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Light-Speed Travel Finally Available to Role-Players
By: Joseph Witham
Lucas Arts made no mistake when it licensed its Star Wars name to veteran RPG developer BioWare. The Canadian-based company had already proven itself capable time and time again with such classics as the Baldur's Gate series and last year's esteemed Neverwinter Nights. Its latest release, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for the Xbox, proves BioWare's expertise once again, this time in George Lucas' iconic sci-fi / fantasy universe.
Coming in as the first Star Wars-based single player RPG, expectations were extremely high for Knights of the Old Republic. Luckily, it lived up to the hype. The game spans across about half a dozen unique worlds, including several planets which have played heavy roles in the movies, such as Luke's desert home world of Tatooine and the Wookie-inhabited Kashyyk. It's important to note that the game actually takes place a full 4000 years before the events of the movie series. However, hardcore fans needn't worry, as the game retains everything about Star Wars that we've come to love, from Lightsabers to fat, worm-like Huts to gigantic intergalactic weapons.
Now that you have an idea of the game's setting, you can start to understand that Knights of the Old Republic's story is epic in nature. You start out as an amnesiac character on a Republic Fleet spaceship who remembers nothing of his / her past. Soon into the game you'll crash onto a planet, where you'll start to learn of the plight of the universe. It doesn't take long before you become a Jedi and are thrust into a conflict to save or conquer the galaxy. In Knights of the Old Republic, it is entirely up to you on how you choose to manipulate the Force, whether it be for toward the dark or light side. This is what makes the plot so great; you are allowed to dynamically determine the outcome through your deeds, and the story will be significantly different depending on the path you choose.
Coming from a company which specializes in creating Dungeons & Dragons-based games, Knights of the Old Republic's game and battle systems are extremely similar to the company's past projects. In fact, the game actually uses the d20 rules system, which is the basis for the D&D line. So how does this system fare for a console RPG? While somewhat unoriginal compared to other PC RPGs, it does allow for a lot of things which aren't normally possible in console RPGs. The battle system is turn-based at heart, but action-oriented on the surface. Battles ensue quickly in semi-real-time combat, but leave plenty of room for strategy, as you are able pause the game to plan out your character's actions ahead of time. There are plenty of abilities and feats which allow for a highly customized combat-style on your part. Just remember to choose your abilities wisely, as the game allows for a maximum of 20 experience levels. You can also gain experience outside of battle by successfully completing various quests initiated by the many NPCs that inhabit the game's world.
The game's graphics are top-notch for the Xbox. Character models are lively, and the game's various alien races are extremely impressive. The company paid special attention to detail with this game, making sure everything looks realistic, whether it be waving strands of grass or dust kicked up by a character's shoe. The menu and interface are also built for ease-of-use, and there's a handy in-game map to help guide you through dungeons. The music is overall pretty impressive, but unfortunately is a little too original for a Star Wars game. When you expect to hear classic music from the movies, you often end up hearing something that sounds out of place. Still, Knights of the Old Republic's composer, Jeremy Soule has a great track record, and his original compositions aren't bad.
As mentioned earlier, the game allows you to choose your own path. Playing through the game as an evil character is a very different experience from playing through the game as a good character. You'll have to play through the game twice to get the full experience, meaning loads of replay value. You also have the option of to play the game on easy, normal, and hard modes, adding even more depth to the game's replayability. If that wasn't enough, BioWare plans to release new content for the game over Xbox Live in the future.
If you're an Xbox owner, there's no reason not to pick up Knights of the Old Republic if you're into RPGs. The game will be released on the PC later this year, so you have the option to wait for that instead. Regardless, this is one role-playing game that you should consider playing at least once in your lifetime. While this is an obvious must-buy for Star Wars fans, it is also a truly dynamic experience that can be enjoyed by anyone, Star Wars fan or not.
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