May the Fourth (and Revenge of the Fifth) are colloquially known as “Star Wars Day”, due to the similarity between May the Fourth and May The Force be with you, and lately, as Revenge of the Sith and Revenge of the Fifth. For a while Star Wars games were hit or miss. The one on the Nintendo wasn’t very good, the Super Star Wars games are classics but widely noted for their tough old school platforming difficulty, and Shadows of the Empire was an otherwise great game with camera difficulties. The ones that really showed promise were the ones dealing with vehicles in Star Wars, like Star Wars Demolition, Star Wars Episode I Racer, and everyone’s resident favorite, Rogue Squadron (which B.T. wrote an excellent piece on here: http://theonsgaming.com/2014/05/03/star-wars-week-rogue-squadron/). But it took a while before we got a quality game that focused on Jedi and Sith. Sure, Jedi Power Battles was cool, but something felt missing. The Jedi Outcast series was great, but overlooked by most people. The first real Star Wars game that focused on what we all wanted, which was playing as a Jedi, came out in 2003. This game, of course, was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR for short).
Now, as always, since this is a review, there’s going to be spoilers. Glad we got that out of the way. You’re treated to the normal scrolling Star Wars opening and then you make your character. From there, you’re dropped off into the story and you get on your way. One thing I like is that your character’s gender is adapted to the story, so it doesn’t matter which gender you are (the story plays the same). You’re on a ship and you have to escape, because it’s under attack, and this guy named Carth gets you and him into an escape pod. Boom! You crash land on the sith inhabited planet known as Taris. From here, you need to find the jedi master Bastilla, whose escape pod also landed on Taris. Setting up a small base of operations in an apartment, you’re off to find Bastilla. I will be the first to tell you. This whole first part of the game is extremely slow. I’ve seen molasses in January move quicker than KOTOR’s beginning. You go all around this city. The upper levels. The lower levels. You fight in a tournament. You do boring fetch quests. Finally, you find out that Bastilla is intended on being the prize in an upcoming race. You’re sent on yet another fetch quest, for a prototype swoop part, so you can race yourself. But to do so means going through the lowest part of the city, and only a few people know how to navigate it. Here you find two of your other party members, the Twi’lek Mission Vao and her wookiee companion Zalbaar. However Zalbaar is trapped so you have to find him. Once you do, he proclaims a life debt to you. You get the part and win the race, but the people won’t just let Bastilla go, and from there you’re forced to kill them. With Bastilla in tow, you need to find a way to get off this godforsaken planet. A guy named Canderous Ordo offers you a way, by stealing the Ebon Hawk, a ship from his employer. So you buy a robot and steal the ship, and finally get off Taris. As you leave, the Sith destroy the planet, and anything you missed is unable to be gotten, so make sure you do everything you want before you leave.
From here Bastilla notices your “strong connection” to the force. So you make a quick stop to Dantooine where you go in front of the Jedi Council and they agree to train you, despite your age, because of your visions detailing the evil Darth Revan and his apprentice Malak, plus, you know, for storyline purposes the hero(ine) shares a force bond with Bastilla. Woo. So you get trained and are sent on your first mission, to save an apprentice from the dark side. When you defeat her you get to pick your class, and then the council sends you to investigate ruins. Turns out the ruins show a piece of the map of how to get to the Star Forge, which is what Malak is searching for. So of course your mission is to now put together and find it. You travel to different planets, along the way gathering people like HK-47, a robot who hates humans and Jolee Bindo, the game’s resident Mace Windu. You also save Kashyyyk (the wookiee planet), and run into Carth’s old captain, who gives the big reveal that the player was actually Darth Revan. Most people don’t care because you’re a good guy now, but as usual, Carth has a stick up his butt and he takes the longest time to get over it. I forgot to mention that earlier, Carth is the biggest whiner about everything, especially if you do a dark side action. Anyways, so you do all that, gather the maps, and then you go to where the Star Forge is. Then you do a very boring fetch quest to prove yourself to this tribe of aliens, and you go into the temple to find where the Star Forge is. Turns out Bastilla has been tortured by Malak into being his apprentice, so Revan and her duel. Afterwards she sees how much stronger you are than Malak and tries to turn you to the dark side, even going as far to pledge her love to you.
And herein lies my only gripe with this great game. Everything about the game is good. The battle system is easy and not overly complex, but deep enough so it’s friendly to players of all skill levels. The music is good, as always. Story is typical Star Wars. Good cast of characters. But, the whole game and what ending you get rides on this one decision. The game doesn’t look at your dark side/light side meter and go by that. Nope, you choose. Which baffles me. The entire game you can be the biggest prick and kill innocent people, exploit people for your own gain, steal things, level up your dark side force powers, etc etc. Yet if you choose not to join Bastilla, you get the good ending. On the flip side, you can be the most honorable jedi ever, and if you choose to follow Bastilla, you get the bad ending. It just makes no sense to me, the whole game rides on one decision. It didn’t matter at all what you did prior. Obviously they couldn’t advertise it that way. Could you imagine an advertisement playing like this “Choose to be good or evil in this thrilling quest throughout the galaxy, but it really only matters at the end!”. Anyways, so the game splits off here. If you choose to side with Bastilla, you kill a good portion of your party members off (everyone except Ordo, Bastilla, and your droids). You can even get Zalbaar to kill Mission for you, if your persuasion skill is high enough. But he’ll turn on you in the Star Forge, so it doesn’t really matter. So you go to the Star Forge and fight your way to Malak, kill him, and take over the galaxy. On the flipside, if you choose not to join Bastilla, you go through the Star Forge, fight her, she rejoins you, then you kill Malak and bring peace. All in all, a great game.
As I said before, the game was one of the first Star Wars games that really got rave reviews and didn’t have to do with ships or podracers or stuff of that nature. Flaws aside, it’s one game every Star Wars fan should play through at least once. While I did enjoy and can recommend the first one, I really have a hard time doing that with the second one. If you thought the first one was slow to start, the second one makes that look like Speedy Gonzales. The level of customization is higher in the second one, but it just lacks the good direction and storytelling of the first. Shocker, as the second one wasn’t made by Bioware. All in all, out of all the Star Wars games, KOTOR is probably my favorite, with Pod Racer a close second, and Rogue Squadron third. If you’re only gonna get one Star Wars game during Steam’s sale, this is the one I recommend.
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