Review by rcholbert

"The Force is strong in this one..."

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a RPG developed by BioWare, of Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights fame. I originally purchased this game for the Xbox, but the promise of new content turned me away from the dark side and back into the light...

Storyline: 10/10

It's very rare indeed in this day and age to think that a RPG could feature an original storyline, yet alone when it is based upon a movie license. Yet somehow, Knights of the Old Republic has, and in doing so also presented me with the best plot twist I've ever seen. I won't go into to details, but the game takes place 4,000 years before the time of the Old Trilogy of Star Wars movies. The Republic, already weakened from two massive wars over the past four decades, finds itself in a conflict against a new Sith armada - one composed mainly of it's former soldiers. Their leaders? The former heroes of their last war, Revan and Malak... now Sith Lords.

The storyline is obviously influenced by the movies, but even more so by the so-called ''Extended Universe'' of Star Wars novels and games. You'll visit some places only whispered of in the movies, but you'll also find yourself on
such familiar locales as Tatooine.

The best part of the storyline is that you have choices. Almost every NPC can be spoken to in any number of ways, varying from polite, to neutral, to rude. Be good, be evil or just be! It even affects gameplay area and the ending depending on what side of the force you choose to follow.

Graphics: 9/10

It's rare for a PC RPG to come to such high a level graphically. It's right up there with Morrowind, another Xbox/PC release. Depending on your system, the graphic quality could be pushed ever further by anti-aliasing and the like. My only complaints are some areas look to plain on the interior of buildings, and that roughly every fifth NPC or so will look like long-lost twins. What's even scarier is that there were even LESS NPC textures on the Xbox version. Sometimes during a conversation they characters talking might look like they're dead due the mouth movement. Besides this, everything is beautiful - check out the grass swaying on Dantooine to see what I'm talking about.

Sound: 10/10

The actual music of the game is ho-hum, but very fitting. You won't be whistling these tunes while you're at work or anything but they all work very well to develop the mood. Some pieces seem to emulate the sounds of the movies, but most are original and fresh.

Sound effects, as with all games with access to the Lucas library, are wonderful.

Where Knights of the Old Republic truly shines is in voice acting. Not many games can say that, especially RPG's. Every line is spoken out, except for your character's. While some of the voices are a little overused, and a lot have British accents (Britain was formerly known as Coruscant I guess), most are very well done. There are even some decently known actors in the game, such as Ed Asner or Frank Welker (Megatron!). About the only downfall most people seem to have with the voice acting in on the alien NPC's. Each will talk in their native tongue with subtitles on the screen. Yes, there are only a small handful of clips for each race but c'mon, you can't understand what they're saying anyway!

Gameplay: 9/10

Looking from a distance, you may think this is an action game, but upon closer inspection it's a d20 rules inspired battle system, complete with behind the scenes dice rolls an such. Battles are very fluid and not too long, and a variety of feats and force powers are available to keep your on your toes. Unlike a lot of RPG's, the dungeons aren't boring and there are many ways to tackle them, whether it be by force or by skill. You can hack security systems to turn them off, or better yet, turn them on their own masters!

While the game is for the most part linear, you are free to wander off and complete on the several side quests that are present on each of the game's planets. Some are uneventful and pointless, some dramatically help with character development, but all are wonderfully done and truly add to the game's environment. There are even some mini games, from a blackjack-esque card game called Pazaak, to racing swoop bikes, to firing at ships from a gun turret on the Ebon Hawk, your mode of transportation across the star systems. If I had to sum up the the game, I'd just say it delivers on the Star Wars experience.

Replay Value: 9/10

Between the many available side quests and mini games, the character creation process and the choice of being good or evil, chances are you'll play this game or parts of the game more than once just to see the different way the game, and the ending, unfold.

Final Thoughts:

As great a game as this is, be warned - there are numerous issues with hardware compatibility, especially from ATI card owners and Intel 845/850 chipset users. A beta patch has been issued to address some of the problems, but there are some people who apparently cannot even play the game yet. I had an issue with movies not playing - I ended up have to play the game with a lower monitor frequency to match the movies. BioWare is aware of most issues and a lot should be resolved by the 1.01 patch.

Reviewers Specifications:
Soyo KT400 Dragon Ultra Black Edition Motherboard
AMD Athlon 2800+ Barton @ 2.08 GHZ
1024 MB PC2700 PNY DDRAM
ATI Radeon Pro 9800 128MB 8X AGP
120 GB 7200 RPM Hitachi HD/80 GB 7200 RPM HD by Maxtor
Creative Sound Blaster Audigy Gamer
Antec Smart Series 400w Power Supply and Chassis Fan
A 140 IQ compatible brain...

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/06/03

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