KoTOR is memorable not because of its gameplay, but because of the storyline, and the way the gameplay is presented.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is best described as Neverwinter Nights in a traditional RPG view, no isometric nonsense; just you, the character, and the horizon, basically. The similarity to NWN is to be expected, I mean it's the same developer working on a virtually identical genre... and BioWare certainly do offer their own spin on the genre. See, KoTOR's combat - arguably a large portion of any RPG - is controlled by dice rolls. Basically your character's statistics are pitted against your enemy's statistics and this will either increase or decrease your chances of a successful attack and the severity of the attack. Basically you have a lot less control of what happens than in other RPG's, so if you're a control freak who loves his action then I'd certainly advise on staying away.
If you're not here for that, then good! Sit down! You obviously enjoy the finer things in roleplaying, and Knights of the Old Republic offers these delicacies in huge amounts.
If you were to ask me what element of this game was the top factor as to why I enjoyed it, then I wouldn't even hesitate slightly in telling you that the storyline and the dialogue involved with that storyline are superb. I'm a suitably large Star Wars fan to begin with and this storyline, while it doesn't involve any of the key characters in the movies or even most of the books, it's still brilliant, and it does feature some of the more well known planets and locations from the franchise. Over the course of the game you'll get the opportunity to journey in the Dune Sea on Tatooine, in a Sith Academy on the volcanic Korriban, visit the Wookiees in the trees on Kashyyyk, and visit a strange white world filled with strict neutral walking fish aliens called Selkath, not to mention a few equally compelling locales that are pretty much exclusive to the game. Why journey to so many planets, you ask? Well the main storyline of the game revolves around your main character, who despite having many dialogue choices in the game is never really voiced, leaving you to fill in the gaps with your imagination. This main character is not all that he or she seems, and your choices down the Jedi path (the light or the dark side, for star wars noobs!) will essentially affect the entire game - what powers you wield, what abilities you possess, and ultimately, where your allegiances lie. This also affects your other party members - there is about 10 other secondary characters in the game that you recruit over the course of the plot, each one of them is customizable and controllable, and dare I say it, they're some of the most charismatic memorable characters I have EVER encountered in a videogame. Ever. Let's see; you've got your standard headstrong Jedi Bastila who eventually sees the error of her ways and becomes an altogether different person... you've got Carth, the well-meaning star pilot of the Republic... you have Mission, a 14 year old Twi'Lek who is clearly not to be underestimated, what with her fiery attitude and huge Wookiee Zaalbar as her best friend... you've got Jolee, very much the wise Jedi of the game... Juhani, the Jedi who comes back from teh Dark side... T3-M4, the R2-D2 figure of the game... Canderous, the Han Solo figure of the game, just with an evil attitude... and possibly most humorous of all is HK-47, an evil protocol droid who has some extremely sarcastic yet emotionless remarks that know just how to make you erupt in uncontrollable laughter. Completely REMARKABLE characters, you won't be forgetting these guys in a hurry I assure you.
The plot is actually fairly simple at its core but it's made more complex through the illusion of dialogue. While basically all you're trying to do is kill a big Dark Lord Jedi man - Darth Malak, who is quite lovingly depicted in the gamespace banner for the game - there are many different branches to this plot and you'll frequently become involved with side quests that ultimately lead up to that goal of defeating Big Evil Dark Guy Malak. There are also two or three major plot twists between the middle and end portions of the game; one of them is amazing, it comes out of left field and it leaves you thinking, "what the hell just happened?!" and the other one, while slightly predictable, still has quite a shocking effect on you. These milestones can be seen as great incentive to keep playing even through the game's mundane parts (IE any area with a lot of combat involved, since the combat does get a bit stale after a while) What makes the dialogue pretty much the best part of the game is the way that you get a hell of a lot of input in it, too. Almost every line of dialogue spoken by a character results in you having to reply, just like with other RPG's, and BioWare have done a brilliant job of making this key element amusing. Even more interesting is the fact that whatever you say will result in further steps down the path of either the dark or the light side, so basically every single word you retort with means something.
And the dialogue is spoken in such great voices, too - the audio in the game is all around superb but the voice over work is the gemstone in the crown, I swear there are so many lines of dialogue in this game that it is a minor miracle how every single one of them is spoken so brilliantly. The alien voices do get slightly irritating though, especially when you discover that they pretty much use the same loop of syllables for every sentence... leading to a lot of conversations with extraterrestrials being cut extraordinarily short and to the point.
By now I've probably fed you enough of my opinion for you to be reading under the illusion that this game may as well be an interactive movie, not a videogame.
But the gameplay does have its great portions, too, you know. Most of the enjoyment here is from the character customization system. While at first it's a lot to get your head around - at first I completely ignored all menus and flashing warnings of Level Up! just because I couldn't be bothered going through all those hints, texts, and numbers... but if you're a true RPG nut then you'll find a whole wealth of lovely stats to burgeon through for each and every one of your characters... and you can dress them up, too! Isn't that great?!
Often you'll find that most of your fun in the game is deriving from the many choices you're making in the massive portions of dialogue that scatter KoTOR - but when everything gels together to be something this compelling, it doesn't really matter. The fact that the game has such an excellent atmosphere, an immersive storyline, and some seriously great characters is enough to compensate for any shortcomings that you might find in the sometimes simplistic 'sit back and let things play out' gameplay mechanics.
And yes, the game is displayed in quite a wonderful Star Wars vision, too. The graphics in the game aren't perfect, I admit, but they still carry a lot of the magic that make the movies so, ahem, magical. Aside from some major framerate drops when things get crowded, some jagged edges, minor clipping, and some other barely-noticeable problems, the game looks rather nice. Tatooine looks just as dry and, er, sandy as it did in the movies, and the hub in the Tatooine section (Anchorhead) might not have the same buzzing atmosphere as Mos Eisley does, but its cantina is rather faithfully portrayed, at least. Kashyyyk's great ambient sounds work perfectly with the many bridges suspended hundreds of feet in the air clinging to the sides of trees. Manaan's Ahto City is enjoyable to explore and it looks suitably good, all white walls and silver sculptures.... and Korriban is bleak, rocky, and somewhat sinister looking. These landscapes have a great hand in making the game's atmosphere what it is; simply one of the most immersive experiences I've ever undergone in a videogame.
Furthering the game's premise as such an amazingly immersive game is the music, which nine times out of ten fits perfectly with the environment and context it's being played in, and it even holds up well on its own as a technical achievement - I even have it on my Media Player, dammit. Along with the superb whirring of the lightsabers, assorted ambient sound effects and blips, and of course the brilliant dialogue, this is one game you absolutely have to experience in the dark with headphones on. Overall I think I've made my point - I think that Knights of the Old Republic is meant to be enjoyed for its other elements, not its combat. Its atmosphere, story, and its remarkable characters are just enough for it to warrant a buy - I assure you playing the game out to the end is a truly heartwarming experience and it will remind you of how much videogames can immerse you in a completely different world... and the fact that you have the means to shape that world in every dialogue choice, in every side quest, and ultimately in the final encounter with Mr Bad Guy Malak is quite an opportunity that nobody should miss.
All in all, you want to know something? Just on the merits that the game has widened my eyes on multiple occasions, has such a great storyline and overall has captivated my imagination just as much as the movies did and still do... I'd call this the best RPG I've ever played. Granted that's not saying much, as I'm very much the RPG newbie, but I think the game is wholly quite astonishing. You should not miss this game, whether you're a Star Wars fan or not...and just because the combat and general slow pace of the gameplay may throw you off at the beginning, I urge you to stick with it - otherwise you're missing out on one of the most consistent, epic, and compelling adventures that the videogame industry has ever seen.
-- written about 45 minutes after my completion of the game, 11:48PM, July 05, 2007.