Ten Years On: Knights of the Old Republic

Written by Rick Lane

August 8, 2013 | 07:52

Tags: #knights-of-the-old-republ #knights-of-the-old-republic #star-wars #ten-years-on

Companies: #lucasarts

The result of this is by the time you reach the Jedi Sanctuary on Dantooine, where you finally become a Jedi, the game has already sucked you in. Despite being called Knights of the Old Republic, the Jedi stuff is just a bonus, and crucially not what the whole experience hinges on.

Knights of the Old Republic is deservedly remembered for its great storytelling, but it was also a fantastic game. It did remarkable things with its D&D Ruleset to make it appealing to those who might normally be put off by the sight of oddly shaped dice. Where BioWare's earlier RPGs such as Baldur's Gate can be baffling to a D&D novice, Kotor disguised its dicerolls with straightforward attack commands, a simple yet punchy roster of special abilities, and some impressive battle animations for the time.

Ten Years On: Knights of the Old Republic
Click to enlarge

There's also the simple fact that Kotor pioneered the 3D, story-based RPG. Morrowind had wowed PC gamers the year before with its enormous island and Neverwinter Nights had been released the year before that, but neither could really be called "Story-based." Morrowind was more about exploration and NN was an amazing toolset with a frankly rather mediocre game thrown in. Kotor was the first to successfully infuse the depth and scale of a story-based RPG with the considerably inflated production costs that came with 3D graphics rendering.

Ten years since its release, Kotor has aged extremely well. There are only a few areas where the wrinkles show, aside from the ageing Aurora engine, obviously. The morality system feels artificially binary since games like The Witcher and BioWare's own Dragon Age gave the whole concept of moral choices a fresh coat of distinctly grey paint. That said, it still works perfectly fine given the light/dark view of morality within the Star Wars universe, even if Obsidian did much more interesting things with this in their deeper yet troubled sequel.

Ten Years On: Knights of the Old Republic
Click to enlarge

The other area where Kotor falls short is in its level design, and even here it isn't really a consequence of the game's age, and more to do with the fact that BioWare have always been a bit rubbish at 3D level design. Many of the levels are horribly mazy, oddly angular, and strictly regulated by narrow pathways and obtrusive artificial walls. Other, smaller issues include the list-based inventory system, which is as fiddly and confusing as it was upon release, and the final battle with Malak drags on interminably, because he has a health bar as thick and difficult to cut down as a redwood tree. If you are planning to rekindle your love affair with Knights, make sure to stock up on stims as you go along. You'll need them at the end.

Ten Years On: Knights of the Old Republic
Click to enlarge

Role playing games usually age better than most other game genres, as their reliance on good writing and characterisation negate the effects of both technological progress and innovation in game design. But Knights of the Old Republic doesn't just still stand up as a quality RPG, it also remains the undisputed pinnacle of Star Wars games, old and new.
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