Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Impressions

BioWare's Star Wars role-playing game for the Xbox is looking more and more polished, and we get a rare look at the PC version.

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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
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As many Star Wars games as we've seen, none seems to re-create the epic adventure of the movies quite as well as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. While BioWare's role-playing game is set 4,000 years before the movies, the universe doesn't seem all that different, and if anything, it's something of a relief that the coolest characters, the Jedi, are nearly everywhere in this time period. The game adapts the Dungeons & Dragons D20 rule set in creative ways that allows the developer to play to its strengths. While a BioWare game has never had higher production values or been more accessible, the smaller details that helped distinguish the Baldur's Gate series--like the light banter between party members---also seem to be included.

At BioWare's E3 booth, we had an opportunity to take a close look at the Xbox and PC versions of the game. Both were developed simultaneously for much of the project, but the Xbox game has gotten much more exposure and will be the first version released. The Xbox game is nearly complete, and the essentials are little different from when we last previewed it in March. Between now and the July release date, the game will continue to be tested and polished--the branching storyline and numerous side quests take some time to test thoroughly. While nearly all the game content is the same, a small team has been working on specific elements necessary for the PC version (though the project won't get BioWare's full attention until the Xbox release). After that it will take some time to do the necessary compatibility testing, and to put the finishing touches on the mouse-and-keyboard interface. It didn't take more than a second to see that the PC version really benefits from the higher texture quality, which makes the characters' faces look much more detailed.

Knights of the Old Republic has a deep and involving storyline that will let you create a character from one of three classes and develop him or her into a powerful Jedi, leaning either to the light or dark side. Decisions you make along the way will determine not only your alignment and available force powers, but also the appearance of your character. As the story develops, you'll encounter a total of nine galactic adventurers that can join you. Two of these colorful characters can be at your side at a given moment, while the rest stay on board your ship, the Ebon Hawk, until summoned. It's possible to return to the Ebon Hawk, a craft reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon, to change the items in your inventory or upgrade weapons. For instance, it's possible to swap the color and power crystals in the one or two lightsabers that your character may possess.

There seems to be a lot to like in Knights of the Old Republic. We can't wait to see the rest of the story when the Xbox version is released this summer. The PC version is scheduled for release this fall.

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