Dina Farmer is back everyone! She’s been busy getting her new YouTube channel, Mom’s Gonna Snap, up and running. She’s back now though, and to kick things off she’s taking a fresh look at a game consider by many to be a modern classic: Star Wars – Knights of the Old Republic! Has it held up over the years, or is it mostly relying on nostalgia at this point? Read on and find out!
I must preface this article by saying I’ve never played this game before in my life. Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic was released in 2003 on the original Xbox. In my defense I did not hear of the game until 2017. As such, I’m not bound by nostalgia many gamers have. This in turn allows me, as a commenter, to speak from a place in which I am going fresh into a game known for being praised and lauded for being truly revolutionary and the favorite of many gamers. Keeping this in mind, I ask that you respect my opinion of the game as a newcomer.
KoTOR is set four thousand years before the conception of the Galactic Empire, at a time the Jedi Knights numbers were declining due to the seduction of the dark side and battles with the ruthless Sith. You play as the last hope of the Jedi Order; you must master your powers and decide if you will use that power for the good of the Republic or if you will fall prey to the promises of the dark side.
The player is able to create their own PC but is very limited to a selection of presets and a very basic choice in skin tones and hair colors. As with many BioWare games the story has many twists and turns. One of which I found unexpected but I wasn’t blown away by the delivery of this bit of information. KOTOR incorporates many characters to flesh out the story and make the player feel connected to the simulated game environment. However, many of the characters feel downright hollow and uninteresting. I found myself many times not caring what happened to the other team members in the game. The hostility from Carth the minute you arrive on Taris, till the second you help him with his son, was suffocating. I often left him behind because I was tired of his snide comments about my choices and his constant reminders that he didn’t trust me. The saving grace in the game may have been the assassin droid HK-47 and the rogue Jedi Jolee. These two managed to fill out the extremely dull moments of the game. Surprisingly, the game displays some diversity in the universe and perhaps more than even the original Star Wars movies showcased, by having one black companion character, Jolee, and often several in the background or as smaller side characters. Yet, with the diversity and two interesting characters, I often found myself questioning why all of this was important. Even with the revelation of the major plot twist, I found it unbelievable no one had any clue, except Bastila. It was also very difficult to wrap my head around how someone could be seduced so quickly by the dark side. There is not a real indicator of time in the game, therefore I have to treat the game in real time and wonder just how powerful the dark side is.
This game is relies heavily on D&D rules. As such going into this game I was really confused as to why my hits were missing most of the time or why I could wipe an entire area in one go and then get clobbered by sand people in the next. That was certainly a huge learning curve and not something I expected from my previous experience with BioWare games. With this in mind, I want to mention that while the engine behind the combat was something different and brought a certain level of difficultly to the game, the combat itself was boring. The computer accepts a queue of commands from you and the game then executes those commands. It is not real time combat like what they did in Jade Empire. It’s a very broken turn based system that seems to constantly be in favor of the computer. Even when the weird scaling in the game wasn’t wiping me, I was left trying to find ways to quickly defeat my enemies or avoid combat completely because it was just so broken and uninteresting. The boss fights were lackluster at best and devoid of any feeling of accomplishment at worse. I contribute my opinion of the combat to be spoiled by current games. Going from a fast paced combat environment to a slower roll based combat made fights drag on.
Despite these problems, I did like the world exploration. It was fun to visit planets talked about in the movies and see places where theoretically some of the characters came from. BioWare did a good job developing these planets and making them mostly harmonious and reflective of a time before the galactic empire. The maps are linear and to be expected, yet they generally had an open feel to them. The NPCs were helpful and often reminded me of the mission I had to complete. I didn’t care for the made up language of the aliens in the world, this goes the same for Jade Empire, it’s no secret they are saying the same 3 things over and over again I’m not fooled. It would almost be better if they just spoke basic rather than the made up language. I also loved the incorporation of the Czerka Corporation. They are on all the planets, I think, except for Taris. Czerka displays a side of the small business taking advantage of every situation around them. Many of their quests award dark side points, which is not a bad thing. I left wanted to see Czerka in future installments of the Star Wars franchise.
As I stated in the first paragraph, if I stumbled on this game back in 2003 I might have a different perception of the game. I would be in the same boat holding up an older game up on a very high pedestal like how I hold up Final Fantasy VII. Yet, I am inclined to find critical problems with the game I cannot overlook because I have been playing games years after this game came out. KoTOR holds a very special place in many hearts and the hype associated with it makes it appear to be a fantastic game at face value. I wanted to really like this game but the further I progressed through the game, the more I realized this game did not live up to the idolization others felt for it. The very weak plot points, the frustrating combat, and the hollowness of companion characters didn’t fulfill a promise of “one of the best RPGS ever made.” Often, it fell flat using traditional Star Wars tropes to fall back on instead of being a very original game on it’s own. I would contest this game was fantastic back in 2003, yet I question the validity of the statement that it is a great RPG. KoTOR as a whole hasn’t aged well and for me it simply did not live up to the hype surrounding it. Instead, it is a mediocre game that presents the shaping of what BioWare games look like today.
What’s your take on SW:KoTOR? Is it a nostalgic classic or does it hold up on its own merits for you? If it were to be remade today, how much would you want them to change about it?
If you’d like to see more stuff from Dina, check out her YouTube channel: Mom’s Gonna Snap.