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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox) artwork

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox) review

"Oh RPGs, where art thou! Screamed the fair Xbox. "

Oh RPGs, where art thou! Screamed the fair Xbox.
Hey now baby, said Halo, along with many other action games. You got us baby, you don't need any RPGs!
It's not the same, the fair Xbox said, trying to hide her tears. I can't be just seeing action games all the time. I need some RPGs in my life! Don't even talk about Morrowind. I need more than Morrowind! The Xbox began to cry even more, watching the PS2 walk by, with all those hunky RPGs. She kept crying, wondering why she couldn't get a really good RPG.

This was how the situation was (slightly exaggerated) for the Xbox. For some reason, RPG gamers on the Xbox got the short end of the stick. Maybe because developers figured that it was all action gamers on the Xbox with Halo on it. It also could be because they figured every RPG gamer owned a PS2, with the Final Fantasy games on it. Stereotypes aside, another RPG has finally made its way to the Xbox, and it is very good.

What makes it good is it's snappy battle system, among other things. It is basically real-time, and you give commands as you go. While a lot of times, you can just let your characters attack on their own to win battles, the tougher ones require some thinking. You may want to go in the middle of a big group of enemies, and use a special force power. If you are getting owned, you may want to run into an alleyway to give yourself time to heal. There are endless possibilities to every battle. Each battle also goes pretty quick, most not taking more than 20 seconds. This makes it so the battles don't break up the incredibly storyline of the game. The fights are also brought together by some incredible graphics. You will feel like you are watching a Star Wars movie with some of the sword, and lightsaber fights. It just makes for a very exciting experience.

Star Wars: KOTOR also has some of the best exploration, and talking systems ever in a game. The cities, and environments are a joy to explore. Partially because of the beautiful graphics, and because of how varied in environments each planet is. Planets are also fun to explore because of the many interesting people that reside on each one. As you explore cities, you will come across people who either just say one thing to you, or the many people in the game you can have long conversations with. Conversations are even more fun than battling, as you have so many different options in each conversation, and depending on what you say, there are many different possibilities!

It's not just conversations that have many possibilities though. The story too is filled with variety, twists, and a couple different endings. The story documents the Sith War. It has a weak beginning, with a ship being blown up, and then two survivors getting on an escape pod, and escaping to the nearby planet of Taris. You are one of these survivors, and your goal is to save a Jedi named Bastila, who is key to the war effort. Basically a weird mix of Halo and Super Mario games, with a ship being blown up right away, and saving a ''princess'' type.

As the story progresses though, it gets more and more interesting. It goes from ''saving'' the jedi in distress, to having to turn the tide of the war (and saving the world from those evil bastards) against the Sith. What is so great about that though? Almost every game has you saving the world, and a lot of Star Wars stories have the Jedi fighting the Sith. What could possibly be good about a story like this?

The answer is in the little sub-plots throughout the game. You visit several planets throughout the game. Each one has their own little problem. The case is usually, in order to get what you want (Star maps) you must solve that planet's problem, or do something else. Either way, not only do you have several options for what to do every planet, but also each one is equally exciting. For example, at one point you must go to the Sith planet of Korriban. You must pass yourself off as someone wanting to learn the dark side, and then find the star map by passing the final test of the dark jedi. As if sneaking into a Sith base wasn't cool enough you also have the option to, kill every last Sith Student at the end! You also have the option to be boring, and just get what you need, and leave if you want as well. This is just a small example of the many choices you'll be facing in the game.

While there are many choices, the game doesn't ever become too non-linear, to the point where you won't know what to do next. Bioware did a good job of making sure there was always a main goal, but lots and lots of diversions are always available. The diversions include numerous side quests. While there are a lot of ''go fetch this dog'' type of side quests, these are usually filled with some exciting battles that make up for it. There are a few gems of side quests though, like one on Tatooine where you must try and fix the programming on a bunch of droids who are surrounding a guy. If you mess up with two robots, and they explode, the guy dies. This means no reward.

The other diversions are the mini-games. They included three, swoop racing, turret shooting, and Pazaak. Turret shooting happens like episode four of Star Wars. As your ship is flying, ships come out! You man the turrets, and take them down. Then there is Pazaak, which is basically a version of blackjack, with collectable cards. These two mini-games end up being pretty weak. The turret shooting only slows you down from getting to the next planet you are traveling to. Pazaak ends up being very cheap, as the computer always seems to get perfect draws. The one saving mini-game is swoop racing. All it is, is holding down A, while avoiding obstacles, and hitting boosters, but it ends up being quite enthralling.

That's not all that is enthralling though. The games character development is also very interesting, and everyone in the game just seems like a real person. There isn't anyone that seems exaggerated, or unrealistic like Squall and Cloud from Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII. The game also doesn't burden you with having to go through watching character development like so many other RPGs. If you hate Carth and don't really care about his petty problems then you don't have to talk to him. Character development is completely optional, if you want to learn more about a party member you can talk to them. Otherwise you can completely ignore characters if you wish.

While all this stuff is great, one of the most interesting parts of this game is the dark, and light side system. As you progress through the game, and make decisions like killing every single person in the Sith academy perhaps. This gives you dark side points. If you are on the dark side you can learn powerful dark side force powers. If you are on the light side you can learn very powerful light side force powers. It's simple. The system also does a good job of faithfully creating this system to what is dark, and light side in the movies and books.

As previously stated, the graphics also create the essence and drama of the movies. Where they fail though, is in the glitches. Like the other big RPG on the Xbox (Morrowind) the game is filled with annoying glitches. There is some slowdown, sometimes characters load without a body part or two, and others. There are also some huge glitches that make it so you may have to restart from your last save, and others that freeze your game.

This doesn't take away from the strong gameplay, and story though. The best part of all is there is a good amount of time to enjoy this gameplay and story. The game takes around 30-50 hours depending on what you do. Of course, you'll want to replay it right away to see what happens if you take the opposite path of the force, from what you did your first time. You also may want to replay just to try out all the different ways to customize your character.

At the very start you get to pick between three classes, scout, soldier, and scoundrel. You also get to pick your sex. Depending on what class you pick, your gameplay experience will be considerably different each time. There are also some differences in conversations when you decide between being a male or female. You also get to pick specific abilities, and force powers for your players as you go on. Depending on how you customize your character, everything is different. This adds a lot of depth, and replay value to KOTOR.

Strong gameplay, strong story, lots of replay value. Take that, put a few glitches in there, and you have what could have been a nearly perfect game. The glitches don't even come close to taking away from the rest of the game, and it is easily one of the ''must own'' games on the Xbox.

icehawk's avatar
Community review by icehawk (January 17, 2004)

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