Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
It's difficult to define a game that sits so highly on everyone's "You're doing it right" lists. BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (henceforth KotOR) is the game that has day in, and day out, set the bar for what Star Wars games should strive to achieve. Is is a fair assessment, though? Or is nostalgia really more powerful than factuality?
KotOR is a turn-based RPG based on the tabletop style of RPG found in games like White Wolf and Dungeons and Dragons. The game's damage, stats, skills, and perks were all based off of this system, and plays a lot like a game you would play in a basement, chugging down soda and enjoying some simple form of snacking, just without the absurd dialog or face-to-face friendships.
The gameplay itself feels not too unlike some other style of quasi-action RPG, just with a stronger emphasis on incredibly variable damage, and takes several strides away from the strange numbers that come with pen-and-paper gaming, yet keeps so many of them. Unlike the pen-and-paper and over-watching DM style, the player could do lots of entertaining things like attempting to pick the same lock several times in a row.
Combat itself was less interesting, as there was a smart strategy, and every other strategy. Just about everyone I knew understood. The winning strategy was Dual Weild > Force Speed > Flurry. No matter how you tried to plan your hand, you would find that the strongest melee technique was always Dual-Speed-Flurry.
If you were to go attack mage, as it were, you were pretty much constricted to Dark Side powers and the dark-sided alignments. Which really cut your options down if you wanted to increase the damage and reduce the cost of your most vital skills. Logically, the game didn't do a bang-up job of encouraging the player to pick an alignment except by which stimulus they wanted to address. If you wanted good stat perks, go Light Side. If you wanted good skill perks, go Dark Side.
Outside of that, the story was simultaneously linear and non-linear. You had a small handful of planets to explore in any order the player chooses, but there were only a very select few ways of navigating the length of the planets, and going through the entirety of a planet followed a linear short-story through that specific planet, all leading to the end of the story, which would be infinitely too spoiler-intense to really cover.
The short of it is seeking items that will lead to the understanding of an unknown weapon or object that was possibly changing the face of the war you found yourself in. During your misadventure, you are joined by a famous Jedi, a celebrated soldier, and a handful of other misfits, soldiers, warriors, and even a handful of droids.
The writing itself is very well done, helping the player get a lot of depth out of the entire cast of characters, from the mostly-non-important minor characters to the main characters all displaying a bountiful host of character perks and flaws, weaknesses and strengths, and very sufficient emotions depth. All the while, it doesn't often feel stale, forced, or demanded to make the story progress. Which is really a feather in BioWare's hat, as forced romance and cheesy dialog very frequently runs rampant in anything with the letters "S, T, A, R, or W" in the title arranged in that very special yet familiar pattern.
Unlike the overall story and sub-character depth, your character has three settings. Obviously noble Light Side, "Eh, maybe later" Neutral, and "Steal your shoes to sell them back to you" Dark Side. Frankly, no matter how you try to give dialog the run-around, you always boil back down to those options. Inconvenience yourself or your wallet to help others, pretend the only activity is ignoring passers-by and servicing your own quest, or by taking careful note of everyone in the room, and how to effectively screw them from the front, sides, back, or at 500 yards with a Blaster Rifle.
The problem with this is it doesn't really give your character much depth. You can be evil, you can be good, or you can be apathetic. There's not "partly good" or "partly bad" or "I'm doing this for some reason other than pure benevolence/malevolence." It's all white or black.
That being said, some of the dialog is fantastic in all its' coin-face attributes. Some Dark Side dialog is downright hilarious, some of the light side so humorously dark while still being blanched-white, and some of the neutral options being such well-placed jokes and dialog options. It really makes me feel bad when I see the rest of the dialog options being so obviously slanted.
The sound itself isn't really all that spectacular, and hardly stands out in my mind. Usually when done playing the game, I hardly remember the sounds coming from my speakers after the game has turned off. So, not a lot to say here, so I'm going to leave it spartan. Blasters sound like blasters, lightsabers sound just like lightsabers, and the voice acting isn't stiff enough to make me say anything to the contrary, but not stellar enough to really write home about.
Graphics are another place where the "Don't write home" option comes up. As old as the game is now, the graphics look partly dated and weren't really all that demanding or strong for their time either. Regardless, they do complete the look and atmosphere, and certainly get the message across, and that's all I really need them to do. It does leave a little room to complain about the occasional lack of atmosphere, but otherwise gives you what you need, and not much else. Great for efficiency, but bad for the aesthetic junkie.
Buy It. There have been a lot of nits to pick about this game, but this review has been seemingly harsh because I focused on those. If you look past all the BS and little complaints, you'll see I had no issues with any major aspects of gameplay. Nothing was bad enough to be a deal-breaker, and everything was good enough to wax poetic about otherwise. The preamble was not misplaced. This game did a lot of good where good was to be done, and left very little major issues to complain about. Glitches did occasionally find a home within the walls, but otherwise, the game was a fantastic story driven space-opera fest with lots of customization and room to really paint the town a blue, grey, or red.
Not always the BEST GAME EVAR it's painted to be, but is a hilariously good contender for the title of "Best RPG of Recent History." There's a lot to like about this game, and it's a must-play for both Star Wars fans, and RPG Buffs. Just, excuse the hiccups, unless you want to be too caught up in the pointless to enjoy the important.
Whoops, forgot the: