper color crystals for it.
There are three mini games that exist within the game itself: Pazaak, Ebon Hawk Gunner Station and Swoop Racing. Pazaak is a card game where the goal is to have face up cards to add to a number total higher than your opponent's without going over twenty. If you go over twenty it's an automatic loss. The game has three sets overall you must win in order to win the match and before each game can be played a wager must be made. You didn't think you'd get to walk away with the same number of credits you had to begin with when you lose, did you? Pfft!
The Gunner Station is pretty much a shooter where you take down TiE Fighters. Imagine being Luke or Han Solo in the first Star Wars movie inside the Millennium Falcon, only a tad bit more annoying. If you want to get out alive you need to be quick and keep a watchful eye on your ship damage indicator (bottom right) and your sensors (bottom left). Your sensors will be your main guide to figuring out where the enemy is so you can shoot them down.
After that there's Swoop Racing. In each race there's a time limit and whoever has the best time wins. You have to keep shifting gears to keep up your speed and can ride over acceleration pads to go even faster. Overheat too much and you may very well explode.
No RPG is complete without its characters, so let's go over each main character available in the game.
Carth Onasi: Voiced by New York City's own Raphael Sbarge who would go on to voice Kaidan Alenko in Mass Effect. Carth is an experienced Republic pilot whose seen more than this fair share of bloodshed and is damaged by betrayal, leaving him unable to trust you when you first start working together. He is also a potential love interest for a female character if you're persistent enough.
Bastila Shan: Our Jedi Sentinel. Voiced by Jennifer Hale whose has done so many different voice work in movies, television and gaming I couldn't even being to name them all, so here's a few: Jean Grey in “Wolverine and the X-Men”, Naomi Hunter in “Metal Gear Solid” and the female Commander Shepard in “Mass Effect”. Here she plays a woman with her lightsaber hilt so far up her own chibi you wonder how she's able to walk straight. Bastila has mastered the art of Battle Meditation, a Force power that allows a user to strengthen the morale, stamina and battle prowess of their allies while causing their enemies to lose the will to fight making her a valuable access to the war effort. She is also a potential love interest if you choose to make a male.
Mission Vao: A young Twi'lek you meet on Taris that travels with her Wookie friend, Zaalbar. A good-hearted individual that's developed street smarts and had to do some shady things in the past in order to survive the city life. As you play through the game you'll find she has some unresolved feelings concerning her brother.
Zaalbar: Now meet the Wookie friend, Big Z. If you thought you were going to be freed from some Wookie yells you obviously haven't been a Star Wars fan for long. Zaalbar is Mission's friend, having met on Taris after a skirmish and has been watching out for each other ever since. I hope you like him okay because... Well, I won't spoil it for you.
Canderous Ordo: A Mandalorian mercenary you also first meet on Taris, voiced by John Cygan who also did the voice for Solidus Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2. He's the first Dark Side character you meet and offers you a way off the rock that is Taris and joins your party from there.
T3-M4: The closest thing to R2-D2 you'll get in the game. An astromech droid constructed for the planet's local crime lord in the under city, which you're going to screwed over by taking his droid, among other things. Such is the Circle of Life.
Juhani: Juhani is a former Jedi Padawan who turns to the Dark Side after it's believed she killed her own Master out of anger. You can find her once arriving to Dantooine as part of your own Jedi training. Whether the character lives or dies is entirely up to you. Annnd, there isn't much more to say. Her primary contribution to the story is dying. She's like Cooper from Dino Crisis only with a lot more filler.
Jolee Bindo: Another former Jedi who is stranded on the Wookie's homeworld of Kashyyyk. Voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. You know that guy who was Goro in the first Mortal Kombat movie? Yeah, that's him. He left the Jedi Order and flew across the galaxy before getting stuck among Wookies and is called a Gray Jedi because of his neutrality.
HK-47: Everybody favorite assassin droid! You'll first bump into HK-47 when you go to Tatooine and can purchase him at a shop there. He was developed by Darth Revan and that fact shows with how bloodthirsty he can be throughout the game, but that's why we love him so. It's easy to see why the character has won so many awards after the game was released, the character has the most personality of any of the characters in the game and was the most original Star Wars character to come around in years. And he's hilarious! HK-47 is one purchase you won't regret making in the game.
Cons: As mentioned earlier not all of the characters have as much importance to the story or even where the gameplay is concerned. Juhani is the weakest link in this area as she's a mediocre Jedi at best and you could choose to kill her early on in the game and you honestly wouldn't miss all that much. It would have been best to have as a minor character you just meet during your Jedi training instead of making her a member of your party.
Probably the biggest flaw the game has IMO is that it doesn't possess the best replayability you can have. The second or third time you play the game you'll notice that the game doesn't really get going until you arrive on Dantooine. Taris is just one prolonged set of plot points in order for you to get off of Taris with some side deals here or there to earn credits and experience. Otherwise some of the things you choose to do and invest time in is pointless since (spoiler alert) the planet is blown up by the end of it. You know how the original ending to Mass Effect 3 pissed people off so much because it rendered a lot of what you've gone through in the games utterly pointless? That's Taris.
And Darth Vader thought he was being so original blowing up Alderaan.
Aside from Pazaak, I don't care much for the mini games. The first time you play them they just serve to make an already long feeling part of the game that much longer and just become a nuisance after that. I think the game would have been just fine not including those two. At least the Swoop Racing after Taris is optional so I can't complain too much, but the other mini game isn't but in my experience playing the game running into TiE fighters were rare.
At the end of the day, despite its flaws, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic is one of the best RPG and Star Wars game in general I ever had the pleasure of playing. And the story comes with one of the best plot twists in Star Wars since the ever so popular, “Luke, I am your father,” bombshell from Empire Strikes Back. If you like RPG and Star Wars, then chances are you'll love this game.
Final Score: 7/10
Now reviewing video games and movies because why not?