For years on end some of my friends, who are also authors here at Mana Pool, have been bugging me to play Knights of the Old Republic. One friend in particular was extremely persistent – so when another of my friends gifted the game to me on Steam I finally caved in and gave it a shot. Since then I’ve played absolutely nothing but Knights of the Old Republic. This game isn’t the newest but it doesn’t just stand up against most recent RPGs: it beats most of them without breaking a sweat.
The story of this game takes place 4,000 years before the rise of the Galactic Empire in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Darth Revan’s former apprentice, Darth Malak, has the Republic on the defensive, unleashing a Sith armada on the universe. “A pretty standard Star Wars story”, I hear you think. Well, not quite – but I can’t get too deeply into the story without spoiling it. And the story is one of the reasons why Knights of the Old Republic is such a good game – it manages to surprise you a couple of times , and really makes you crave more.
The game starts with the player being rudely disrupted from his/her sleep aboard a Republic ship by a republic soldier. He explains that the ship is under attack by Darth Malak’s forces, and the story develops quite rapidly from there. The opening scenes onboard of the ship serve as a tutorial, explaining some of the basic game mechanics while setting the tone of the story at the same time. You discover that a female Jedi with formidable powers, Bastila, is in command of the ship you are on and that she is critical to the Republic war effort due to her Battle Meditation skill. Before long, events take a turn for the worse and you are forced to escape from the ship in an escape pod. Down on the planet things start properly, and you will meet quite a few of the NPCs there.
Knights of the Old Republic is controlled a little differently from most of the RPGs BioWare produced around that time. First, you control your character directly through AWSD – which gives you a far more immersive feeling. Second, combat is much more action orientated, with the ability to queue a few attacks and spells. You can choose to auto-pause the game if various events happen – so those among us who prefer more turn-based combat are considered as well. Alternatively you can play completely real-time which makes the game a little more challenging but makes for spectacular combat.
The game follows a fairly standard RPG system with 6 attributes, skills including security, persuasion etc and a number of feats and powers. All together you can really customise your character in a number of ways which enables you to play the game a second time and experience it quite differently. Add the dark/light side ‘alignment’ system to that and you really HAVE to play the game twice to experience everything. At the beginning of the game you choose between 3 ‘normal’ classes – but later in the game you get access to the much desired Jedi classes. This is a minor spoiler, but it will be obvious from ANY trailer, screenshot or box art that you are able to play a Jedi/Sith in Knights of the Old Republic. The joy is in finding out how and why that happens.
The force powers available to Jedi classes follow the classical Star Wars theme. So you can expect force push, speed buffs and force lightning, and other cool powers for Dark side characters. The Jedi class of your choice determines the availability of some of these powers; a Consular doesn’t have force jump, as example. The Jedi powers are incredibly powerful – to the point of being a little overkill later in the game. In one of the later areas my character was killing wave after wave of enemies on his own – which does a good job at making you feel very powerful. (The final encounter of the game will take that feeling away pretty quickly.)
Each character has 9 equipment slots, which allows for a sufficient level of customisation. There’s quite a lot of different equipment to obtain in the game, with a nice balance between decent gear on specific vendors and as reward for completing certain areas of the game.
Different types of character are able to use different types of equipment so again there is a lot of variety there. Your companions also have a wide mix of different equipment and slots at their disposal. That said, I found that in most cases melee is far stronger than ranged weaponry. (A wookie dual-wielding 2 vibroblades is an incredibly destructive force – trust me.)
This is one aspect where Knights of the Old Republic really stood out for me. In many BioWare RPGs I don’t really care all that much for most of the NPC’s. In KotoR, most NPC’s have a pretty interesting background and their story is just as interesting as the main quest. The available companions comprise of a very varied group with completely different backgrounds – and anyone should be able to find a few of their liking. Ranging from a Republic Soldier with emotional issues to several Jedi to utility and combat droids, it really is an interesting group.
If you don’t want to know anything about the available companions – please skip to the next section right now!
The companions that will become available to the player include;
- Republic veteran Carth Onasi, a soldier type character with emotional issues. I personally found him a little annoying and couldn’t stand his whining. Still, his background story integrates pretty well with the main storyline and he’s fairly interesting if you ignore his moaning.
- Twi’lek Mission Vao and her Wookie companion Zaalbar. I never found Mission all that interesting – she’s pretty much the teenager of the companions. But Zaalbar is -awesome- and one of the most powerful characters available in the game. He can easily match and in some cases outclass the main character if you spec him properly. He also has a great background story which gives a nice insight in Wookie culture.
- Jedi Bastila Shan – integral to the main storyline and a companion I would stick in my party at every opportunity. Her background story is very closely tied to that of the main character, which automatically makes her one of the most interesting characters in the entire game. She becomes pretty powerful with her dual-bladed lightsaber, which looks great in combat.
- Assassination Droid HK-47. Probably one of the most awesome characters in the game, especially if you play Dark Side. This guy is absolutely hilarious at times and has a great backstory to top it off. “Can I kill him now master?”.
- Jedi Jolee Bindo - a ‘gray’ or neutral Jedi. I didn’t find him all that interesting, even a little annoying. Unfortunately there was no option not to take him along, or I would have. I have to admit I was disappointed when a certain area of the game forced me to use him in combat – he didn’t even have gear up to that point.
- Utility droid T3-M4. I have a weak spot for this little guy, even though he obviously doesn’t have a real background story – as he doesn’t speak. I used him a lot in my light side playthrough – and equipped him with heavy droid armor and dual blasters. He actually packs quite a punch with some stun rays and a flamethrower and it gives an R2D2 style feeling having him around.
- Mandalorian Merc Canderous Ordo. I am sure some people will find this guy pretty interesting but he didn’t do it for me. I wanted to kill him but couldn’t find an option – pity. Your typical “I have muscle” character, not the most inspired of the lot.
- And then there is the Jedi Juhani. She joins you if she isn’t killed during the encounter. She most closely resembles a Sith from all Jedi but I am not sure if I would ever take her in my party – given how good some of the other options are. Still, she’s more interesting than Jolee.
Graphics & Audio
The graphics in Knights of the Old Republic are obviously a little bit dated when compared to more recent games. Nevertheless, they still do a great job and they really feel authentic all the way through. BioWare have done an amazing job in creating an immersive setting for this game – and you will feel part of the Star Wars universe the entire game. The player visits many different locations throughout the game – including Taris, Tatooine, Dantooine, Kashyyyk, Korriban, Manaan, Rakata Prime and several star ships. Each of these locations have an entirely unique look and feel to them and there wasn’t a single point where I felt my immersion was broken due to an inaccurate representation of one of the more iconic planets.
The audio in Knights of the Old Republic is fantastic, which isn’t unexpected since LucasArts themselves worked on the audio. They used a cast of around a hundred voice actors recording fifteen thousand lines of speech for over three hundred characters in the game – and you will really notice this when playing the game. The music is of the expected Star Wars quality and can at times be extremely epic.
If you have not played Knights of the Old Republic yet – you really owe it to yourself to grab a copy and give it a go. You don’t need to be a Star Wars fan to enjoy this game, the story stands alone from the movies and other material and the background is explained pretty well throughout the game. You can play this game without ANY prior knowledge of Star Wars and still have a great time. For those people who do like Star Wars; this is probably one of the greatest Star Wars games ever made.
You can purchase this game for £6.99 on Steam or under a tenner on Amazon. Depending on how thoroughly you go through an RPG, you can expect a playthrough to last 45-60 hours. You will enjoy this game at least twice (Light side and Dark side) so you should get roughly 100 hours of great gameplay out of your money. If that isn’t value for money, I don’t know what is – go play it already!