The "Star Wars" Trilogy Recycled, yet Completely Original

User Rating: 9.5 | Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic XBOX
"Star Wars" games are extremely hit and miss. More often than not, I am extremely disappointed at any given "Star Wars" themed game, whether it be due to awkward gameplay ("Bounty Hunter"), horrible graphics and voice work ("Obi-Wan"), or empty and difficult to grasp storylines. I was extremely concerned that this game would take a similar approach, but pre-ordered anyway, almost a year in advance, because this game was being made by Bioware, a company that had a history of solid RPG gaming experiences. I am glad I took that risk. I was not disappointed.

As far as gameplay goes, this game takes the cake by having an extremely solid RPG-based system of fighting and gameplay that takes care of every detail of gaming. Its not exactly live-action gameplay, and though its definitely more like a turn-based system, its not exactly that either. Its unique in that it allows a combination of the two, primarily to allow for the player character to control both his main player character and his party. To give the user more time in between shots, you can pause the action and rotate through your party to change tactics, or you can sit and concentrate on a single player and queue the actions of the other characters as back-up. The options are almost endless as far as how a single player can approach any battle. The quest-based structure, the presentation of force powers, the sheer number of unique items, are all hard to fathom, as in, its hard to imagine how the developers put so much into a game that fits on a single DVD.

Graphics are not exceptional in this game. They aren't anywhere near as bad as they were in "Obi-Wan", are better than in games like "Jedi Academy", but are not quite as good as they were in "Bounty Hunter", "Rogue Leader", or "Rebel Strike". Its not the graphical prowess that impresses me in terms of the visuals of this game, but the sheer depth of the environments. The locations easily bring up emotional experiences for those familiar with any "Star Wars" movie... most are familiar, and comforting, while others we have always heard about but never had the opportunity to see, and still others are brand spanking new yet fully compatible with the "Star Wars" universe we have all come to know and love. The sheer variety of visual effects more than makes up for the lower quality of graphics. Sound in the game is exceptional, made by artists who clearly know how to make unique "Star Wars" themed music, with many elements of the original William's scores, yet are new in their own right. The voice-work in this game, and the spoken dialog it goes along with, is simply the BEST spoken dialog in any game at any time that I have ever experienced. These characters are believable, more believable perhaps than any previous "Star Wars" characters, including those in the original trilogy. The dialog is uniquely American/Canadian/English, and doesn't suffer from the translation foibles that so many non-English games present us with. Its as if someone took the appropriate and very witty dialog of any "Broken Sword" game and fused it with a "Star Wars" storyline. Its that good.

The storyline is where this game really shines. Like most other aspects of this game, the developers created a totally new and inspiring storyline, and did it anchored in many plot elements that made the original trilogy great. Its not a copy of the trilogy, but it clearly was instructed by it. Elements of the original trilogy, such as love relationships, the "Death Star", metallic-voiced super villains, redemption, the "Millenium Falcon" home ship, discovery of Jedi training and power, and even a surprising plot twist built around an identity crisis ("Luke, I am your father") all have corresponding plot elements in the storyline of this game. The story writers/scripters REALLY know their "Star Wars", and more than that, they know how to make a story that doesn't copy Lucas' masterwork, yet is able to capture its essence and still be completely original.

This game has incredible replay value. There simply is no other way to put it. It is full of options, both that influence your light-side or dark-side tendencies, and that affect other branches of the storyline. The story can go in two major directions, one light-side and one dark-side, and the story truly does branch at the end based on which one you choose, with two respective endings. But two plays through this game, one light-side and one dark-side, are simply not enough to experience every option in this game. I played the game six times through, and still didn't hit every possibilty. Hundreds of hours of gameplay await any gamer who gets caught with this bug. No, the game is not as wide as Morrowind, but its also not as annoying. Its open-ended enough to keep gamers interested, but not so open ended that it puts the gamer off in a sea of annoying complexity.

To put it bluntly, "Knights of the Old Republic" is one of my favorite games, in any category, in my 30+ year history of playing video games. It is certainly my favorite game on the XBOX, and the best console game on any platform of 2003. Though many reviewers have said it before, repetition is the best form of emphasis: this game is the BEST thing to happen to the "Star Wars" universe since the original trilogy!