E3 2002Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic impressions

We take a tour of LucasArts' upcoming Star Wars role-playing game.

LucasArts gave us a demonstration of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, its upcoming role-playing game in development at BioWare, at the 2002 Electronic Entertainment Expo today in Los Angeles. LucasArts' Mike Gallo introduced us to some of the game's features as we watched a Jedi character run across Dantooine's grassy fields, stopping occasionally to interact with other characters through brief in-engine cutscenes. The game ran smoothly on the Microsoft Xbox, and we can expect the PC version of the game to include the same content as the console version.

The third-person game is set approximately 4,000 years before the events depicted in the original Star Wars film. Players begin the game as one of three different character classes--including soldier, scoundrel, or scout--that include both male and female versions. As they progress through the game, characters will gain new skills and become more powerful.

The game features a number of small visual details that make the world feel alive. The grass sways in the wind, armor reflects the environment, smoke disperses in the air, and groups of birds cross the sky sporadically. The character animations are also designed to convey a sense of realism, and Gallo showed us an injured character who limped along slowly, while the rest of the characters walked and ran normally.

Many situations in the game can be approached from different perspectives. At one point in the demonstration, the Jedi used his persuade skill to make a guard abandon his post in order to access the rear door of a military base, although he could have chosen to fight the guard instead. The droid skill can be used in a similar way, as Gallo demonstrated by using the skill to reprogram an enemy droid and send it into a force shield, thereby disabling both the shield and the droid without having to use brute force.

The combat in the game is in real time, but it is based on set rules. Players will be able to layer their attacks using power attacks, force powers, and other options in order to increase their effectiveness in battle. Characters can also gain a passive blocking feat that can be improved over the course of the game.

Knights of the Old Republic will also feature playable cutscenes intended to give players a rest from the role-playing and combat elements in the game. Since the cutscenes are used to progress the storyline in the game, they will be designed to be simple and fairly easy to complete. The cutscene shown in the demonstration let a player control a spaceship as it traveled from one point to the next, only to encounter some enemy fighters that had to be destroyed before the journey was complete.

Overall, the Xbox version of the game looks like it's on track for its scheduled release this fall, and the PC version is expected to be complete next spring. For more information, take a look at our in-depth interview about the game.

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