Star Wars: KOTORFebruary 4th, 2013 | Posted by in Blog
Does anyone remember Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic? I fricken’ loved those games. Days I spent battling Rakgauls under Taris, hair-raising swoop-bike races and generally exploring the Star Wars universe.
December 2011 saw the latest continuation (it’s not really a sequel) in the series, entitled The Old Republic (TOR), which saw fit to introduce fanatics to the enormous – and not altogether friendly – world of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing.
Although initially released via paid subscription, the game has recently adopted a free-to-play model which is why I’m downloading it to play now as opposed to fourteen months ago. I intend to review, but as the download has around 18Gbs to go, I’m going to take you down memory lane and discuss some of the best parts of the previous two games.
This is, of course, the first area we visit with extensive exploration and quest-completion in the KOTOR universe, and the developers have done extremely well when it comes to getting us hooked. Within seconds of getting out of the door, we’re confronted with a situation that can influence our alignment and progress through the game. It also establishes one of the game’s major themes, if only on this planet – prejudice against aliens.
Gameplay-wise, there’s nothing particularly outstanding, but that’s not the point. The sheer variety of mission goals and sidequests on this planet introduces the staple bread-and-butter components that make up much of this game and the next one. There are plenty of optional tasks to carry out for those who stray off the beaten path.
Perhaps most crucially, we’re given the chance to meet some of the characters who populate this world. The down-to-Earth Carth, head-strung Bastila and bombastic Canderous will be with us throughout the story. But there’s also the Mafia-esque Davik, crazy duelling champion Twitch and the idealistic Rukil, who believes things will get better despite appearances.
This rich assortment of characters is but a taste of what we can expect later on.
An unexpected detour between planets sees the party captured by Saul Kareth’s starship the Leviathan. While the player is temporarily incarcerated, we take control of a minor figure (you can choose) who has to use their individual skills and abilities to free the player. This provides a welcome change in pace. Sneaking around a space ship that isn’t the Ebon Hawk is also a fun activity, with the large map of corridors and rooms providing a fantastic challenge to explore.
But the plot-related trauma is the real reason I love the Leviathan. It is the location of the game’s pivotal turning point in the story with a twist that has gone down in history as one of the most brilliant in a computer game.
The battle with Darth Malak doesn’t disappoint either. I usually hate boss battles with a passion matched only by my dislike of Peter Andre but this one is fairly effective. While it doesn’t feel easy, it’s certainly possible to complete and we come away having lost Bastila which makes us feel a price has been paid. It’s good drama.
KOTOR 2 on board the abandoned Peragus mining facility and it’s one of my all-time favourite gaming environments. Our player awakens to find themselves alone on board a mining facility, littered with dead corpses and aggressive droids. While progressing through the maze-like factory, we unearth a number of holographic recordings that hint at what may have caused the droids to go crazy and start attacking people.
It’s a downright eerie experience that is made no less spooky when an apparently-deserted space cruiser turns up and docks with the station. Exploring the mines themselves is another highlight, as is piecing together what led to this point and finally working out who reprogrammed the droids.
Some of the planets in the game are more extensive than others. Nar Shaddaa is one such location. Beside two massive hub levels, there are two bars, a swoop racing track, a refugee slum and the strongholds of no less than two villains to explore. Unravelling the mystery surrounding master criminal Goto is immensely satisfying, as is completing the various side quests.
These little tasks more often than not bring you into conflict with Kreia, a neutral character thrown into a game that more often than not forces you to choose a side. She criticises practically every choice you make on this planet, but this is far from a bad thing. In terms of entertainment value, she’s second only to bloodthirsty HK-47, and nobody when it comes to compelling characters.
The climax of Nar Shaddaa has you sprinting through Goto’s yacht to rescue the player-character in a Leviathan-style tribute. You spend much longer playing as the NPCs this time, though. Depending on how prepared you are when you go on board, your secondary characters will either have an easy time of it, or an incredibly difficult one. Even when replaying the game, it’s difficult to gauge what’s needed.
What the future holds
I’ve only briefly skated over my favourite sections, but there’s enough good in these games for a few weeks worth of gameplay if you’re a casual player. The question is – will the next incarnation of KOTOR be enough to fulfil my expectations? I don’t know. To be fair, I don’t even know if it’ll run on my relatively low-spec laptop. But it’s worth a try.
The installation has finished now. Wish me luck.