Review by wonkots42

"Somebody call Pest Control - we've got bugs."

The force is strong with this one...

Well, I figured I'd get the cliches out of the way right at the start. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (henceforth referred to as KotOR) is an extremely impressive game, and it's one that I've been looking forward to since, oh, the nanosecond I heard about it. This is the game that will remind you how great Star Wars should be. Everything that makes Star Wars the best is in this game. Alas, there's something else in KotOR - a serious bug problem.

KotOR is a single-player offline RPG, set some 4000 years before the time of the movie prequels. The Republic is embroiled in a war with the Sith, headed by a fallen Jedi named Darth Malak. The Republic's only hope is a young Jedi named Bastila who has a very rare ability which can turn the tide of battles.

KotOR's story is by far the best thing about it. The narrative flows perfectly. Subtle hints are dropped for you to ponder over but the twist, when it comes, is entirely unexpected. Throughout the game you will meet and interact with hundreds of characters, many of whom will give give you side quests to explore. Some of these characters will join your party. The characters in your party interact not only with you but with each other - usually with hilarious results.

Every single character in KotOR is believable. What's more they feel real. Part of the reason for this lies in the truly excellent voice acting. However, in my opinion, Carth's voice actor is a bit sub-standard. Any aliens you meet will also be voiced in the appropriate language with English subtitles. This goes a long way to add to the realism of the game, even though there are a limited number of alien sounds available. It can become annoying when you hear a certain alien sentence for the 500th time, meaning 500 different things.

KotOR's graphics are also way above average. Every environment is sublimely detailed: the sands of Tattoine; the forests of Kasshyk; the waters of Manaan; the pastures of Dantoine and the barren wastes of Korriban. Every detail is perfect.

But how does it play? I hear you ask. Well, I can't actually hear you but I'll just assume that's what you're asking. At any point in the game you will likely have a number of objectives to fulfil. The fun part is that you will also have a number of different ways to complete these objectives. It's not always as simple as a 'dark side' or 'light side' choice, although your actions will affect your alignment. Killing people and animals for no reason will get you Dark Side points, as will threatening people or...'convincing' them to part with money. Going out of the way to help people will gain you Light Side points. In KotOR, as in life, the Dark Side is the easier path. In return for following it however, your player skin becomes more and more hideous and ugly. Unfortunately, this doesn't affect how people react to you. I would have preferred it if there were some real consequences to following the dark or light paths - perhaps some alignment sensitive side quests. Still, the gameplay is good enough as it is.

KotOR is an absorbing game. From the well-drawn (in more ways than one) characters, to the deep and involving story, to the lush environments. I'm tempted to say it's near-perfect. But I won't because we've come to the real stumbling block - the bugs.

I won't list my PC specs but trust me when I say they are good. I can reasonably expect to be able to play this game well, at a decent resolution and a decent framerate. Upon installing the game (a feat that required no less than 4Gb of hard drive space) I immediately updated it with the 1.01 patch and updated my Radeon's drivers to Catalyst 3.10.

So far so good, eh? Not ten minutes into my first game I got a fatal freeze that required a reboot. I hadn't yet saved the game so this led to me having to create a character all over again. Well, I didn't mind that so much and just started saving often. And it was lucky I did - this game crashes on my PC with depressing regularity. Sometimes they're just crash to desktops. Occasionally they are worse and I have to reboot. It really interrupts the flow of the game if you have to stop every thirty seconds to save for fear the game will crash and wipe out all the work you've just done. I've beaten the game several times now - it was so good I didn't even mind putting up with the random and unpredictable crashes. To be honest though, it's become too much effort to play it now. And that is a real shame because KotOR the game is as close to perfection as you can get. Too bad KotOR the piece of computer software is buggier than an anthill with a bad case of termites.

But I stand by my previous statement...the force is strong with this one (Okay, I've decided to have cliches at the end too.) Buy it. Love it. Pray for a new patch.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/20/04

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