A Long Time Ago, On A Console Far Far Away…
HIGH The plot and narrative still hold up.
LOW It’s a no-frills port of a 14-year-old game.
WTF Most of the bugs are still here.
Released in 2003, Knights of the Old Republic was the first in a series of RPGs inspired by the Star Wars franchise and developed by BioWare, one of the most respected houses at the time. Originally for PC and Xbox, it’s now available on the Switch. However, it’s important to know front that nothing substantial has changed here — its been given a fresh coat of paint, but that’s about it.
What does KOTOR offer? The gameplay is a classic party-based RPG — explore locations featured in the franchise (Kashyyyk, Tatooine, etc.), talk to characters, gain new friends that join the cause, and make choices that will ultimately decide the main character’s leaning towards either the dark or light side.
The story takes place four thousand years before the events of the movies, so the script isn’t bound by the usual canon continuity issues. In the midst of a war between the Sith and the Republic, our main character finds themselves on a ship under attack. They escape the battle accompanied by fellow refugee Carth Onasi, and the two land on the nearby planet Taris before initiating a search for a powerful Jedi who can help.
While some familiarity with Star Wars lore might enhance a player’s enjoyment, there are no direct references to any of the films. I’d imagine that the narrative (and the experience, as a whole) can be enjoyed by most players, even if they’re coming to it relatively fresh.
Combat is handled in an unusual way that I can’t quite get myself to appreciate — it’s a hybrid of real-time and turn-based mechanics. Fighting takes place automatically without any input from the player, but the action can be paused at any time and the active characters in the party can be swapped out, their weapons changed, or their tactics altered. It is a system that never makes one feel part of the combat, since everything is automated, leaving me with the impression that most fights are won thanks to dumb luck.
While the combat might not be up to snuff, I’m happy to report that the narrative side of the experience still stands strong as one of the best from the last 20 years as it touches upon themes of solitude, sorrow, and revenge. The teammates that the player decides to bring with them, for a party up to three out of a total of nine possible members, will often comment on decisions the player makes — these choices may lead to party members becoming steadfast allies, or they might abandon the player altogether if their views and morals are simply too different. For example, Carth Onasi, the Republic soldier, will not like if our main character decides to not help people in trouble or steal things out of honest people.
This richness of character and story mean that Knights of the Old Republic make the player feel part of a living world, where each decision counts in ways that might not be become clear until much further down the road.
Graphically, while KOTOR is clearly dated, it still looks decent — especially in larger areas or during cutscenes. The slight bump in resolution and some fixes in widescreen appearance contribute to a better visual experience overall, even though this isn’t a top-to-bottom revamp.
I was more than glad to revisit Knights of the Old Republic, despite the no-frills port. It’s a great way to experience (or re-experience) what remains one one of BioWare’s best RPGs, and one of the strongest narratives in the world of Star Wars.
Disclosures: This version of the game is developed and published by Aspyr. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode and this version of the game was not completed, although the reviewer has played this game in the past on a different console. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game is rated T by the ESRB for Violence. Despite the violence being pretty tame, considering the mature themes such as issues of power and race, I would definitely recommend it for at least a teen audience.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game features subtitles for all spoken dialogue, but text cannot be altered or resized. (See examples above.) No audio cues are needed for gameplay. In my view, the game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: controls are NOT remappable and there is no diagram. Movement is accomplished by using the left stick to move the character and the right to control the camera, with the A button to select a relevant action (talking, fighting, etc), the shoulder buttons are used to switch between the different team members.