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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

17 January, 2022 - 3:27 pm by
About 11 mins to read
Reviewed on:

STAR WARS™: Knights of the Old Republic™ | Nintendo Switch download  software | Games | Nintendo

Not content with blowing the roof off the internet by announcing a remake of one of the most beloved Star Wars games of all time, Jedi aficionados Aspyr followed up that news by releasing a port of the original Knights of the Old Republic on Nintendo Switch as well! As a game I’d heard so much about since it’s original Xbox release in 2003, I was looking forward to giving it a go for the first time, almost 20 years since its debut.

At A Glance

Scores 
Visuals6 /10
Sound7 /10
Gameplay8 /10
Overall7 /10
  
Positives  + Deep & engaging character progression
+ Solid morality system – join the Light or Dark Side
+ Expansive plot line steeped in Star Wars lore
Negatives  – Some of the script is a little wooden
– Level design now feels a little linear
– Side quests can be hard to track with so many named NPCs
  
Price (When Reviewed)£11.29
Our Playtime25 hours
Available OnNintendo Switch, PC

Set long before the stories played out in the original Star Wars film trilogy, Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) takes place around the time of the Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi comics. As such, there aren’t many characters that casual Star Wars fans will know, but there are plenty of aliens and beasties emblematic of the franchise that will be recognisable to anyone, even if they’ve only seen one or two of the movies.

As is required in any decent RPG, the plot to KOTOR is superb, and will keep players engaged until the very last lightsaber-waving moment. In a story that spans planets across the galaxy, you’ll start off life as a skilful but relative-nobody before quickly discovering an affinity with the Force and joining the Jedi Order. From there you’re thrust into a story with what is widely considered one of the greatest gaming endings of all time, and having played through it for the first time, I have to say that I’m in agreement. 

The game pulls absolutely no punches in plunging the player immediately into the universe of Star Wars, and you’re thrown into repelling a boarding party from your ship, the Endar Spire, from Dark Jedi forces. Before long you’re crashed on a nearby planet and have to work alongside a collection of party members to search the galaxy for an ancient threat in order to thwart the forces of the evil Sith. NPCs will happily orate pages of Star Wars lore to you should you be willing to listen, but there’s no great expectation for the player to remember more than the surface points for the story, which is a welcome consideration.

To get it out of the way early, the visuals are where the game most shows it’s age. Some of the textures are noticeably low-resolution, the lighting effects are rather spotty, and some of the animation is a little stiff to name just a few examples. Navigating the menus feels like going back in time, with some of the UI feeling entirely archaic in 2022. The level design too is expectedly dated, with the areas feeling a little boxed in and ‘made to play’, rather than living and breathing environments. The more expansive outdoor areas lessen the linear feel to a degree, but they’re still rather threadbare in comparison to what a developer could conjure up today. 

But I say all that to say: the game is nearly 20 years old and my enjoyment wasn’t hampered by any of that one bit! Watching my Jedi deflect incoming blaster bolts and engage in dynamic lightsaber duels was fantastic, and the levels are clearly limited by the hardware of the time. Judging a 20 year-old game by modern standards would be entirely unfair and I’m excited to see what Aspyr does to update all of this in the upcoming remake.

The gameplay is a rather old-school affair too (and was probably considered so even in 2003), with the mechanics based around the Wizards of the Coast tabletop roleplaying game set in the Star Wars universe. Older players (like me) may remember games like Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights using dice-based systems to great effect, with statistics-driven interactions and turn-based combat making for a really solid experience. Having played the Star Wars tabletop game many years ago, I knew that the system was robust and really well thought out, and I was enthusiastic about how it would transfer to a digital format, having enjoyed similar games in the past.

And for the most part my enthusiasm was well founded; character stats and skills have a clear impact on your dialogue choices and overall experience, and the combat is particularly good fun. Despite being a turn-based affair, original developers BioWare did a great job of merging real-time action and paused menu elements to maintain a frantic feel to your battles. It was also especially fun to see my powers start making their way into conversations as my character developed in the Force, and being able to play Jedi mind tricks on annoying NPCs always felt badass.  

The traditional tabletop mechanics don’t fare so well in some of the stealth elements of the game though, where they can lead to some rather silly moments.  Because the success of your actions is based on a background dice score and not your controller inputs, you can sometimes take all of the same actions in exactly the same way and it’s a crap-shoot if baddies will see you or not. There are times when you need to reload the same area over and again until you get a ‘successful stealth roll’ despite there being no change to the buttons you’ve pressed which feels both strange and frustrating. That said, these moments are few and far between, and the game mostly does a great job in making you feel in control of your character and the outcome of your actions. 

In fact, your character (and more specifically the management of your character), is one of the best parts of the game. The character creation section gives you free reign on the type of character you’d like to play, with a myriad of choices for suitable stats, skills and abilities to choose from. If you’re not a tabletop roleplayer, then all the numbers and references might be a little overwhelming, but I dare say that many fans of Star Wars cross into this group too, and this shouldn’t be any real hindrance to enjoyment.

It wouldn’t be a Star Wars game without mention of the Light and Dark Sides of the Force, and in KOTOR you can decide for yourself exactly what kind of Jedi you would like to be. A robust, if rather obvious, morality system runs throughout the game and your every action determines your level of benevolence. This affiliation with the Force is nicely exhibited in game too, with your character’s appearance changing to manifest your choices, as well as finding it easier to cast powers that are similarly aligned to you, and finding those on the opposite side more taxing. Your alignment with the Force plays a significant part in the story as well, with key events changing depending on how you play the game. (I’ve always been a sucker for the wise and noble Jedi, and it was never in question how I would play the game, but on my replay I thoroughly plan on enjoying some chaos as I tumble into the Dark Side!)

The game is fully voice-acted and the performers do a mostly-fine job with what can oftentimes be a rather wooden script. Everyone seems to have rather formal speech patterns and some of the timing in delivery can be a little eye-rolling, but the performances certainly add character to the story. In reiterating the main plot points enough to hammer them home to the player, exploring a new area can sometimes feel like listening to a broken record, with all the same info being regurgitated time and again by a huge number of NPCs. I actually found the number of named NPCs a little tricky to deal with at times, especially with so few unique character models on offer, as I couldn’t remember which NPC had given me which side-quest and I found myself wandering entire areas in search of the one tentacle-headed alien that I needed to speak to. It’s a minor gripe, but one that I ran into enough times to bring up here.

Picking up Knights of the Old Republic is absolutely still worth your time and money in 2022. There’s an engaging story with a timeless focus on good versus evil, and mechanics that allow you to choose your own destiny – something that modern-day players still absolutely love. The audience shouldn’t be limited to Star Wars fans either, with KOTOR standing out as a fantastic RPG experience regardless of setting. Sure, the graphics and menus haven’t aged well, but that’s entirely moot when you consider just how enjoyable this game is to play. Like rewatching the original Star Wars trilogy today, forget your seamless CGI effects and high definition screen for a few hours and enjoy KOTOR for what it is – you’ll have a fantastic experience that leaves a seriously lasting impression.

In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.

Our Rating
7