Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic PC Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:LucasArts
Developer:BioWare Corp.
Release Date:2003-07-15
Genre:
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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BioWare did an admirable job with the Xbox version of the interface, and have thankfully taken advantage of some of the PC's strengths, only improving upon the design for the PC version. On the plus side, PC users get to enjoy re-mappable hotkeys for nearly all of the functions (though they could have been slightly more generous), a completely different cosmetic look than the console version making efficient use of screen real estate, and one that works with the middle-mouse button for scrolling through inventory. The only downsides to the new interface come merely in the area of neglect; though it would have meant more programming, a quick weapon-switch hotkey for at least two weapon configurations would have been extremely helpful. This is something I also wished of the Xbox version, as many times throughout the game, you'll be switching from Lightsabers to normal melee vibroblades, and again to ranged weapons. That said, I still prefer the PC version of the interface for its speed, use of the mouse, adaptable configurations and sleeker, more efficient look.

Through conversation, narrative and dramatic events, Knights of the Old Republic brings us it's epic story, usually one of the hallmarks of a good RPG. From the escape sequence at the beginning to numerous plot twists by the end of the game, the story in KotOR does its best to live up to the original Star Wars films. In many ways, though, the worlds contain enough lore, good writing, dialogue and believable plot twists to surpass even Mr. Lucas's vision. It's that good. The characters you meet all have their own past and you'll establish a certain rapport eith each of them, taking the relationship in some cases as far as you'd want. When you're finally finished with this long game, you'll probably feel like you finished another great book in your favorite series.

It is rare for a game to hit upon the right balance of freedom of exploration and guidance, but Knights of the Old Republic nails this aspect. There is never a time when you will lose a grip on your direction, thanks to the consistently updated and helpful journal. And yet at all times there will be so many options for you, worlds to explore, quests to cash in on, mini-games to play, that you'll likely be glued to your chair far longer than you initially sat down for. In fact, once you've chosen a general direction down the dark path or light path, it's almost inevitable that you'll actively seek out those opportunities to add or subtract to your place on the continuum, and excitedly check your character's profile to see their new standing each time you see the words "Light or Dark Side points gained."

One of the best aspects to KotOR is that nearly every encounter presents a way to earn these so-called Light Side and Dark Side points. Thankfully, the ways in which you earn Light Side points is not always obvious and takes some amount of figuring out. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for earning Dark Side points, as the appropriate answers during conversations are perhaps a little too obvious, too often. It would have been nice if they would have made subtler approaches to playing on the Dark Side, rather than the frequent personal affronts and physical attacks. To the game's merit though, the countless ways to achieve points in both directions leads to almost limitless gameplay in this area of character development.

Length is another area where the developers did not skimp. This is an RPG, and BioWare has lived up to their reputation of providing solid gameplay throughout countless hours of gaming. My first time through the game, I spent over 17 hours on the first planet alone, with over five more worlds remaining, though admittedly not all worlds are equally as long. As a bonus, the PC version of the game includes a new location--a small space station orbiting around the planet Yavin, not currently found in the Xbox version, complete with a merchant who restocks his high-quality inventory at various times throughout the game. Take all of this and add two mini-games that add even more gameplay: a moderately complex Blackjack-like collectable card game, and the mostly optional Swoop Bike racing. During a game of such scope, both in length and story, it would have been a tremendous disservice if the graphics weren't able pull their weight.