Monday, October 31, 2005

KOTOR mini-review

After moving the Fallout style of character creation to the AD&D universe for Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, Bioware picked up a new license and created an AD&D Star Wars RPG in Knights of the Old Republic. The time setting - 4000 years before the events portrayed in the movies - is theoretically one of the most interesting things about the game, but surprisingly is essentially irrelevant. The only difference between it and the galaxy of The Phantom Menace is that the Sith are a known galactic force. Other than that, the bad guys still travel in almost-Star Destroyers, the good guys travel in an almost-Millenium Falcon. Lightsabers, blaster rifles, Tattooine, Jedi - you name your favorite aspect of the Star Wars universe, it's in the game, 4000 years before.

Still, one would imagine that it would be cool to fly all over the galaxy, doing Jedi things, fighting evil, or fighting good, depending on whether you play dark side or light. There are seven planets to visit, each with 10 or so quests, some simple, some slightly more complex. However, the main quest utilizes one of the laziest approaches to game plot design around - you have to collect four parts of an item on four different planets to succeed. This pushes the gameplay into the same pattern, over and over - go to planet, solve minor quests, solve main quest, go to new planet.

This wouldn't be much of a problem if the planets were larger, but they're not. They tend to consist of 4 or 5 small areas, in linear progression - Town, Road, Dangerous Area, More Dangerous Area. They're very easily explored, as well, lending the impression that KOTOR is a tiny, tiny game. Which is a very odd impression to come away with from a game that should feel galactic.

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