Review by Wild Ali

"Not perfect, but close enough"

Bioware Corp, as a company, rose from relative obscurity (Shattered Steel) to a highly-respected name in the CRPG scene with the release of one little game: Baldur's Gate.

This game was to show the entirety of the PC psyche that RPG's didn't have to be pseudo-3D corridor crawls to be successful. That the modern RPG didn't have to rely almost entirely on leveling up and archaic stats to bring in profits.

Baldur's Gate 2 introduced party interactions and engaging combat with a believable bad guy. Voice acting also had a heavy role that time around.

So, you're asking yourself: Why is any of the above stuff important for a review of a Star Wars game? Because this game takes most of what Bioware learned in the past, and nearly perfected it. That my friends, is worthy of recognition. KOTOR breaks a lot of the conventional CRPG rules, much like BG and BG2 did before it. And after clocking in nearly 50 hours on this game, I feel that I can offer a honest opinion. So here goes.

Graphics: 9 - This game took full advantage of the X-Box hardware it was designed for, so when it was ported over to the PC a lot of graphical goodness usually reserved for First-Person shooters, was found. As it is today, most CRPG's don't really push the ol' graphics card in your box, so to see a CRPG with the detail of say, Jedi Academy, you can't help but be a little stunned.

This game has volumetric fogging, bump-mapping galore (check out the Hutt in Tatooine...yowza!), and solid pixel shading. Besides Morrowind, which was also a X-box port, no CRPG to date has this level of graphical effects. Any bugs that pertain to graphics in any way have either been troubleshooted or patched away by now.

Fanservice has been included here as well. Take off Bastila's clothes, or put the Bondan Heavy alloy suit on Mission for the best stuff this game has to offer. Nice, eh? And for the ladies, get Carth in his skivvies. Not for me, but I'm sure you'll be...pleased. Eh-hem.

Control: 8 - For all the talk of re-designing the control for the PC, it really isn't all that special. Just your average WASD movement scheme. You also can't re-bind movement to the arrow keys, and the Shift/Enter keys cannot be binded to anything as well.

Ignoring that, you can't point/click the mouse to move your character like in Neverwinter Nights, though obviously the game could support it. I still find myself clicking the ground to move my character, or clicking on Carth to select him, only to initiate conversation.

But the redesigned HUD is something they did get right. I don't really think that they could've done this any better. Still, flaws are here; full mouse control is too awkward to use, and the game sometimes doesn't respond to keypresses for a few seconds, making you have to sometimes click on things twice to activate them.

Now, I'm going to do something that I've never really done in a review before. Usually, I just review ''Sound'' as one big thing, but there are such extremes for this game that the overall deal for sound just won't cut it this time. So therefore, I'll spit the category up into three sections: Music, SFX, and Voice Acting.

Music: 8 - Jeremy Soule has been around the RPG block since the SNES was cutting edge. And he knows his stuff. If Squaresoft hires you, then you know you're damn good. And he delivers here as well. While the track isn't that exceptional, what I ended up really liking about his KOTOR soundtrack is how he doesn't try to emulate John Williams. He creates his own unique pieces which express the same basic themes of longing, brooding, and desperation that the original trilogy's soundtrack did. Personally, I prefer his NWN soundtrack to this, but still as a standalone piece it's good.

SFX: 10 - One of the best things this game's got going, the sound of KOTOR is truly something to behold. It has full 3D support, and doesn't sound too funky with EAX enabled. Nothing else to say on this matter; sfx taken from GL's private archives is really a no-brainer.

Voice Acting: 7 - Now don't get your panties in a bunch; there's a good reason for the lackluster score here. Here's a quick summary to calm you down: While the actual voice acting for characters is some of the best ever created for a PC game, the looping repetitiveness of the alien languages will drive you freaking mad. Allow me to clarify.

When it comes to actual voice-acting, only PC adventure games have this beat. Every voice for every character sounds like it belongs on them. Carth's voice belongs on Carth. Bastila's charming faux-British accent simply belongs on Bastila. And so on. You probably couldn't get more appropriate voices if you tried. This part of the voice acting gets a 10, easily.

But now we come down to the part that nearly destroys the game, believe it or not. No matter what ppl tell you in casual conversation, catch them alone with an important Wookie cutscene, or a male Twilek with 5 minutes of dialogue. Dare him to NOT skip the conversation. Then return here and be enlightened.

That's right. Though it might not have been like this in the X-Box version, still...this is the PC port. And I'm only judging what I've played. Let me just say this. Every alien species you meet in the game seem to have a total of 5 different spoken phrases. Now randomly cycle and loop those same 5 phrases over and over again, for 40 to 60 hours, for EVERY SINGLE ALIEN OF THAT SPECIES YOU MEET. Let's just say that when you replay the game (and you most likely will), you'll be avoiding most alien NPCs. And you'll probably just skip any critical alien's dialog after the first couple of minutes. I'd bet on it.

This is a fairly major flaw that nobody has had the balls to admit, and it's a near game-breaker at that. In fact, I'd say that this flaw is what influenced my 8/10 score. Bioware obviously just cut some corners here with the production, but I'd rather just have a random phrase spoken at the beginning of every alien convo, similar to how Neverwinter Nights did with minor NPCs, than this. That way at least, it doesn't get too repetitive and annoying.

Overall: 8 - Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a solid re-entry into their classic Baldur's Gate style of RPG after the hesitant hit Neverwinter Nights. This game does a lot of things better than its predecessors; but in ways it does not. This game will be winning ''Game of the Year'' awards all over the place, no doubt. It does not deserve this honor. There are simply better games out this year. Beyond Good and Evil, Soul Calibur 2, and Call of Duty are examples. However, to the many ''RPG of the Year'' awards that it will definitely win, it deserves every one of them. This is a sort of semi-triumph for all the Bioware fans out there, asking for Baldur's Gate 3. You got your D20 role-playing system, you got the party combat, the formations, the auto-pause, the ''You must gather your party...'', the romances and inter-party squabbles of BG2 here, just done better.

So is this a sort of ''unofficial'' sequel to the Baldur's Gate series? I'd say that's a yes...and a no.

And that's a good thing, I'll bet.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/05/03

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