Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic Review

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) takes place long before the events depicted in the movie, 4,000 years prior to the movies to be exact.  When they said "Old Republic" they weren't kidding!  Setting the game 4,000 years before the events in Episode 1 has given the game's designers a lot of freedom in developing the game's storyline.  Jedi, Sith, Wookies, and Tatooine are familiar people and places to Star Wars fans that all appear in the game, but at the same time you'll encounter new races and planets that add a novel element to a very familiar universe.  The storyline is also unfettered by the need to support the plotlines of the films, creating an entirely new chapter in the Star Wars saga that fans of the movies are sure to enjoy.

Dark and light Jedis square off.

The game takes place at a time when the Sith have legions of warriors at their disposal and are battling the Republic for control of the galaxy.  It is the height of the war and the Sith are flexing their muscle and giving the Republic a real run for its money.  This is where you enter the game, assigned to a Republic ship assigned to the fleet protecting the planet Taris.  The battle goes very badly for the Republic, and before you know it you're on an escape pod headed to a world overrun by the Sith.  This is where your adventures begin - a fugitive on a world quarantined by the Sith that you must somehow escape from so that you can save the Republic.  Or not.  The game gives you a great degree of freedom in choosing the light or dark path, and you can just as easily help the Sith realize their dreams.

KOTOR was developed by BioWare, a company with a strong pedigree in PC RPG development.  As a result, KOTOR resembles a PC RPG far more than a typical console RPG.  Think Dungeons & Dragons meets Star Wars and you'll get the idea.  What does this mean to you?  Well if you enjoy RPGs you'll be in nirvana, but if you are looking for a Star Wars action game you may be disappointed at the game's heavy RPG elements and lack of true action gameplay.

Like most RPGs, you begin the game by selecting from one of three character classes: scoundrel, scout, and soldier.  A scoundrel, ala Han Solo, quickly gains skills such as stealth, demolitions, and computer use when gaining levels.  A soldier is combat-oriented, and quickly gains feats, special combat-oriented skills related to weapons and armor types.  The scout class is a balanced version of the other two classes.  There is no Jedi or Sith class at the start of the game, these are class distinctions that you'll have to earn for yourself while playing the game.  After selecting a class and creating a look for your character, you can spend points to improve your characters base attributes.  The attributes are straight out of Dungeons & Dragons, strength, dexterity, constitution, wisdom, intelligence, and charisma.  Next you customize your starting skills and feats and then you are on your way.

Your character is controlled from a third person perspective and you have full control over his/her movements in the 3D environments.  When you pass a person or object with which you can interact, the game highlights the person or object with a target reticule and lists the available actions.  You can also use the triggers to cycle through all of the people and interactive objects in the immediate area.  It's a good system that prevents you from having to approach every object that you see and attempting to open it, break it, use it, or whatever.  It also demonstrates the point that the game is a traditional RPG - even though you control your character's movements you must issue orders to initiate all interactions and events.