Top 100 Games – 92 – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

5 Mar

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Year: 2003
Genre: RPG

Bioware’s efforts to make interaction and conversation an integral part of gameplay have set them apart from other mainstream developers. Their success has led to their acquisition by industry heavyweights EA and seen the Mass Effect franchise gain a huge following. After Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights they set the standard for cinematic storytelling with one of the best uses of a licence in video game history. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic tells a unique story within the expansive universe created by George Lucas, and allows players to follow the now well-known morality paths of good and evil. KOTOR manages to be one of very few games in which the black and white polarisation of choice is actually a positive, thanks to the source material. With users of ‘the force’ being basically Jedi or Sith, a fancy way of saying angelic or demonic, the system fits perfectly and clever use of both a deep conversation system and party-building would pave the way for the ambitious space opera, Mass Effect.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

KOTOR though, is the better game. Role-Playing-Games such as this rely on a dice-rolling element to combat and other interactions which are ultimately useless in Mass Effect, and to a lesser extent, Jade Empire. By giving the player total control over combat, stat building exists only to make battles slightly less of a slog, rather than to aid tactical gameplay. It’s not as deep as some similar games, but the fights are satisfying, as is the ability to customise a character. The most entertaining element being crafting a lightsaber, you can even carry two. The story is interesting, and while a little predictable, captures much of the adventurous spirit of the original movies, with a slightly darker edge. This is an extremely faithful effort, despite having an all-new cast and mostly new locations. The characters are well-voiced, and quite well-written, with homicidal droid HK-47 standing out in particular.

The conversation system is perhaps the most entertaining element of KOTOR. Bioware have become known for their ability to craft interesting interactions and this is where it really took off for them. The formula of KOTOR will be familiar to those who have only played the latest Mass Effect, such is its lasting appeal. Now a feature in most games of this type, the ability to choose responses based on level, morality and simple judgement, and their effect on a situation made KOTOR more interesting than the standard linear RPG. While some may criticise the dialogue for being too obviously good or bad, it plays nicely into the story. The level of choice is just enough to make what is essentially a linear, cinematic experience feel influenced by the player. That alone is a massive achievement, and one Bioware are yet to improve upon.

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