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10:16am on Sunday, 23rd October, 2005:

Knights of the Old Republic


I've been playing Knights of the Old Republic for the past few days, and I have to say I'm disappointed.

I've been looking forward to playing this game for some time, but only recently purchased it. All the signs were right: it's by Bioware, it's a Morrowind-like RPG, it has 48 Game of the Year awards for 2003, it's set in the Star Wars universe... I really wanted to like it.

I don't like it, though.

It maps pretty well onto Baldur's Gate, which I've just finished playing. Mines are traps, blasters are bows, swords are, er, swords, the Force is magic, medpacks are potions, it has alignment, armour, NPC character interactions, voice acting by Jennifer "Mazzy" Hale, Ed Asner and Neelix. Why don't I like it?

It hangs while loading sometimes, which is annoying, but I've stuck through worst. It has movement using the left-hand WS ZC thing, but I dare say a couple of minutes on Google would tell me how to change it. The quests are uninspired and follow a fairly linear storyline, but no more so than Icewind Dale. Bodies of slain foes fall through closed doors, just as in so many other 3D games. There are long cut scenes that end by throwing you into a piece of action during which you can't save, but the Baldur's Gate games are guilty of that. In short, there are bugs and irritations, but even in combination they're not show-stopping.

The reason I don't like it, I've decided, is its party system combined with its viewpoint.

Party-wise, it allows the main character plus two others, but no more. Three characters (even when two can be selected from a set of, ultimately, nine) just doesn't make a party for me. I want more than a main character plus a couple of sidekicks (none of which I've yet found engaging). Four party members is the minimum for me, and five or six would be preferable. One of the things that finally put me off NeverWinter Nights was having to take around an irritating henchman the whole time so I could open all the locked doors in my way.

The viewpoint is tied to the party leader — basically first-person, but over-the-shoulder. Now I don't mind this, so long as I don't get motion sickness from it, and KOTOR is fine in this regard. It encourages immersion, allowing for nice role-playing possibilities. Now if the game just had one character, as with Morrowind, that would be OK. It doesn't, though, it has three characters in a party. You find yourself having to switch to the other characters to get them to do things they wouldn't do automatically (eg. throw a grenade at a single opponent or attack the same character everyone else is attacking) and this really spoils the immersion. If it were always third-person POV, as with Baldur's Gate, that would be fine, but it's not. They want you to get the first-person POV for the immersion, but then they give you three characters to control so there's no chance of getting immersed. I've clocked up maybe 25 to 30 hours of play so far and haven't been engaged by it once.

I have a lightsabre now (or lightsaber, as I bought the US version), so maybe I'll keep playing a while longer. If it doesn't pick up soon, though, I'm going to abandon it.

Damn! I was so looking forward to this game...

Referenced by Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).