Between 1998 and 2003 they released 8 games seven of which were licensed Dungeons & Dragons games so it’s understandable that after six years they may have been feeling a bit of fatigue with fantasy settings. This is when they decided to create their second most famous (and possibly further reaching) title Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Yes it was another licensed product but it was one of the biggest Xbox titles and helped define a huge portion of the history of the Star Wars expanded universe creating the setting for Darkhorse Comics, Star Wars novels, and helping to codify the history of the Mandalorians, the Sith and the Jedi Order.
The game was initially released on Xbox in July of 2003 but has since gone on to be available on Windows, Mac, and iOS and saw the creation of a new engine titled Odyssey which was only used for this and their other Xbox title Jade Empire. You take the role of an amnesiac waking up on a Republic vessel, and in fine Star Wars tradition it is under attack by Sith forces. Fighting your way through the vessel you learn the mechanics of the game learning how to que basic movement, attacks, and abilities. You soon team up with Carth Onasi a pilot on the Republic Vessel and escape together to the ecumenopolis of Taris, the city world is run by the Sith but playing it careful you are able to not only hook up with Twi’lek rogue Mission Vao and her Wookiee buddy Zaalbar as well as rescue the commander of the vessel the Endar Spire which was shot down a Jedi by the name of Bastila Shan after which you get a sweet ride the Ebon Hawk out of the deal.
The Ebon Hawk is your base of operations for most of the game, you travel around the universe working to foil the Sith who are under the leadership of Darth Malak the steel jawed former good guy and getting to know your travelling companions. Aside from the charming Carth, earnest Bastila and the dynamic duo of Mission and Zaalbar you eventually team up with Jedi Jolee Bindo a ‘Gray’ Jedi who’s philosophy differs from that of the council, utility droid T3-M4, Mandalorian warlord Canderous Ordo, cat lady Jedi Juhnai, and finally everyone’s favourite homicidal killing machine HK-47. The personalities of all these characters are very different and this is the start of the long standing tradition in Bioware games of your actions impacting your relationships and eventually possibly leading to romances.
There’s so much I could go on about here, these characters continue to exist in the lore of Star Wars to this day due to their impact, the game is filled with genuine humor with banter between companions, back stories and side missions that add nuance and complexity to what could otherwise been boring and inconsequential and mini-games like swoop racing and Pazaak mix up the game enough so it doesn’t feel like there is ever a lack of things to do.
The abilities of your main character and all your companions level continually and you can tweak their gear and load out to ensure they are ready for whatever challenge they face. Now, you may be wondering why I’m not going in to more depth on the story. It is one of the best written video games in history receiving consistently 90% or higher in reviews, along with the great script it has talented voice actors, an amazing score and for the time solid graphics and simply put I don’t want to spoil it. The twists and turns in the story are pure Star Wars and are incredibly epic in scope. The dialogue feels like we’ve wound back the clock from original trilogy to their great great great grand parents and are watching antecedents of sharp tongued Leia and Han trading jabs. In short, I do not want to ruin it, there are quite a few twists and taking those away from the player will ruin the fun.
The game is followed up by an Obsidian sequel that is a solid game in its own right (though it requires fan patches to complete the story and address some rather obvious bugs which is pretty typical of Obsidian titles). Readily available on iTunes and Steam or if you still have your old Xbox hanging around you could probably find the game for cheap on the internet via e-bay or various game trading sites or even your local used game store. When you start the game and see the opening crawl or watch the Ebon Hawk soar through the inky void your inner 8 year old will giggle with glee and as you work your way through the story and if you end up playing the free to play MMO sequel down the road there are some nice little treats to the initiated.
- Amazing voice acting
- Pure Star Wars story that even Lucas couldn’t touch
- Solid gameplay and mechanics
- Force lightning
- Available on mobile as well as PC and antique console
- Dated graphics