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For those of you who are familiar with the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition rules, you'll most likely get the hang of character creation and advancement in KotOR relatively quickly. Initially, you can either create a "custom" or "quick" character, with the latter allowing you to get into the game immediately. You'll have to choose from three different classes (scoundrel, scout, or soldier), as well as your gender, regardless of which creation method you choose, however. Each class has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the gender you choose will affect quite a bit of dialogue in the game. If you're creating a custom character, you'll move on to your initial attributes, skills, and feats, which are all designed in the same fashion as the D&D 3rd Edition rules I mentioned earlier. For those of you desiring to be a Jedi, you'll be happy to learn that after a fairly short amount of time into the game, your character will have the option to become one. This grants yet another three class options (Consular, Guardian, or Sentinel) to choose from, and will provide your character with Force Powers as they advance in levels.
The game begins by placing your character in the Endar Spire, a ship under the command of a Jedi named Bastila, who turns out to be one of the Republic's most important assets in the war against the Sith. After fleeing the dying ship through an escape pod, you are faced with the challenge of finding Bastila on the large planet of Taris and saving her from the relentless Sith. During your journey, you will have the opportunity to find up to nine other characters to join your quest, of which only three (including yourself) can be in your immediate party at any one time. Each member that you pick up along the way possesses a unique set of skills, feats, attributes, equipment, special abilities, and (of course) dialogue. For example, Carth Onasi is unmatched in dual-wielding Blaster Pistols, Canderous Ordo has the innate ability to regenerate hit points, and Jolee Bindo brings a nice assortment of Jedi skills, feats, and force powers. Additionally, you can pretty much expect to enter several conversations with whichever two party members you bring with, some of which may lead you to unique quests.
I can easily say that the music and sound effects in KotOR are some of the best and most realistic I've heard in any game. All of the voice acting is excellent, each major scene is accompanied by music that fits perfectly, and the sound effects are so true to the movie that they'll most likely bring back a flood of memories (if you've seen them). The lightsaber sounds are so good, in fact, that I found myself repeatedly tapping the "Y" button while running just to hear my character swing them around.
Although some people have reported quite a few bugs while playing KotOR, I've only witnessed a scant few. The only real "problem" I've had so far is that a couple of my unique items were duplicated for no apparent reason. I've later learned that there are a couple of spots in the game that such duplication can occur, so I can only assume that I was unknowingly subjected to this bug. Additionally, there were a couple of areas that I felt BioWare intended to flesh out by adding more content or incorporating a quest or two, but they most likely ran out of time. For example, upgrading your swoop bike is mentioned several times throughout the game, but this option never becomes a reality at any time. Hopefully, if such content was intended, we'll see these extras in the PC version of the game.
Knights of the Old Republic has easily taken the #1 position out of all the role-playing games released so far this year, and it very well could keep that position for the rest of 2003. Even if you're uninterested in the Star Wars universe or RPGs in general, KotOR is still a must-have simply because of its captivating storyline, fantastic game design, and strong replay value. In fact, it easily justifies the purchase of an Xbox if you don't own one already. Finally, console fans are able to realize firsthand why PC fans have been raving about BioWare's games for years.