BioWare has been behind many of the best PC RPGs of our time; Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate 2, and Neverwinter Nights come to mind. For the last decade, their forte has been Dungeons and Dragons-style gameplay with open-ended twists. This summer, they will continue their legacy with the eagerly anticipated LucasArts release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for the Xbox and PC. Starting 4,000 years before Star Wars: A New Hope, Knights of the Old Republic will take fans of the series to a place they've never been in before; to a place where Sith and Jedi are on even ground and the Galactic Republic is young. If BioWare’s track record is any indication, gamers are in for a wild ride and many hours of gameplay.
Visually, Knights of the Old Republic is astonishing. The fully polygonal engine is impressive, as BioWare's artists seem to be in love with bump mapping and particle effects; both appearing to be used copiously throughout the game. Whether slumming in Mos Eisley or shooting it out in the Kessel System, gamers are sure to be amazed at the attention to detail. Reflective surfaces are also frequent and are simply awesome. The character models themselves are very well done with meticulously constructed renditions of humans, Wookies, Twil’ek and droids, among others in the Star Wars bestiary. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game aside from the in-game models is the lip-syncing. All characters, whether they’re speaking English, Rodian, or even Wookie, are painstakingly articulated to match their dialogue. While some of the video provided of the game showed an occasionally inconsistent frame-rate, we’re hopeful the engine will be optimized in time for a silky smooth presentation. Hopefully the camera won't be much of an issue as it was in last year’s Star Wars: Bounty Hunter.
The open-ended nature of Knights of the Old Republic is similar to tabletop Dungeons and Dragons. Essentially, BioWare has crafted an adventure where "how" you play determines what occurs during the game. In one instance, the player will come across a Sith academy. If the player has chosen the path of the Light Side of the Force, they may have to infiltrate the academy to assassinate a major Sith leader or obtain an object. If the player has chosen to follow the Dark Side, they can begin to train at the Sith academy to gain more power. If the player manages to follow tenuous neutrality, both sides of the Force will be ever watchful and speculative: seeing the player as either a powerful ally or a fearsome foe. The journey will span seven worlds in the Star Wars universe including Tatooine. As the story takes place several millennia before the events set forth in the films, there won’t be any character cameos or returning spacecraft. Fans of the Star Wars comics and novels may find familiar references but BioWare and LucasArts aren’t spilling any beans.
BioWare has always had a system behind the madness and Knights of the Old Republic is no exception. Knights of the Old Republic will utilize Wizards of the Coast’s D20 system, the same dice system used in paper and pencil D&D as well as the tabletop Star Wars RPG. Character creation will be based on six statistics - Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Those who have an acute fear of dice will rest easy in knowing that their character statistics will be rolled automatically. These statistics are quite self-explanatory and have a significant effect on the skills of the player’s character. While there are only eight skills in Knights of the Old Republic, they cover a broad spectrum of abilities. As a character progresses in levels, they will learn special abilities called "feats". As a synergy of the Force and the character’s own abilities, feats grant bonuses to the armor and weapons the character can use but also cover a wide spectrum of additional enhancements.
Combat in Knights of the Old Republic is as customizable as character creation. Firstly, the player will be able to control three characters at one time from a pool of nine possible allies. While the main avatar will be human, players will find a wide variety of races that will be willing to join your fight. Players will also be able to chose from real-time or turn-based combat. Similar to Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment, players who choose to play in turn-based mode will have more time to make decisions and plan actions, whereas in real-time, split-second decisions will determine victory or defeat. The game will feature a total of 44 Force powers that are divided into three categories: offensive, defensive and enhancement. Characters will be able to modify items and equipment (particularly lightsabers) as well as participate in several mini games such as riding swoop bikes. BioWare’s previous experience in creating immersive RPGs promises to make Knights of the Old Republic an excellent gameplay environment.
BioWare has never disappointed their fans with a lackluster soundtrack or sound effects. They’ve used orchestral composers such as Jeremy Soule and Inon Zur for their games as well as released OSTs in Collector’s Edition boxed sets. Knights of the Old Republic will be no different, incorporating both a new score as well as several of John Williams’ classic Star Wars themes. Knights of the Old Republic will also feature professional voice acting for every line of dialogue.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic has been in development for quite some time, and BioWare’s commitment to the game shows. Not only is the game shaping up to be graphically and acoustically stunning, the depth of character customization and dynamic storyline are signs of a promising adventure. As one of the biggest software licenses in gaming history, Knights of the Old Republic has some large shoes to fill. Needless to say, Star Wars aficionados and RPG fans in general have lofty expectations for this upcoming adventure. In just a few months, everything should fall together when Knights of the Old Republic sees release. From what we’ve seen so far, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic should be a very strong contender for Game of the Year.
Tired of tromping around as Kyle Katarn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker or any of the other familiar faces from the Star Wars franchise’s character continuum? If so, then get ready; LucasArts is gearing to release a new adventure late this year, from an even longer time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Developed by BioWare, the company behind Neverwinter Nights and the Baldur’s Gate and MDK series of games, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic takes the series timeline back 4000 years to an era before Darth Vader, Palpatine and his Empire, one in which the Jedi Knights are locked in a pitched conflict with the forces of the dark-side Sith order. Dropped into this period, you guide a character through a quest that will determine the outcome of the war, for good or ill.
The game features an active battle system, with fights taking place in the game proper rather than switching to a separate battle screen for the action. Character classes include bounty hunter, soldier, scoundrel, scout and Jedi guardian, among others, and available species include humans, droids, Twi'leks, Wookiees and more. Some of these classes are available from the outset, and some are held by non player-characters who join you during the course of the game.
Characters gain experience and new abilities as the game progresses, and you can customize your avatar’s growth within class boundaries. Parties are made up of up to three characters, with the main character controlled by the player and others by the game’s AI, though you can take direct control of other party members if desired. Weapons include blasters, rifles, and single- and double-bladed lightsabers. Force powers are described as acting as the game’s "magic system."
Some of the locations in the game are familiar, and some not; they include the Jedi Academy and grass lands of Dantooine, the barren desert world of Tatooine, the Sith world of Korriban and Kashyyyk, the forest-world of the Wookiees, to name some.
Knights of the Old Republic will have about 60 hours of gameplay, multiple sidequests, and an original score; some familiar themes may remain, but most of the music is unique to the game.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic looks poised to launch the Star Wars game franchise into a new level of depth and a far different style of gameplay than previous ventures.
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