I'm not going to use a single Star Wars cliche in this entire review. Not one. I'm not going to use any, not only because I think they're, for the most part, uncreative and horrible, but because I don't really know of any. I had enough fun watching the original three movies as a child, but ever since George Lucas savagely violated the franchise, I've blocked most everything Star Wars out of my head. What I will do, however, is take you on a fascinating thrill ride of positive adjectives over breathtaking hills of praise.
Are you ready?
Knights is the game that is going to change the way you look at modern Role Playing Games. Rather than just masquerading as an 8-bit RPG in a 128 RPG's body, Knights is the evolution that console RPGs have been dying for. There are no predetermined outcomes here, no linear-by-gunpoint feel, and absolutely no random battles. I can hear you asking "But without random battles and predetermined outcomes, can it possibly be an RPG? Surely it can't, Square-Enix told me so!" Well hold on, I assure you that there's still a fine game left, even after all those fossils are gone. As a matter of fact, once you play Knights, you'll probably have a hard time ever picking up a Final Fantasy again.
As touched on before, there are no random battles to be seen in Star Wars land. Enemies don't materialize out of nowhere (although some may be invisible from time to time) and there are no crazy fades or wipes that introduce the beginning of a battle. See an enemy, and then attack an enemy. It's really that simple. Throw a grenade, use a force power, run up to them and brain them with a melee weapon, or run like the coward that you are. It's a real time and it's not turn based, it's just somewhere in between. The combat system is loosely taken from table top RPGs, with saving throws (the chance that a grenade might miss you or not injure you at all for instance) and a hit and damage system depending on both luck and ability scores. To simplify, you'll do more damage and hit more often the higher level you are.
The other thing that Knights has that destroys every other game in it's genre is the fact that it lets you play it however you want. It's a role playing game, not a "role playing game...wink, wink." So instead of just walking around some guy with funny hair that looked like he just stepped out of a Japanese cartoon, you get to control a character that you create, do what you want to do as him, and treat people however you'd like. Instead of saying "Wow, this guy is lame" like you do in every other RPG, you'll be saying "Wow, he hates people just like I do." How you answer questions and interact with people will determine your characters demeanor, through Dark Side or Light Side Points. The more Dark Side points you receive, the more hideous your character looks and the more of an SOB he becomes, or get Light Side points and make him a perfect, pretty little angel. Then, dress him up in any armor of your choice and give him a weapon or two. He will actually wear whichever armor and weapons you give him in every point in the game, including cut scenes, which is a nice touch. If you find that his armor or weapons are lacking a certain something, just find yourself a work bench and enhance them. You can even change the color and properties of your light saber, so you can wield one blue one and one yellow one if you're tacky. There's almost so much control here that it might scare you.
Also scary here is just how well done the story is. Someone that wasn't George Lucas came up with a story that's infinitely better written and more compelling than either of the last two Star Wars movies. Playing it will make you wish that they'd made three movies out of this game instead. It'll seem pretty basic at first, but it won't take you much time to realize just how finely crafted the storyline is, and there's plenty of great twists to keep you interested. I'm not going to spoil any of the story here though, aside from just saying that you're out to save the world, and you have a very fleshed out cast of character to help you out. You've never seen so much personality from a droid. Trust me. Throw in the fact that every single line of dialogue in the game is voice acted, and in several Star Wars languages, and you have a level of presentation that's near perfection.
What else can I say? Buy this game, right now. If you don't have an Xbox, then go buy one and this game right now. This is one of those masterpieces of this electronic art form that comes out so very rarely, and you have to have it. Knights of the Old Republic is the real evolution of role playing games, and it will hopefully be a kick in the pants for a lot of other gaming companies to finally break down and move their RPGs out of the 8-bit era. You'll marvel at the graphics, be amazed by the sound, and you'll play it through again to take the paths you didn't choose the first time, and to see what might have happened had you gone to a different place at a different time. This game is a triumph.
· · · AFX