Monday, May 14, 2012

Star Wars: Kotor

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR for short) was released back in 2003 by the developer BioWare and published by LucasArts.  This game was classified as an RPG in which the player got tot choose one of three very basic character class types in which later on, the player could further this into choosing one of three Jedi classes.  To create a more unique game play, each character has a tree for skill stats, tiered feats, and finally Force powers.  When given the power to choose so many different capabilities a player can utilize for their personal character, the game seems to never be the same for anyone.

The combat of Star Wars: KOTOR was round-based, a similar mechanic seen in Baulder's Gate and the Neverwinter Nights series.  Obviously, with this game being dated back to 2003 and in tie to the traditional round-based gameplay, it works on the Dungeons and Dragons d20 system as well as the rules.  This isn't any new type of mechanic but still interesting enough on how an already established system turns out for excellent gameplay.  One difference to this, however, is the fact that a round is set for a specific duration or interval of real time which a player can adjust which gives the look and feel of real-time combat and strategy.

When playing the game, you can have up to two party members that accompany you on your adventures.  They are active in fights and can be played by the player them self or they can use the basic AI in the game.  The AI was not too bad for the date of origin but it would be much improved if it was redone for post 2010 game AI when we saw a solid grounding of better gaming AI in both PC and console games such as Deadly Premonition, Dante's Inferno, and Transformers: War for Cybertron.  An interesting part of the AI in this game was the fact that the two party members would interact with the player in dialogue.  Nothing special about that but they could also interact with each other and depending on the circumstances, unlock new quests or tasks.  As I type this, I'm trying to recall if there was another game I've played that did this and none came to mine.  In regards to dialogue, this game used the mechanic of selecting your own kind of response, giving the game a different gameplay for users.  True, there were times where you had to 'play by the rules' to get a desired situation or reward but the fact the mechanic was even implemented was amazing.  this, in turn, decides where your character will be in regards to the dark side or "light" side - even to the extent of changing how your character looks in game.  The only other game to do something like this that I can think of off the top of my head is from the Fable series.

Overall, the game has a very clean HUD and screen simplicity so the player is not seeing an overcrowded screen to play on.  It is a very easy game to pick up and learn so the learning curve was not as steep as some other games.  For being released in 2003, the graphics are not bad.  I'm sure if refurbished to post 2010, even to 2013 standards, the game would look much cleaner and sharper.  There are numerous puzzles and mini game-like events that the player can participate in such as Pazaak.  I'm going to be honest here: that game of Pazaak is addicting once you figure it out and get decent at it.  There were a few other mechanics that were noticed such as having to read notes on a desk to unlock a personal chest in the room and having an NPC talk to you in regards to your current quest or of a quest nearby.  to have such a unique gameplay offered for a game back in the early 2000's, this game was truly a gem.

Now, to bring out the bad side of the game that I experienced.  the controls were not very well polished and felt very 'clunky' to work with.  At times, I felt very lost because there seemed to be no clue as to where to head to next; no direction.  What was worse than that was the fact that moving around NPCs felt like a task in itself because the area around them was much too large.  Best example of this was when you are running through a corridor and there is a scene in which enemies are in front of you and a few NPCs.  You can easily avoid all of this if you go on the other side of the NPC and there seems to be more than enough space between the wall and NPC but you still couldn't go through.  With that said, it felt like hte game was semi on rails in that type of situation because the player was forced to combat those enemies.  There were not many autosaves in the game so this was a failed mechanic.  If I had limited game time available, I may not get far enough for that next autosave and if I had to leave suddenly, I'd have to start all over again.  Super frustrating!  The accuracy of some weapons and movements seemed to be lacking but yet again, this game was made back in 2003.  In regards to the NPC teammates, there were times I wondered how good the AI was and the collision detection because I would be far away from where they got stuck on a box or NPC...even a separate room.  this could be easily fixed by a game overhaul of the AI and collision detection improvement.  The one other downside of this game was that yes, you had skills and traits that you choose, but had very little opportunity to actually use them in combat.  A scaling down or up of the NPC teammates or personal player power and damage would easily fix this situation, making the skills and traits more rewarding.

Overall, Star Wars: KOTOR was, and still is, a decent game to play.  It doesn't play nice and smooth like the games we're so use to playing now, but still has a bit of nostalgia to it and giving kudos to the story writers.  The game had a great concept and display of the Star Wars universe and employed great voice actors which fit the NPCs well.  I'm sure that if given a new, updated gameplay with well polished mechanics and aesthetics, this game would be well received by the younger audience.

If you're interested in the game, these are the links for it:

Official Star Wars site