Review by doctari
"OK, but no match for Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale"
''Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic'' (KOTOR from now on) is the first true RPG based on the Star Wars Universe, and finally a new installment in the excellent series of RPGs produced by Bioware (Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights).
And while it's mostly a very well-done game with high production values and solid gameplay, it's by no means the epic it's billed to be.
The gameplay in KOTOR is mostly standard RPG fare, which means that it's a fairly good mix of combat, roleplaying/exploration, and puzzles. Each aspect again is fairly well done, but neither goes especially deep.
The roleplaying is fairly solid: there are many quests to undertake, and most avoid the standard ''fetch this, kill that'' archetype. Nearly always, there are several ways to complete your assignments, and you usually have a wide range of dialog options, which often include chances to bluff, lie or persuade. On the down side, it's a shame that, with only a couple of exceptions, the ''good'' and ''evil'' options are blatantly obvious.
The combat, which features some impressive animations, appears to be in real-time but is instead based almost completely on behind-the-scenes statistics and dice-rolling instead of manual dexterity. It more or less feels like ''Neverwinter Nights with Lightsabers''. It's a system
that works fine, but on the whole it doesn't go overly deep, and I often found myself longing for the complexity of the Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale series. I also found most of the combat to be rather easy, even on the ''difficult'' setting. Usually, only the bosses put up a decent fight.
Perhaps the weakest part of the gameplay are the puzzles. It's nice that they're there, but most of them are incredibly simplistic, usually involving only some very simple arithmetic or some switch flipping, and many of the puzzles are very well-known from the real world. I did enjoy the options to hack into computer systems and reprogram damaged droids, though.
The main story, although it has some nice twists and initially a great feeling of mystery, felt a bit disappointing in the end, which is again somewhat of an anticlimax.
However, it's all the little stories that make KOTOR interesting. Over the course of the game, nine different beings join your crew, and each of them has a very elaborate background story. Also, party members will often engage in highly amusing discussions with each other. Uncovering all these little stories and discussions is great fun, especially since the dialog is universally well-written and very evocative.
Graphics/Sound : 9 (Graphics: 8, Sound: 9)
KOTOR is in full 3D, and for the most part it looks great. Characters move fluently, lip-synching is excellent, there are some lighting effects and lens flares etc. Combat in particular looks very spectacular, with blaster bolts flying everywhere and characters performing somersaults, roundhouse kicks etc. However, the game can have some serious performance issues and often slows down to a crawl, especially in the earlier worlds.
Sound is nearly perfect. The music is very nice, the sound effects are good, but what makes KOTOR really stand out is the voice acting. Every single line of dialog is spoken, often even in alien languages, and the entire voice cast does a superb job.
This is one of the more disappointing aspects of the game. In spite of claims by official reviewers that this game takes around 40 hours to complete, I got through it in around 25 hours. The game might be good enough to replay once since most quests can be solved in multiple ways, but many things will still play out the same, regardless of your choices, and overall there just isn't enough depth to warrant multiple replays.
KOTOR is a very fine game that is great fun for as long as it lasts, but ultimately it's too shallow and easy to have any lasting value like Baldur's Gate 2 or Icewind Dale 2.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/03/04
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