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  Review: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
On 08/25/03 by James 'Sweetjimmy' Long

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: LucasArts
Release Date: 07/17/03
ESRB: "T" for Teen
Official Site: http://www.lucasarts.com/products/swkotor/
Platform(s): Xbox

:: Introduction
:: xbox ::A long time ago, in a country just a bit north of my own, STAR WARS!!! After waiting? and waiting? and waiting some more, Bioware finally released its latest and greatest for Microsoft's lucky black box. In the last month that it's been available, Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) has become widely recognized as one of the best games available for the Xbox. Unless you live under a rock (or in Nebraska), you've probably heard at least something about how incredible KOTOR is.

So why am I writing this? I figured I shouldn't be left off of the 'Let's kiss Bioware's backside' bandwagon, and trust me: these Canadians deserve some voracious ass-kissing action. That, and I will do whatever it takes to convince the last 3 Xbox owners who haven't already bought this title that they should pick it up immediately.

For the sake of tradition, I'll give you the standard rundown. KOTOR is a 3rd person perspective Role Playing Game. Most of the system Bioware uses will remind D&D dorks (that's me) of 3rd edition rules. If you've played Neverwinter Nights at all, there are a number of striking resemblances.

:: Character Creation
:: xbox ::First off, you choose what kind of a character you want. You can be female or male, and as far as character classifications go, you have the option of being a soldier (similar to a fighter), a scoundrel (basically, a rogue), or a Scout (D&D translation: ranger). After this step, you go through and choose skills, abilities, and feats. You'll also want to choose a name; you can create one yourself or use the random name generator that is included (I opted for the ever-amusing "Buster Hyman"). The level of customization you can put into your character is not nearly as good as games like Neverwinter or Baldur's Gate, but it is still quite respectable? especially for a console game.

Through out the game, you'll be assigned tasks and quests from the people you meet as well as from key characters that help keep the story moving forward. While there were always plenty of bounties to collect on, items to recover, and damsels to rescue, I never really felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of side-quests thrown onto me. The included Journal system helps you to keep all the names straight, at least. (Note: I've already started playing through it for the second time and I'm noticing more quests that I missed the first time around)

:: This party ROCKS.
:: xbox ::Unlike Bioware's last big release, Neverwinter Nights, KOTOR lets you use a party if you want --and I'd highly recommend it. You can go out by yourself, but let me tell you: there is nothing that is worse for a Jedi's self esteem than being waylaid by a stick-wielding sand person.

The characters that make up your pool of selectable party members all have certain strengths and weaknesses. They all also have their own backgrounds and personalities. Some of them will really get on your nerves while others have very interesting stories to tell. If you talk to them enough, you will also open up side quests that deal with these characters past problems or stories. This 'party pool' consists of: 3 different Jedi, a Mandelorian (think Bobba Fett), a Republic soldier, a Twei'lek (the aliens with tubes on their heads) scoundrel, a Wookie, an assassin droid (who kindly refers to you as a 'meat bag'), and an Artoo-Deeto-ish droid.

:: Combat
:: xbox ::The best part of the game, as far as I'm concerned, is definitely the combat. While the fighting is not under your direct control, it is up to you to tell each of your characters who you want them to fight and how you want them to do it. This game is not like Jedi Outcast where you are able to swing your saber at the push of a button. At the beginning of combat you just tell your Jedi whom you want pushing up daisies and the Jedi takes care of the rest. While this probably sounds lame in theory, you'll think differently after trying it. All of your attacks, successful or not, are dictated by the roll of the virtual dice. The higher your character's level is the better the odds of hitting your enemies and the better your odds of not getting hit.

The micromanagement involved in this combat system is very entertaining. The number of strategies you can employ are nigh limitless. When combat begins, the game automatically pauses and here you're able to cycle through each of your characters, stacking commands up for each one of them. For example, let's say I'm attacked by 3 dark Jedi, what would I do?

:: Sweetjimmy's overly-descriptive KOTOR combat example
:: xbox ::First off, I'd take good old Buster Hyman and force lighting all 3 dark Jedi (as long as they are close enough together). The beautiful thing here, though, is I can continue to give him up to 4 more commands to carry out before I un-pause the game. So, after he fries the bad-guys, I'll have him do a force choke on the middle bad-guy, and lastly, I'll just give him an attack command pointed at the same unfortunate bastard. Next up, I'll cycle over to Bastila (one of the other Jedi that travels with me) and I'll command her to first throw her saber at the guy on the right and then attack him with 2 flurry attacks. The game is still paused, mind you! Lastly, I'll cycle over to Canderous (one badass Mandelorian) and command him to start off with a flash grenade aimed at the dark Jedi on the left and then I'll have him take a stim pack? let's say he's a little on the injured side? and finally for his third command, I'll tell him to do a burst attack at the guy he just 'naded.

So, then all I have to do is un-pause the game and the three characters carry out the assigned tasks (and hopefully they don't end up getting molested like a pack of cub scouts on a field trip to the Vatican).

:: The Story
:: xbox ::I really can't say much about the story without giving away the goods, so I'll merely say that the storyline and writing in KOTOR are better than the last two Star Wars movies combined. Bioware effortlessly paints a beautiful picture of the universe Star Wars takes place in. The planets they bring are both believable and true to George Lucas' original creation. KOTOR does take place 4000 years before Episode 1 of the Star Wars series of movies takes place. In this time setting, Jedi are numerous and the Republic is just getting off of its feet. Despite the 4000-year difference, almost everything in this game looks like it could easily belong in a Star Wars movie. Well? maybe except for KOTOR's Mandelorian Helmets, they look misshapen and gay.

:: A Blurb on Graphics
:: xbox ::The only portion of KOTOR that draws heat is its graphics. Honestly, I've never heard more deliberation over a game's graphics than what KOTOR has earned from its critics. I've heard people say that KOTOR looks better than Halo and I've heard people say that KOTOR looks like a Playstation-1 game.

What do I think? Frame-rate is an issue with this game. Hopefully when this hits PC, this issue will be taken care of. In outdoor areas, slowdown is noticeable, especially for the video-vigilant. Luckily, KOTOR does not require twitch skill or quick aim. Otherwise, the dropped frames would be a definite downside to gameplay.

On the other hand, though, KOTOR's environments look excellent. Shiny surfaces abound on water, buildings, and robots. The skies look phenomenal. Character models and animation are both top class. Textures look sharp, for the most part, as do shadows and particle effects. About the only thing I could mark off here is the lack of model diversity. All the men you run into look identical from the neck down (as do the women). Additionally, there are too few different face types.

:: Sounds
:: xbox ::I honestly don't know if John Williams wrote the score to KOTOR. If it is John Williams, he's up to his usual awesomeness. If it's not John Williams, I just paid the KOTOR musical composer one of the best compliments he could probably receive (saying I mistook his work for that of Williams). Little more can be said about the music; it's excellent and it sounds like Star Wars music.

The Sound effects, also, receive an A PLUS PLUS. The snap and hiss of the light sabers are just as accurate as the blaster fire. From the space craft to the ambient sounds, everything here is spot-on-perfect.

Voice acting follows closely behind in this category but does not let us down. All of the party member voices are done wonderfully (and professionally). The alien races all sound exactly like they did in the movies. The Wookies' howling especially impressed me with its accuracy.

:: Replayability
:: xbox ::Well, I've finally defeated this game. After logging 43 hours in a matter of 2.5 weeks, I cut down the biggest bad-ass Sith Lord since Darth Vader. His name is Darth Malak and he made life a living hell for my companions and I. Oh yeah, and he also destroyed entire planets, annihilated Republic fleets, and murdered countless Jedi in cold blood. But who cares about all that stuff?

Am I going to play this game again? You can bet your sweet ass I will. You have to play this game through twice, at least. You see, as you play though the game, you can actually choose to be either evil or good, depending on the actions you take and the decisions you make. As it turns out, many of the quests you go on end up being totally different depending on whether you're good or evil. This, along with the fact that you're definitely going to miss at least a few quests the first time through, gives KOTOR very strong replayability.

:: The Good
  • A good RPG on the Xbox!
  • Excellent music, sound, and voice acting
  • Interesting story
  • Time consuming (~40 hours) and lots of replayability; great value!
  • Live! Downloadable content

    :: The Bad
  • Noticeable frame rate drops
  • Combat is not action-oriented (may be a downer for some)

    :: Who should buy this?
    I recommend KOTOR to anyone who doesn't hate Star Wars and doesn't hate RPG's. It's hard for me to see anyone not liking this game as long as they allow themselves enough time to get through the game's learning curve.

    Overall: 92%
    /
    #1 - Bulldog - 08/25/03 @ 04:09 PM EST
    If I were Jimmy I would name my kid "Wang".
    I just realized that ... then it would be

    Mr. Wang Long ...
    /
    #2 - Aphex242 - 08/25/03 @ 04:51 PM EST
    Why not just go with Richard?
    /
    #3 - sweetjimmy - 08/25/03 @ 05:16 PM EST
    my dad's name is 'wayne'... pretty damned close, really.
    /
    #4 - [SC]MISHRA - 08/25/03 @ 05:31 PM EST
    I honestly know someone named long wang.
    /
    #5 - Anon@208.186.26.98 - 08/25/03 @ 05:38 PM EST
    SweetJimmy writes a monster review. If I were gay, I would pursue him like a 500lb man after a candy bar. Wait, I am gay! SweetyJimmy, look out. There is a ton of man-love headed your way! - T-bone
    /
    /
    #6 - Staggs - 08/25/03 @ 05:53 PM EST
    Unless you live under a rock (or in Nebraska)

    I guess you couldn't use Arkansas....since I have the game!
    /
    Framerates is a big drag on some parts of the game, but other then that I would recommend this over SWG anyday of the week.Last Edited on 08/25/03 @ 05:53 PM EST
    / /
    #7 - Limey - 08/25/03 @ 08:45 PM EST
    (and hopefully they don't end up getting molested like a pack of cub scouts on a field trip to the Vatican).

    / You had a troubled childhood didn't you.
    / /
    #8 - Renegade 2501 - 08/25/03 @ 10:02 PM EST
    /
    KOTOR has sounded very good to me ever since talk of it first started. Unfortunately, I don't have the proper console to play it on. Too bad for me, I suppose, but at least I can dream about it...
    / /
    #9 - Bulldog - 08/25/03 @ 10:15 PM EST
    /
    It will be out on the PC in a while.
    / /
    /
    #10 - Snubber - 08/25/03 @ 11:27 PM EST
    /
    Except "Hyman" is spelled hymen.

    [edit]
    /
    BTW, the review is really good. And no spoilers. Good stuff.

    I loved (and completed) the game. Only problem I had were loading times were a bit high. They aren't *that* terrible all considering, I just hate waiting around doing nothing for 30 seconds.

    Still haven't played it through Dark Side style.

    Who keeps calling me, letting it ring once, then hanging up?

    hmmm.......Last Edited on 08/25/03 @ 11:34 PM EST
    / / /
    #11 - Renegade 2501 - 08/25/03 @ 11:35 PM EST
    Great, PC is even better. :)
    /
    #12 - sweetjimmy - 08/26/03 @ 12:18 AM EST
    thanks for the kind words, guys. I don't mind criticism one bit as long as it's constructive.

    Playing through as a dark jedi is funnier than hell. Your really get to do some totally aweful things to people. It makes me laugh out loud, but I can't help but feel bad for the poor bastards I kill/intimidate/steal from.

    I don't know why but it's a chore for me to play through as evil. After a while it really starts bugging me and I have to take a break.
    /
    #13 - Strahd - 08/26/03 @ 02:00 AM EST
    I don't have that much problem with that, though first time around I prefer to play as I would if it were true. It is the real 'dark side' that gets to me.

    "and hopefully they don't end up getting molested like a pack of cub scouts on a field trip to the Vatican"

    Very funny, although sadly not far from the truth. The catholic church, along with those of many religions, have come along way since they were founded; a long way from the principles they were founded on.

    / I'm not even going to look at this game until it comes out for the pc. Last Edited on 08/26/03 @ 02:02 AM EST
    /
    #14 - Anon@12.225.139.45 - 08/26/03 @ 03:34 AM EST
    Mr. Ton of Man Love, you may want to be careful, Sweetjimmy is known to like to shoot the chubby ground squirrel's over the smaller ones(possibly because there easier targets). If Jimmy talks this highly of the game, it must worth checking out, but I'll have to wait for the PC version(since I am not a sellout....hehe).
  • #15 - Ram - 08/26/03 @ 05:31 AM EST
    Man I want this game. Can't decide whether to get the xbox version or the PC (when it comes out).

    Speaking of SW, has anyone seen the Triumph the comic dog sketch where he bashes the people waiting in l/ stuff, look it up if you get the chance. Hilarious, from the Conan O'brian show.
    /
    /
    #16 - sweetjimmy - 08/26/03 @ 09:36 AM EST
    oh/my HDD. the first time I watched it I was crying from laughing so hard.
    /
    /
    #17 - Anon@68.86.197.25 - 08/26/03 @ 09:39 AM EST
    i /ble>
    /
    / /
    #18 - Anon@24.70.95.203 - 08/26/03 @ 10:06 AM EST
    Pr/ave one problem with it - "I honestly don't know if John Williams wrote the score to KOTOR". Didn't you bother to look in the credits? Page 54 of the manual: "Original Music Composed By Jeremy Soule". =)
    /
    #19 - sweetjimmy - 08/26/03 @ 10:10 AM EST
    /
    19-
    noted. i'll try a little harder at giving props where props are due in the future. thanks!

    / btw, Jeremy Soule can be my daddy any day of the week.
    / /
    / /
    #20 - Anon@66.244.192.46 - 08/26/03 @ 10:17 AM EST
    /
    Thanks for the Great review.

    What the players think of our games means alot to us at Bioware. Ray Muzyka emailed your review around your office.

    Your praise makes the job of writeing games even better, and a review like this just brightes the day even more.

    ------------------------------------------------
    Robert Babiak
    Starwars knights of the old republic.

    Using the Force to code better RPG's
    / /
    #21 - Anon@66.244.192.46 - 08/26/03 @ 10:20 AM EST
    Doh. needed to spell check it...

    ------------------------------------------------
    Robert Babiak
    Starwars knights of the old republic.

    Using the Force to code better RPG's
    /
    /
    #22 - sweetjimmy - 08/26/03 @ 11:32 AM EST
    You are certainly welcome, it's my way of saying "thanks" for an excellent game.

    Oh, and my appologies go out to the Mandelorian helmet designer. I hope he doesn't take my comment perso/26/03 @ 11:39 AM EST
    /
    /lspan="2" bgcolor="#000000" height="1" width="100%"> /="100%" colspan="2" height="7"> // /
    /n="center">
    /
    #23 - Anon@62.254.0.38 - 08/26/03 @ 11:42 AM EST
    as/
    /
    /
    #24 - ve3dsux - 08/27/03 @ 10:50 AM EST
    th/.....thats all I have to say, could not put it down till I beat it. amen about the story being better than either ep I & II, as for the music it reminded me a lot of previous bioware music, espcially NWN.Last Edited on 08/27/03 @ 10:53 AM EST
    /
    /
    #25 - Anon@195.137.30.77 - 08/27/03 @ 12:10 PM EST
    br/ the uk!

    fuckers

    /
    /
    / /
    #26 - nemarsde - 08/27/03 @ 05:37 PM EST
    /
    Brit concuring with that statement. ;) But I'll be getting it on the PC, as opposed to Xbox.

    Anyway, if Bioware's Canadian, can't we get onto the Queen and get her to sort 'em out. Maybe if she gave them a Royal Appointment, they'd have to release games in the UK first?

    Prince Harry must be into CRPGs - maybe he can put in a word for us. (Prince Willy's too busy arsing around in Third World countries.)

    This would be good for Britons, good for the Monarchy. And goddammit, we've got to get the Royal Family hooked on Bioware CRPGs before the Queen commissions The Sims: Corgi Expansion Pack.

    PS: Great review BTW.Last Edited on 08/27/03 @ 05:38 PM EST
    /
    /
    #27 - Anon@134.148.20.33 - 08/27/03 @ 08:12 PM EST
    waiting in australia as well :(

    would you be able to make the corgis hump the queen's leg?
    /
    #28 - nemarsde - 08/28/03 @ 08:43 AM EST
    In reply to #27, I think that'd be an essential feature in The Sims: Corgi Expansion Pack. Humping the Queen's leg would take second pace to shitting in Prince Charlie's vegetable garden, however.
    /
    #29 - Anon@203.87.2.13 - 08/29/03 @ 04:05 AM EST
    bull this is the best game i have ever played including halo!!!!
    /
    #30 - Anon@63.69.20.18 - 08/29/03 @ 05:32 PM EST
    Hey!

    A slightly different question: what if I don't hate Star Wars BUT actually hate Episodes I & II? Will I still like KOTOR?

    El Duderino
    /
    #31 - sweetjimmy - 08/31/03 @ 11:41 PM EST
    30-
    you just described me/.

    :D
    /
    / /r>
    /
    #32 - Anon@208.187.170.68 - 09/02/03 @ 10:21 PM EST
    /ellpadding="1">
    Outstan/na have to pick up the old controller and play the game now. Im tempted to play the Dark Side, hehe.

    / Congrats on your Achievement!
    LOL @ Your Charactor Name
    /
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