SummaryThe best roleplaying game I've played...ever
The GoodKOTOR is a true masterpiece. The Xbox version, released to much critical acclaim in Spring 2003, only got PC gamers more excited about what was to come. Now that I've played the PC version (which I consider to be superior to the Xbox version), I can say that this is the greatest RPG I've ever experienced. It's definitely in my Top 3 of all time (I'd say it's the second best...second to Grim Fandango and one notch above Beneath a Steel Sky).
Coming from BioWare, the Canadian developer of the Baldur's Gate games, Neverwinter Nights, and the sleeper hit MDK2, KOTOR is the most accessible and fun of their roleplaying games (MDK2 might be more accessible, but it's an action game, a far cry from most of their work). The accessibility is shown right from the start. There are only three classes to select - the Soldier, skilled in combat, the Scout, skilled in exploration, disabling mines, and hacking computers, and the Scoundrel, skilled in stealth, lockpicking, and persuasive talking. You can choose to be male or female. The game uses a simplified version of the D20 system used for Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Ctulhu, and the Star Wars Roleplaying Game. However, you don't have to be very familiar with the system at all. A quick read of the manual will explain attack bonus, saving throws, skills, feats, abilities, and powers. It will even explain all the technical details of what the computer is doing that you don't really need to know. Creating a character in Baldur's Gate often took a while, and Neverwinter Nights, even with the "Recommended" button, still took a bit of time, but creating a character in KOTOR often takes less than 2 minutes. The hardest part is picking your portrait and name.
The game uses a 3D engine, and you move using the standard WASD control scheme. You will notice from the start that unlike Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, every single line of dialogue is voice acted (except for your character's lines, but that's because they're supposed to have your voice...it's roleplaying, remember?). The voice acting is excellent, especially for the droid HK-47. HK is quite possibly one of the most entertaining video game characters I've ever seen. His policy of calling humans "meatbags" and constant urge to kill something really must be seen to be believed. The graphics also need to be seen...they're just simply amazing.
Gameplay is excellent. Combat is psuedo-real time (it's turn based, but you can't really tell since it moves so fast), but can be paused at any time to issue orders to your party, which can have three members at a time. Dialogue is full of moral choices that can really effect your thinking and play style. One time I felt so bad about threatening a shopkeeper to lower the price of a droid that I loaded a previous saved game (but there is thankfully a quicksave key, which can really prevent replaying certain parts a zillion times). You also really start to care about the characters you travel with. One sequence involves my character being interrogated. If I lie, my companion gets tortured. You know your companion doesn't want you to give the information, but the sight of seeing her tortured nearly makes you crack. Emotional sequences like that truly show that game development is an art.
The story is much better than Episodes I and II. George Lucas should take notes. KOTOR's story keeps you enthralled to the very end, and on the way you'll experience one of the greatest plot twists in any storytelling media ever...book, movie, or game.
The BadKOTOR isn't without its flaws. Even after installing the patch, it still crashes sometimes, though quicksaving often can remedy this issue. Like many Infinity engine games, KOTOR sometimes runs choppy, but this can be fixed by quicksaving and quickloading. Since I have a Geforce 4, I'm not sure about the ATI card bugs, but I've heard that there are still some crash bugs with ATI cards and that soft shadows don't always work with them.
Some other minor issues involve the voice acting of alien dialogue to be VERY lengthy. I can often finish reading the subtitles ten seconds before the non-English voice acting ends. Seriously, how long does it take to say "I really hate the Sith" in Twi'lek?
Another very minor issue is the game's anachronistic tendencies. It's supposed to take place 4000 years before A New Hope, yet the technology seems to be on roughly the same level.
The Bottom LineDespite its bugs, KOTOR is one of the best games I have ever played. It takes 20-40 hours to complete, and is fun until the end. I almost cried when it was over..I didn't want it to end.