RETRO – Knights of the Old Republic is set four thousand years before the movie era of Star Wars. When the Jedi and the Sith were still in large numbers, roamed the galaxy with their lightsabers or with blades made out of metal, happily killing each other. The force was with them back then, and it is apparent that Bioware also has some, as KOTOR is unbelievably great.
Four thousand years is a lot, so let’s not even try to make parallels between humanity until Star Wars history: we can try playing with the idea, but our heroes will not ride banthans in ancient or medieval armor, and the Wookies will not use bow and arrows, or try to throw hot tar from atop of castles.
No, the universe of KOTOR pretty much is identical to the well-known Star Wars world: strange animals, The Republic, everybody still uses the hyperspace to travel large distances in space, the good citizens resolve their differences in this time are done with laser blasters.
Menacing Phantoms? Forget it!
In a way I was a bit afraid from all this big freedom Bioware got, as ever since leaving Black Isle they have been still making first class RPGs in terms of gameplay. However when I look at Neverwinter Nights, or the console version of Baldur’s Gate, none of them match with their classics on the PC in terms of storytelling and mission design (Baldur’s Gate 1 and Baldur’s Gate 2). Luckily KOTOR cleared all of these issues:
Although the story starts a bit rough in the beginning, it is able to pin the player to the monitor with its exciting narrative later on.
Although it is still a story between the eternal conflicts of Good Vs Evil, the developers were able to pick out those motives that really made this trope interesting: the game’s central theme is the internal moral conflict, where our Jedi hero is constantly tested by the Dark Side. If there is one element that I should highlight from this RPG it’s none other than porting this internal struggle shown in the movies to a videogame.
The alignment changes are not done in a cliché way in a fixed story, where or Jedi might turn to Sith, or stay on the good side. No these decisions will be made by you the player, but the decision is not done on certain points, the alignment change is based on every single decision made, or how you use the force (and for what).
It’s not an old tripe that the Dark Side is tempting, in this LucasArts game I have never felt so tempted to always choose the dark (and easier ) choices, but I held on and it was especially great, since the game proved to be more challenging.
As it is really easy to say something macho against an enemy, and then shoving down the lightsaber in his neck, or to say cynical comments to our well-meaning party member, or to threaten a shop owner to give us an expensive robot. Even though we receive material goods in such cases, well you get a Dark Side point, and if this happens too many times the Siths will welcome you with open arms.
Stories of the Dark Side
Of course that does not mean that I did not try out the Dark Side. There are few games that I would like to start from the beginning, but I will play KOTOR once more since it would be a shame to skip all the Machiavellian cynical comments, the brutal jedi attacks, and other evil action. The basic storyline is the same, but certain events will play out differently, if we walk the path of the Sith, whether it is a small side mission or a story mission.
Because of this the 50-70 hour gameplay doubles (depending how much side missions you want to complete). Well this is when our social life will begin to deteriorate and must bid farewell to our friends, girlfriends, family, and bosses – as only the fate of the Star Wars galaxy will matter.
Yes KOTOR is that good, but since we’re talking about an RPG, it doesn’t just have a polished story, it also has well-crafted characters with deep backgrounds. I rarely get attached to RPG heroes – maybe in the two Krondor games or the main characters of Summoner. Although on their own they are interesting characters, still the professionally written selectable conversation, provides more depth to the inner conflicts, plus the voice acting is first class, making the conversations really memorable.
The character on the game’s cover Bastila is a tad bit annoying as the game’s first half is dedicated to her subarc, plus trying to rescue her. After that the pretty Jedi knight just becomes more annoying and egotistical.
Later when we become Jedi Knights ( did not really spoil anything with this) we’ll be able to prove to her that how wrong she was when she underestimated our abilities and infact … well, let the rest be secret.
Besides Bastila my other favorite was Mission Zhan, a cute twi-lek girl, or HK-47, the cynical robot, whose comments I could not stop laughing which I rarely do in an RPG.
Kotor’s humor is almost better than Anachronox’s jokes, the previous BioWare games, or other RPG’s games do not even come close to KOTOR.
Finally I must not forget to mention the well thought out NPCs: Calo Nord, the über slick bounty hunter, or the Hutt King who is like Jaba, but even the most minor NPCs are really great .
Advanced Cantinas & Banthas
I wandered on about the story and praising the heroes, but KOTOR is basically a detailed RPG, not an adventure game, so that is why I would like to introduce the genre staples in this game.
Well as for players who played previous Bioware RPGs will not be lost in terms of handling the character generation, the missions, or the details of the combat system, since the recipe – only the outer layer, as everything is now in 3D visuals.
Character creation for instance reminds me a lot of the third generation Dungeons & Drangons: Three selectable characters, the soldier, the scout, and the scoundrel for instances are the equivalent of the fighter, ranger and rogue from D&D.
At first to be honest the three classes seem pretty thin, but there is really a large difference between starting a male or female character in terms of gameplay: New romantic options open up, and certain missions have extra outcomes.
When ascending to Jedi rank, three further classes can be chosen, depending if we are more of a lightsabre or fore user. The alternative is not that bad since we can use Force Speech to convince a lot of NPCs to help us, and in this game it is as awesome as slaying enemies down with a lightsabre.
Sword vs Light sabre
Of course when a Sith wants to slay you in Darth Maul style or a tusken warrior wants to bash your skull in, the pacifist route does not work. In Kotor combat is as important as in the previous games, and built up as those games. When an enemy NPC is approaching us or we approach a mine for instance, the game stops and allows us to issue different tactical commands, then once completed the commands will play out in real life. Then if we wish to change the commands mid battle, we just need to pause again – this method since Baldur’s Gate has been the most simplest.
New addition in KOTOR is the ability to issue multiple commands in a sequence. So for instance we can issue a character which enemy should they attack / mindfreeze or blast the final enemy with a pistol, or heal our main character if wounded. The commands can be changed / rearranged any time depending on how the events turn out. As constant changes need to be inputted.
Regardless of how tactical is, the game does have its console heritage, and seems to be a mix of PC and Console attributes. Bioware admitted that they’ll try and do their best to balance it out.
This means that the Baldur’s Gate fans will need to start playing the game on harder difficulties or the fights will seem to easy, and it will also mean that the fights will be “dynamic” on higher difficulty.
Almost perfect gem
A few minor issues aside KOTOR definitely feels like a classic that will be mentioned years from now, and is a worthy challenger of the Betrayal at Krondor game, Baldur’s Gate 2 or Morrwind.
The mix between a quality story, and detailed RPG elements is well done, and this is a rare achievement in an RPG game.
-Bad Sector- (2003)
+ Great Story, with well-done characters
+ Conversations are smartly written, selectable options
+ Választható párbeszédek
– Fighting is a bit too easz
– Story starts slowly
– Sometimes a bit naive