Knights of the Old Republic
|Review by Ugur Sener
Millennia before the Galactic Empire’s reign of terror spread throughout the galaxy, the Republic faced the threat of the Mandalorians. They were incredibly fierce warriors equipped with advanced weaponry. It was a dark time when they descended upon the galaxy. They started with attacks on independent planets outside the Republic’s control. The initial assault went on for twenty years. The Republic chose not to intervene. After all, the hostilities were occurring in areas outside of the government’s domain. Several worlds fell under the strength of the Mandalorian invasion. But that was only the beginning. The warriors eventually turned towards the Republic, managing to take control of planets located on the Outer Rim.
The Republic fleet could not hope to keep up with the Mandalorians. They lost battle after battle as the warriors dominated an ever growing region of the galaxy. The Jedi Council was reluctant to intervene. They believed the greater threat had not been revealed. They refused to take action and enter the battle prematurely. Yet all members of the Jedi order were not about to wait for the Council to finally make a move. The young knights Revan and Malak decided to take matters into their own hands.
Revan proved to be an incredible leader and a brilliant tactician. Other Jedi decided to join the war against the Mandalorians under Revan’s command. The Mandalorians could not hope to keep up with Revan’s tactics. The Jedi knight was always able to outmaneuver the enemy. Utilizing the most cunning strategies, the commander managed to turn the tide of the war. The Republic was victorious, making Revan and Malak legendary heroes.
Yet even during the war, there was something dark and twisted about Revan’s tactics. It went beyond a simple willingness to make sacrifices. Revan would fight a ferocity and passion befitting those who had fallen to the dark side. When the Mandalorians were ultimately defeated, Revan and Malak disappeared. The knights were supposed to be tracking down the remnants of the Mandalorian army. In truth, they had a much different quest. Nobody would hear of the two Jedi knights for some time, with the exception of a few rumors.
When Revan and Malak returned, they had completely changed. They were no longer on the path of light. Both Jedi had been consumed by the dark side of the force. The heroic Revan was now at the head of a massive Sith armada. The Jedi knight had become the dark lord. Barely freed from the Mandalorians, the weakened Republic now faced another huge threat. The very Revan that lead the Republic to victory was now back to invade the galaxy. But how had Revan and Malak created a fleet in such an incredibly short amount of time? What was the power behind the massive army and the seemingly endless supplies?
The Republic army did not have all the answers, but one thing was certain. Revan had to be stopped. There had to be a way to defeat the great tactician. After countless soldiers fell victim to the war, the Jedi came to the rescue once again. A group of highly gifted Jedi knights formed a strike team. Their task was to ambush Revan. Perhaps without their charismatic commander, the Sith army would crumble.
The ambush was only partly successful. Just as the Jedi knights launched their attack, Malak seized the opportunity to betray his master. The legendary Revan had been defeated. But now Malak was in control of the Sith army. Perhaps they were without Revan’s superior strategic skills, but they were still an incredible force, threatening to destroy the entire Republic. Hundreds of Jedi knights had already fallen. How much longer could the Republic hope to survive?
A fierce battle raged in the skies above the city-planet known as Taris. The Endar Spire, a ship belonging to the Republic’s armada was under attack by a sizeable Sith strike force. The Sith soldiers were trying to capture a Jedi knight called Bastila. This young knight had been part of the strike team that attacked Revan. But that was not why the Sith soldiers wanted to capture her. Bastila possessed an incredible force power known as Battle Meditation. When Bastila used her Battle Meditation skill, she could influence entire armies. She could instill confidence within Republic soldiers. She could make the Sith soldiers lose their will to fight. This influence along could easily tip the scales in the Republic’s favor in many battles.
Yet using the power required a great deal of concentration. The attack on the Endar Spire had been too sudden, leaving Bastila no time to use her Battle Meditation. The ship was almost completely overrun by the Sith soldiers. In a matter of minutes, every Republic soldier would either be dead or captured.
You were stationed on the Endar Spire. You had been recently assigned to the ship. And part of your duties included protecting Bastila. When the Sith attack woke you up, you immediately joined one of the other Republic soldiers to find Bastila and make sure she was safe. As you ran through the ships corridors and headed to the bridge, you encountered a number of Sith soldiers. Time was running short. You had to find the Jedi knight quickly and abandon the ship.
When you finally reached the bridge, you realized Bastila was no longer on the ship. Perhaps she had managed to flee to Taris in an escape pod. With Bastila gone, the Sith soldiers had no reason not to destroy the ship. You desperately raced to reach the last remaining escape pod. The famous Republic pilot Carth Onasi joined you as you left the ship and headed for Taris.
It must have been a very rough landing. A couple of days had passed before you came to your senses. You suffered from dreams you could not understand. Who was the woman in your visions? Who was she fighting against? When you finally woke up, Carth Onasi explained that you had managed to safely arrive in Taris. Unfortunately, the entire planet was under Sith control. Martial law had been declared and the planet had been placed under quarantine. No ships could enter or leave the planet unless approved by the Sith army. It was safe to assume the Sith soldiers were still looking for Bastila.
Carth intended to do the exact same thing. He wanted to ensure the safety of the Jedi knight. But there was more to it than that. A resourceful Jedi knight like Bastila could potentially help in escaping the planet. You joined Carth in his search. But you would have to tread very carefully. Taris was swarming with Sith soldiers. You would have to keep a low profile and avoid confrontations as much as possible.
As you left the abandoned apartment that would serve as your base of operations, you knew you were beginning a great journey. Sure, finding Bastila and escaping Taris could aid the Republic war efforts. But there was more at play here. Your nightmares had to have some sort of meaning. Perhaps it was not only luck that got you through the attack on the Endar Spire. Taris was only the beginning.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a truly remarkable role-playing game developed by Bioware and published by LucasArts. Combining an interesting and highly engaging storyline, a host of memorable characters, and very solid game play mechanics, Knights of the Old Republic delivers a great experience from start to finish. The game does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of the Star Wars universe. From the sound effects to the music, from the types of characters that join your party to the non-player characters, everything feels like it belongs to the Star Wars setting. The dichotomy of good and evil is not only effectively presented, but also directly factors into game play in terms of the consequences of your actions. Even if you are not a fan of the Star Wars universe or role-playing games in general, you might still find a lot to enjoy in this game.
Knights of the Old Republic is played from a third person perspective. The PC version of the game ships on four CD’s. The game can be controlled with a combination of the mouse and the keyboard. You can use the keyboard to move your character across the screen. Holding down its right button, you can move the mouse around to adjust the camera. Left clicking on an object such as a locker or a door will instruct your character to use it. If you are not right next to the object in question, your character will automatically run towards it. The game will automatically stop each time you encounter a set of enemies. This gives you time to choose the actions your character and each of your party members should perform when you resume the game. Once combat begins, the game can be paused at any time to assign new actions. It is also possible to queue up actions so you do not have to pause the game too frequently. Knights of the Old Republic does feature a number of keyboard shortcuts to give players quick access to various screens such as the inventory or the quest journal.
You start Knights of the Old Republic during the attack on the Endar Spire. The first part of the game essentially serves as a tutorial. A Republic soldier explains the basics of the game as you explore few small areas and fight against a handful of Sith troops. You also get to see the beginnings of the storyline as you find out who Bastila is and why she is so important to the Republic war efforts. But the game truly begins once manage to escape from the space ship.
The first chapter of the game takes place in Taris. A single city covers the surface of the entire planet. But Taris is no utopian metropolis. The city is separated into multiple levels. At first glance, the Upper City seems glamorous with its pristine buildings and elegant architecture. But many of the citizens are greatly prejudiced against all non-humans. Random and unsolicited attacks on aliens are not entirely uncommon. The Lower City contains the hideouts of swoop gangs. When they are not racing with their swoop bikes, the gangs always seem to be at each other’s throats. The people deemed unfit to live with the rest of Taris’s residents are cast away into the Undercity. The desolate place never sees the light of day. Corruption runs deep in each level of the city. Crime lords are constantly harassing citizens. And to make matters even worse, now the entire planet is under Sith control. Taris feels like a pressure cooker. Finding the missing Jedi knight in this city will certainly not be an easy task.
During your time in Taris, the plot will start to thicken. A number of events will gradually propel the story onward. Knights of the Old Republic has been nicely structured to make you care about your immediate surroundings and quests at hand. Yet at the same time, the game drops hints of its bigger plot from the very beginning. You get to experience the extent of the Sith invasion first hand as you travel through Taris in search of Bastila. A number of fun side quests are provided for you to gain some experience and familiarize yourself with the setting. Towards the end of the first chapter however, the story catapults. As the events escalate, you eventually find yourself visiting a wide variety of different locations across the Star Wars universe.
The storyline remains interesting throughout the entire game. And that is a very good thing since Knights of the Old Republic can easily take well over thirty hours to complete. As the main plot gradually unfolds, the game features numerous side quests to maintain your interest. As expected, a number of other characters eventually join your party to travel with your character. The game provides many opportunities to get to know these party members better. It is great to see that your party members are more than an extra pair of hands to wield a weapon. Many of them have a good deal of depth. They have their individual secrets waiting for you to uncover. If you make an effort, you can learn quite a few details about many of the party members. It is also great to see the interaction between the different party members. The arguments and discussions they occasionally have definitely adds to the game. On the other hand, if you couldn’t care less to learn about the people helping your character on the main quest, you do not have to make an effort as much of this content is optional.
In addition to the characters that actively join your team, Knights of the Old Republic also features a good number of different non-player characters. You encounter a myriad of personalities, making the game’s universe feel rather rich and diverse. Many different Star Wars races are represented in the game. These non-human characters typically speak in their native tongue, arguably enhancing the science-fiction feel. You will however notice that every line of dialog spoken by aliens does not have unique voice acting. Each alien race has a specific number of different voice samples. As such, you will hear certain phrases get repeated even though the alien is supposed to be talking about different topics.
As much as it shows a good deal of creativity and imagination, there is one considerable problem with the game’s storyline. The two biggest plot points you will encounter are a little too obvious. The game drops a few too many hints, making it fairly easy to guess what is going to happen long before you finally experience it in a cut scene. Fortunately, this should not have a huge impact on the enjoyment you will derive from the game. There are plenty of surprises along the way to keep you interested even if you can guess some of the plot twists. More importantly, the well-written dialogue and the colorful characters keep things interesting and fun to watch even if you figure out what is about to happen.
While the earlier and the very last parts of the game are structured, Knights of the Old Republic gives players a great deal of freedom in terms of how they explore the game’s universe. Several hours into the lengthy game, you are assigned what is essentially your main quest. There are a number of individual tasks you will have to complete before you can resolve the main quest. As such, you can choose to explore various locations in any order you like.
Knights of the Old Republic also features a considerable number of side quests you can complete as you play through the game. In many cases, how you actually go about completing a quest is entirely up to you. You will be given many chances to explore one of several different options. Open conflict may not always be the main answer. In certain cases, the game gives players the opportunity to look for peaceful resolutions. At other times, players can find subtler, stealthier ways of getting things done. Of course there is also plenty of opportunity for Star Wars style combat. You will most certainly get to play with many familiar Star Wars weapons. From blaster rifles to thermal detonators, from frag grenades to lightsabers, it is all here.
Having multiple solutions available for a number of quests is already a nice feature. However, there is also plenty of ethical consideration in Knights of the Old Republic. The game will present you many opportunities where you decide how to treat another character or handle a given situation. Depending on your actions, you may earn light side or dark side points. In general, the path to the light side lies in avoiding unnecessary fights, treating people kindly, protecting the innocent, and offering your help whenever possible. On the other hand, if you continually treat people badly, fight whenever possible, and in general act like a total jerk, you will find yourself on the fast track to the dark side. Your alignment is not dependent upon a single choice, but rather on a series of conscious decisions you will make for your character.
The path you choose in any given situation will have an impact on the immediate outcome. Your actions may save people’s lives or bring about death and destruction when it could have been easily avoided. If you continually try to do the right thing, you will eventually find yourself firmly on the light side. On the other hand, if you continually start fights and refuse to help people, you will wind up on the dark side. Alternatively, you can try to maintain more of a neutral path. Depending on which side of the force you end up, certain force powers may become more or less difficult to use. If you are on the light side, you will find it difficult to use dark side powers. The opposite is true if you end up on the dark side.
Having the numerous moral dilemmas gives Knights of the Old Republic a distinct feel. Your alignment is more than something you artificially select at the beginning of the game. Instead, it is the result of a series of actions. And it is great to see the impact of your actions on the events. In addition to the smaller changes you will observe throughout the game, the ending you will see will be determined by a major decision you will have to make later on your journey.
When you start a new game, you are taken to the character creation screen. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is developed around the Star Wars role-playing system designed by Wizards of the Coast. If you are familiar with the system, the character creation process will probably be very simple. Since the Star Wars pen-and-paper RPG is an essentially a slightly different implementation of the Dungeons and Dragons system, if you have played Wizards of the Coast RPG settings in the past, you should also feel right at home. If you are new to the world of role-playing games however, the game does provide descriptions that should guide you throughout character creation. The game also allows players ways to make characters without having to know the underlying details. It is possible to have the game automatically determine the stats of your character at the beginning. All you truly have to choose is your characters gender, class, portrait, and name. The game also has an auto level-up feature you can utilize each time you gain a new experience level. As such, it is possible to get through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic without having to know much about the underlying role-playing system. However, if you want to get the most out of the game and make an effective character that truly suits your style, you will have to get into the details.
The first step in character creation is to select a gender and class. Your gender choice does have an impact on the game. Certain characters will react towards you differently depending on whether you are playing a male or female character. There are three available classes in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The soldier class is the most efficient in combat. Soldiers can rapidly gain many feats, giving them significant advantages during fights. Their skill development however will be rather slow. Scoundrels on the other hand, try to rely on deception and stealth as opposed to open conflict. They have the most rapid skill progression across all three classes. They are also able to improve important skills like demolitions, persuasion, and security most efficiently. Having a high persuasion skill in particular comes in very handy during some conversations throughout the game. The scout class is somewhere in between the scoundrel and the soldier classes. While they do not gain as many feats as soldiers or as many skill points as scoundrels, they can maintain a good balance, making open combat or stealth equally viable options in many situations.
Once you settle on your character’s class and gender, you will have a chance to select your starting attribute scores. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic uses the same core attributes commonly seen in role-playing systems developed by Wizards of the Coast. The key attributes are strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. You start with a score of eight on each attributes. Thirty points are available to spend towards each different attribute. Spending a single point towards any attribute will increase your score by one. If you raise an attribute score to fourteen however, additional increases will cost you two bonus points.
Strength determines your character’s chance to hit with melee weapons. Having a high strength also gives you a damage bonus when your melee attacks succeed. Since you will most likely be using lightsabers during a large portion of the game, having a high strength score can be greatly beneficial. Dexterity is a measure of your character’s overall quickness. A high dexterity score makes your character harder to hit. It also improves your accuracy with ranged weapons different types of blasters and grenades. However, it is important to note that the type of armor you are wearing might restrict the maximum defensive bonus you can obtain from having a high dexterity. The constitution is a representation of your characters resilience. In game play terms, the constitution score affects the number of vitality points you gain each time you earn a new experience level. The cumulative effect of increased vitality points can easily make the difference in some fights. Your character’s intelligence impacts the number of skill points you will gain at each level. Especially if you are planning to heavily use skills like security or computers, having a high intelligence score can prove to be very helpful. While it may not mean much at the very beginning of the game, wisdom directly affects your character’s Jedi Force Points. Having a high wisdom score also makes your character’s Jedi powers harder to resist. Finally, your charisma score impacts the effectiveness of certain force powers and your persuasion skill. Since the successful use of persuasion can give you advantages throughout the game, having a high charisma score can help you out in numerous conversations.
After you determine how you want to distribute your attribute points, you need to configure your skills. The starting score for each skill is zero. You will have to distribute your bonus points across all the available skills. Depending on your character class, some skills will be easier to improve, costing only a single point per rank. These are your class skills and represent disciplines with which your character is most likely to be familiar. All remaining skills will require two points to advance by a single rank. Due to your character class selection, you do not have as much aptitude in these cross-class disciplines, which explains the higher cost for advancement.
Knights of the Old Republic features a total of eight different skills. You will notice that each skill has a related attribute. If you have a high score in the corresponding attribute, you will be more effective at using the skill. Computer use refers to your ability to hack, or to use Star Wars terminology, slice into different kinds of systems. In order to slice a system, you need to use disposable modules called spikes. The number of spikes required for each operation depends on your computer use rank. The repair skill has a similar structure. Throughout your journey, you will encounter a number of broken machinery that can be repaired to aid you in your quest. Making repairs requires the use of parts. The higher your repair rank, the fewer parts you will need to complete the operation. The stealth and security skills are extremely useful for quietly breaking into places. Using special devices, it is possible to turn yourself invisible. Your rank in stealth determines how hard it will be to detect your character when you are using camouflage devices. Security on the other hand indicates your proficiency in picking locks. The demolitions skill comes into play when you are dealing with mines. With a high rank in demolitions, you will be more effective at disarming and recovering mines. The skill will also help you when you are laying mines yourself. Awareness deals with your ability detect hidden objects and enemies. Treat injury represents your character’s proficiency in using healing items. Having a high ranking in this skill will allow you to recover additional vitality points. Finally, the persuasion skill is extremely useful in a number of conversations. At certain times, you will be able to utilize this skill to convince other characters to see things your way. Through persuasion you might be able to get discounts or even avoid unnecessary combat.
The last step in character creation is to choose a starting feat. These feats represent special advantages your character has in certain situations. For instance, your character might be particularly adept at using melee weapons, giving you a bonus to damage. Alternatively, you might be exceptionally good at wielding two weapons. While many of the feats deal with combat, some of them will improve your skills. In order to obtain a given feat, you will often have to meet certain prerequisites. Your character may have to reach a certain experience level or you might be required to acquire a different feat first. In many ways, the feats you select determine the fighting style of your character.
The combat in Knights of the Old Republic can be quite interesting. At the very beginning of the game, you will be able to use ranged or melee weapons. During the later stages however, you will want to start using lightsabers. When you can easily close the distance between you and an opponent wielding a gun and you have the ability to deflect laser blasts on top of that, there is really no reason not to use the tremendously effective and devastatingly powerful lightsabers. Yet the best part of the combat is not in the weapons you get to use, but in the underlying mechanics.
The development team has done an excellent job in presenting the combat. If you examine the fights closely, you can see that characters attack in regular intervals, indicating that the game is using turn-based pen-and-paper role-playing dynamics. However, the actual presentation, particularly in melee fights is quite fascinating. You can see characters perform different types of swings and parry blows when the attack does not go through. When you use special abilities like flurry or fight with two weapons equipped, there are noticeable changes in the presentation of the fight. The action looks quite fluid and it is without a doubt inspired by the lightsaber duels featured in the movies. It is excellent to see more than two characters just facing each other and swinging their weapons in exactly the same motion over and over again. In Knights of the Old Republic the swordplay can be quite fun to watch. Adding to that the fact that you will have to keep an eye on the characters you are not directly controlling, make sure you heal your characters when it is necessary, and watch for opportunities to use explosive weapons or force powers, the fighting becomes quite intense and entertaining.
Like many other RPG’s, Knights of the Old Republic features a few mini-games that offer a fun diversion. For the most part, whether or not you engage in these mini-games is entirely up to you. There are however a few instances where you will be required to participate. You will get a chance to do some racing, learn how to play a card game, and use the gun turrets on a spaceship. In general, the mini-games can make a nice break from the regular game while giving you a chance to earn some extra credits.
As expected, Knights of the Old Republic also gives players a chance to try out a good number of different force powers. Many of the force powers carry an alignment. The light side force powers generally deal with boosting the entire party’s effectiveness in combat. There are also light-side powers that can speed up your character or help you recover lost vitality points. On the other hand, dark-side powers can help you deal damage to your enemies, draining away their vitality points with powerful mental attacks. You can even siphon the lost health to your own character. Finally, there are a number of neutral powers. You can use the force to throw your lightsaber or push away your enemies. Many of the powers are straight from the Star Wars movies, adding to the authenticity of the game. The successful implementation of these powers definitely has a positive impact on the game.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a truly remarkable game. The solid storyline certainly has what it takes to grasp your attention, not letting go until you reach the end. The main campaign has a satisfying length. Players are provided with many opportunities to complete side quests. Alternative approaches are available and your decisions have consequences on how the events unfold. Many of the party members who join your make for interesting characters. You will most likely enjoy getting to know them throughout the course of the game. The fighting is quite engaging and visually appealing. In fact the entire game features fairly nice visuals, particularly on the modeling of certain alien characters. The game does have a couple of small problems. The plot twists can be too obvious and your party members do occasionally get stuck around corners when they are trying to follow you. However, neither of these issues even comes close to hurting the overall experience. Knights of the Old Republic is a highly enjoyable game that captures the essence of the Star Wars universe in an excellent way. If you like RPG’s or the Star Wars setting, the game is without a doubt a must-have. It will keep you entertained for many hours as you explore the galaxy.
|PC System Requirements:|
|Pentium® III 1 Ghz processor|
|256 MB RAM (128 MB for Windows 98)|
|32 MB Video Card|
|DirectX® 9.0 Compatible Sound Card|
|4x CD-ROM Drive|
|4 GB Hard Disk Space|
|Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers||