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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Graphics

Fortunately, they do.

How much exactly does anisotropic filtering and 4x multi-sampling really mean to graphics? To the overall effect, thankfully, only so much. It's the artistic vision that lends a game most of its graphic punch, and 100x anti-aliasing can do little for bad art. To its credit, the PC version of the game (and to a lesser extent the Xbox version) actually makes use of those phonetically-awkward technogeek graphic capabilities, but it's the art on the screen that captivates, and the diversity of art and expression seen in this game is nearly unparalleled. Every world has distinctly different architecture reminiscent of Bethesda's game Morrowind, but tops that well-done RPG to include other-worldly terrain, organic and non-organic enemies, and alien NPCs in its repertoire. It's both exciting and visually stunning to touch down on a new planet and exit the Ebon Hawk's gang plank for the first time.

There is one point later in the game where you might be wondering, as I did, just how much imagination the game could possibly have left to throw at you. Then, suddenly, you'll find yourself on a new world with completely different terrain, shake your head a couple times, and then nod, because the game has just reaffirmed your choice to give up 50+ hours of your life to it. Here's an incomplete list of environments to provide a glimpse of the diversity of locals featured in the game: cantinas, deserts, foggy deep forest, treetop villages, underwater sea stations, spaceports, caves, dungeons, tombs, schools and wide open grasslands with wild beasts.

In the Xbox version, there were several times I found myself seeking better views of the gorgeous vistas on several of the worlds, and it only gets better on the PC version. Details that at first weren't evident to me on the console, are fleshed out in striking contrast thanks to the higher resolution, more detailed textures, and especially the draw distance. Either they have increased it for the PC, or distant details were simply a blur in the console. At a respectable 1024x768 resolution on the PC, it was like I put on glasses for the first time and could read the writing on the far wall. Take a look at the screenshots to see what I mean.

Another striking difference between the console and PC version are in the facial details. Apart from the higher resolution in the PC, you can now make out wrinkles, laugh lines and facial hair on many of the NPCs, and the veins and vivid color for Dark Side characters are more defined as well. I made it a point to use the same portrait for the PC that I picked during my first time on the Xbox version, and the differences were comforting: more realistic facial features and less like paper mache, which was one of the minor complaints I had against the Xbox version.

Sound & Music

Yes, they got it right. I'm referring to the two most important sounds in a Star Wars game: the sizzling hiss zang sound of powering up the lightsaber followed by the sub-sonic vibrating hum, and the musical score. It's all just like in the movies but better; by pressing the X key, you can take out your lightsabers and twirl them around until you pass out. The interesting thing about the music in KotOR is that it actually takes a back seat to the sound and voice acting. That's right, finally a Star Wars game where the developers do not use the music as a crutch to lift up the sagging gameplay. In fact, it's so subtle and atmospheric sometimes that it becomes refreshing to hear when it does stand out, such as in the Ebon Hawk cinematics while zipping around space-time.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the game, graphics, gameplay and all, is that every word of dialogue in the entire game is voice acted. As far as I know, in a game as long as this, it is a first. Be prepared to free up 3.5 Gigabytes of space on your hard drive mainly due to this fact. But that's not all. It's also exceptionally done. All of it is, truly a monumental feat. Even the aliens sound authentic, though a large portion of the total dialogue is probably from alien speech and won't make much sense to English-speaking people; but that's when the subtitles come in handy.

The quality sound effects you'd expect from a Star Wars game are also present and accounted for. Authentic-sounding blaster shots, character echos when in cavernous areas, the familiar beeps and whirls of droids, and the list goes on.