Posted: January 19
Knights of the Old Republic is one of my top games of all time. I knew nothing about the game until it released, and picked up my first copy on the Xbox because it was Star Wars, and I liked Star Wars. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but years later I look back at the few years I spent with this game as some of my golden gaming time. I've beaten the game with practically every party configuration and gone for every ending, torn through every sidequest, and I used to beat the game in one sitting. One particularly fond memory of mine involves picking it up one summer evening in high school and not stopping until the next evening when I was watching the end credits roll. I soon had a PC copy at my disposal and played it through some more. It was also the first piece of DLC I ever downloaded, Yavin Station for Xbox... which came natively with the PC version, since it was released later.
All that aside, the game has both aged well as a great western RPG, but it hasn't aged well in the sense that it hardly cooperates with modern systems and it loves to act goofy, crash randomly, corrupt your saves, and sometimes just do inexplicable weird things. The port wasn't good back in the day, and it isn't good now. The controls are a bit funky, but they suffice... although the mouse/keyboard acts funny. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get a controller working on it, and the game was definitely designed for a controller. If you want widescreen, prepare to either do some heavy ini editing, or download Flawless Widescreen... and even then, it's wonky and doesn't like to work properly all the time. When it works, though, KOTOR looks glorious and like it has hardly aged.
The game was definitely an inspiration for the eventual Mass Effect, with a very similar overall feel to how the game flows, except the combat is a d20 DnD ruleset. It feels a little off, but once you get the hang of pausing battle to issue commands, it works great. My biggest gripe here is that unless you are micromanaging your party, they tend to do stupid things like pull the next pack of enemies down the hall while you're trying to recover. Speaking of managing your party, the game hardly gives you a reason to use non-jedi characters once you get them, although the single best reason to not have three Jedi in your party is HK-47... who is definitely worth having in your party as he is possibly one of the funniest video game characters of all time. Another party issue - [you must gather your party before venturing forth] is a message you're going to become very familiar with. There is also a ton of boring walking to do in this game, back and forth and back and forth... that used to be more normal, back in the day, to have a ton of walking from location to location in a game, but nowadays with things like fast travel cutting the general patience levels down, it can get boring when you have to walk very far to turn in a single sidequest for a paltry 200 XP.
I also take a issue with the some of character building in this game... I'm going to warn you, don't waste points levelling up feats like blaster proficiency. This is one of those games that likes to give you a ton of options, but many of those options are ultimately useless and hinder your character later. It's tough to totally gimp yourself at least, but you can very easily waste a ton of points on things that absolutely do not matter.
The story is the gold here; KOTOR tells an amazing tale with a fantastic twist and an ending that is rather satisfying. You can go for the Light Side or the Dark Side, and the game actually radically changes depending on whether or not you're Dark or Light. One of my favorite examples includes a mission early in the game where you can either help a widowed woman by buying an item her husband had hunted for her at an inflated price to give her a hand, or you can be evil and force persuade her to just give it to you. Some missions change entirely, such as either slaughtering an entire base full of people willing to help you, or gaining their trust and joining their side to help clean up the sewers.
Overall, I think this is definitely worth checking out if you've never played it, but be ready to be patient, and keep multiple rotating saves. There are a ton of bugs here, sometimes the game will corrupt your save for no good reason, and sometimes you just might end up with an irreversible game-killing bug in the form of a friendly Galaxy Droid entering your ship. It's unfortunate that Bioware and EA have all but forgotten that these games exist, because they could definitely use a patch to make them more cooperative with Windows 7, widescreen resolutions, and generally not being a nuisance with modern machines. If you have played the game before, you know what to expect here. It's an amazingly wonderful western RPG, one that still stands as an excellent game over ten years after release.