I wish to preface this review with a statement that I didn’t play this game when it was originally released back in 2003 (this is actually my first experience with it), so nostalgia for this game shouldn’t play a factor in this review. I was more into Star Wars Battlefront at the time, which was much more accessible to a five-year-old.
Originally released in 2003, riding a wave of new fandom inspired by the release of the Star Wars prequels, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was quickly regarded as a masterpiece and spawned a decade of sequels and expansions. Fans certainly have the warm fuzzies for this game but the bar for what makes a game good has changed in 18 years, so with its most recent re-release on the Nintendo Switch, it falls into the critique spotlight once more.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a classic Star Wars adventure RPG that has stood the test of time. The combat here is the only dice mechanic based system I’ve ever enjoyed. The fights (especially blaster based fights) feel so realistic and satisfying. It took a little getting used to but once you get into the flow, it feels intuitive and responsive. The levelling and perk system is just complicated enough to satisfy RPG aficionados but not so much so that it alienates more casual players. I found myself using the auto-level feature for all my party members and never noticed any severe detriment in doing so. The parties feel like a classic RPG: different characters have different skills that can help you progress and defeat even the most formidable enemies. It’s essentially an expansive Star Wars Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
The story and worldbuilding are steeped in Star Wars lore but it’s still accessible for newcomers. On face value, it’s a sci-fi romp that explains itself well enough not to be a distraction but if you’ve spent your entire life consuming Star Wars content like a majority of the fanbase, the details and references to the timeline at large will enhance the experience and help you feel immersed in the lore. My personal favourites are the details of the Jedi/Mandalorian war that is explored in The Clone Wars and Rebels. The environments are varied and interesting, although some tend to feel more dated than others.
The dialogue is surprisingly rich and the relationships between characters are fleshed out and vital to the progression of the story. Depending on the actions you take and how you respond to dialogue prompts, the story can be affected and can result in multiple endings. The idea of a gradient of Light/Dark is an interesting view of the binary idea expressed in the films but also a staple of RPGs. This framework also aids in immersion and adds replay value. I’ll definitely be doing multiple runs in order to get the full experience, which is a testament to how good this game is, since I usually delete games I review immediately after I submit them. This is the best game I’ve reviewed all year, even though it’s old enough to vote.
The only negatives I really faced in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic came from where the game truly showed its age: namely the graphics but more specifically, the character models. While it wasn’t a huge distraction for me, it was probably the only thing that was a bother in a noteworthy way. This game definitely looks like it’s from 2003 but if you have nostalgia for it, you’ll probably appreciate how it looks. And yet one redeeming factor for this is that the steady framerate helps the blocky models and animation be less of an issue.
- Dated visuals
Final Score: 9/10
I was really worried that the hype around this game would have left me disappointed (I had a disappointing experience with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind after buying into the nostalgia-fueled praise that fans of Skyrim had for the archaic predecessor) but for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the nostalgia that the fandom has for this game is justified. The gameplay is dated but still very fun (I think “retro” is the best word here), the characters/dialogue feels like classic Star Wars and the worlds you explore are rich and engaging. KOTOR feels like Dave Filoni (director of The Clone Wars, Rebels, The Bad Batch and The Mandalorian) made it and that’s the highest praise I can think of. I wasn’t all that interested in the upcoming remake but it’s now at the top of my wish list. At US$15, the Switch version is the best way to play KOTOR without mods: cheaper than tracking down an original Xbox version and more accessible than PC or mobile.
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