Everyone wants to be a Jedi. Come on, admit it – even if you’re not enticed by the swish of the lightsabre, the telekinetic powers and mind persuasion tricks are surely irresistible goodies. In this Star Wars RPG from Bioware, the makers of the classic Baldur’s Gate series, the main character can travel either the light or dark Jedi paths, depending on his or her actions in the game.
So if you beat up small kids for their lunch money using ‘force choke’, your character portrait begins to turn all gnarled and sinister as the dark side indicator swings into the red. Any Jedi Knight can access all powers, mind you, it’s just that it’s very costly in terms of advancements points for light Jedis to learn the dark stuff.
Before you take to the path of the force, however, you start off as either a solider, a scout or a scoundrel. The soldier is your fighter type, the scoundrel a stealthy charlatan character and the scout is balanced between the two. Each class gives access to different skills (such as computer hacking or droid repair) and feats (special abilities like wielding two weapons).
The character class system is excellent, with more spice added when you become a Jedi and have to select powers. Perhaps most impressive, though, is the way the plot, character reactions and whole story alter depending on whether you turn good or evil. It’s the sort of game that begs to be played several times just on that basis.
And what a game this is. We’ve already drooled over the excellent character system, so how about a bit more slobbering over the well engineered plot, which boasts some great twists and strikes a good balance between linearity and freedom. You can take on loads of sub-quests with many different outcomes, but the main storyline is channelled enough that you never feel lost.
The interface is a work of art too. It seems a little clunky initially due to the fact that both analogue joysticks and the D-pad are all used, but you soon acclimatise. The D-pad is specifically tied to your inventory so there’s no shuffling around in sub-menus all the time, although there are plenty of these that you’ll use occasionally for your map, quest journal and so forth.
Combat is done in real time, but with a turn-based, Dungeons & Dragons-style, ‘roll the dice to see if you hit’ system. All the mechanics are worked out behind the scenes and whether you hit or not depends on the character’s skill level and luck rather than any manual aiming.
That might sound a bit bland on paper, but there’s still plenty of tactical thinking to be done, as you can control two other characters apart from your main chap. Plus there are tons of special abilities, items and weapons to pick from. The end result is turn-based strategic fighting which manages to feel fast-paced and action-packed. Peachy. And that’s not even mentioning the option of wielding dual lightsabres while electrocuting foes with force lighting, Emperor style.
And all this Star Wars goodness is wrapped up in some extremely tasty aesthetics. The visuals manage to evoke the grand and cinematic feel of the films and the sounds are completely authentic to the Star Wars universe. Even the music is suitably awe-inspiring; adrenaline pumping at the right moments, quiet and moody at others. Marvellous.
To round off the superlative overload, there are quality extra touches such as mini games in which you play cards, race ‘swoop’ bikes or man the turret guns of a spaceship. Knights of the Old Republic is one huge seamless ball of Star Wars fun. The only slightly negative aspect we can point to is the inclusion of occasional cheesy script moments.