PC Preview

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

The force certainly looks strong in this one, and quite frankly we can't wait.

A not-so-long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, gamers throughout the planet longed for the ultimate Star Wars experience; it would have to be one that immersed them directly in the world they longed to be part of, and in such a way that it would provide hours upon hours of gaming bliss. That experience, sadly, has remained elusive. However, just when all of the would-be Jedi were about to give up to the dark side, a magical triumvirate consisting of three of the most powerful light side icons was formed. First to appear was LucasArts; the organization ran by the master of all Jedi (whose force power was beginning to wane in the world of gaming). Second, the master of all things operational, Lord Gates, created the grand machine on which the elusive experience may be created. Thirdly, there was BioWare, a rogue group of scoundrels that have repeatedly proven themselves experts in the field of RPG creation. It would seem, on the surface, to be a union of medichlorians foretold by the prophets. However, the answer to whether the fruit of this union becomes the most powerful Jedi in the universe or just another fallen hero turned Sith Lord is an answer too cloudy to be foretold.

May 2002 has come and gone, and taken another E3 with it. It was at this yearly convention that gamers got their first real glimpse of BioWare's highly anticipated RPG Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. From the reports received back from the Bothan spies sent to the trade show, it looks like this one has got all the right ingredients to make not only one of the best RPGs ever, but the definitive Star Wars title.

It will take players to a time about 4000 years prior to the tales told in the films, during a period in which the Jedi and the Sith numbered in the thousands, and were locked in an epic struggle. Players assume the role of a human (players' parties consist of three characters, which can include humans, droids, Twi'leks, Wookies, etc) Jedi, whose decisions and actions not only affect his future (players can become Sith if they act too evil), but the outcome of this conflict on a much grander scale. The specific details of the storyline are still being kept quiet, but the developers assure that it involves stopping the Sith at all costs.

Players start out by building their character to spec, and then set out on the adventure which will mold and shape said character based on deeds and actions. The player sets the beginning skill points and combat feats, but different skills and abilities are added as the game progresses. BioWare has mentioned that quite a lot of painstaking detail has been presented in the game, and players will even be able to construct their character's lightsaber (which is a fundemental skill of any padawan), instead of just picking one up "weapon-up" style. The clothing and armaments of said characters will appear on their model no matter how you choose to dress them, and their appearance will affect how you are perceived by others. Even the most philanthropic Jedi will not be trusted if he walks through an environment wearing a black cloak, etc.

Speaking of environments, KOTOR will offer a universe spanning ten different worlds, which includes familiar favorites as well as completely new ones. Expect to travel to such places as Tatooine, the Sith world of Korriban, the Jedi Academy on Dantooine and the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk. The player's home will be the Ebon Hawk, a familiar-looking predeccessor to a certain famous Corellian smuggler's "fastest hunk-o'-junk" in the galaxy. Players will be able to "live" inside the ship, interact with others, and even fly her about during certain challenges. Think of the Ebon Hawk as the "100 gil" per night Inn that you take with you everywhere you go (for purposes of explaining its role within this massive RPG). It can also act as a storage depot for the extra items you or your Wookie are finding a little too cumbersome to lug around.

Their will be a wide array of weapons (most of which are still under wraps with the developer), but lightsabers, blasters, bowcasters, and vibro blades have been assured. The story is one of epic proportions, the stuff one would expect from a BioWare RPG, the combat is going to consist of real time, rule based combat, and the character's development is directly related to the outcome of choices and actions. An interesting aspect of the game is that to add replayability, certain areas are only open to certain types of characters... in short, a fully angelic Jedi is not going to be able to get into highly Sith populated areas and vice versa. The next play through would warrant a more evil upbringing of the character to become welcome there.

What would a good RPG be without tons of mini-game side quests? Well, not a really good one after all. KOTOR won't disappoint in this regard, either, as the developers have included many mini games throughout the world, some required to progress through the main story, and some purely optional. They've been quoted as saying that they like to use mini games in places where one would normally just be watching a cutscene, so its execution sounds a bit innovative and welcome from the start. Also, all the in-game dialogue text will be spoken by character voice as well, an excellent feature that has only become possible of late (with this generation's hardware) because of the sheer amount of dialogue a typical forty hour RPG would require. Expect to be completely enveloped in the Star Wars universe.

Any character within your party can be controlled, and the AI will take over for the other two in the meantime. Players may switch from character to character at will. Saving progress is an anywhere, anytime system... providing the player is not in a situation of impending danger at the time. Saving in the midst of a "boss" battle will be right out.

The Xbox and PC versions will be identical in terms of gameplay, but there will be obvious control differences. BioWare has claimed that the whole title from beginning to end will be "longer than your typical console RPG, but not quite as enormous as Baldur's Gate 2", so expect a solid forty+ hours of saber swinging, force pushing, Sith Lord bashing, no Jar-Jar goodness when the Xbox version streets this fall.

E3 Trailer