Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic review by Al Giovetti
By Al Giovetti
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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Summary * History * Company Line * Game Play * Plot * Graphics * Animation * Voice Actors * Music Score * Sound Effects * Utilities * Multi-player Features * Cheats, Hints, and Walkthrough * Journalists * References * Letters
Lucas Arts has been a force to recon with in gaming since the early Atari 2600 days. BioWare has arrived on the scene of gaming a little later than Lucas Arts but has made quite an impression, especially in the area of Role Playing Games.
I really like this game. I hope Lucas Arts gets out the patches soon. The game is an extremely well scripted game with some technical flaws for some hardware configurations which were probably not tested thouroughly before the game was released to the public.
At the end of your experience with the game you should feel as satisfied as I did even when considering that we had to reconfigure a computer by installing an ATI 128MB VRAM card in our main system removing the nVidia 64MB VRAM Ti 4200 which become unalterably bugged by the set up of certain default video paramaters by the game itself.
An age of war, between darkness and light . . . (ed.: so what else is new? Aren't all games are a war between darkness and light?)
It is a time four thousand years before the rise of the Galactic Empire, and hundreds of Jedi Knights have fallen before the ruthless Sith armada. Now you are the last hope of the Jedi Order. (ed.: Most games put you into the position of the last hope or someone or something.) Your path lies unknown before you (ed,: We all hope you don't know the plot of the story already!), as you begin a new adventure set roughly 4,000 years before the time of the films (ed.: redundant?). Will you remain a true servant of the light on your quest to master the Force and save the Republic? Or will you fall to the lure of the dark side and its whispers of infinite power? (ed.: sounds like blonde darkside jedis have more fun?) Hero or villain . . . savior or conqueror, your actions will determine the fate of the entire galaxy!
The first battle serves as a tutorial. Your bunkmate, who serves separate shifts, offers to join with you and teaches you how to play the game while playing the game's early plotline. You learn how to equip items, open doors, and loot.
There is no provision to skip
One of the most unfortunate design elements of the game is the lack of open endedness in the game. You are free to pursue quests and different parrallell lines in the plot, but essentially the plot is linear.
You are trapped into a set number of missions in one location and not given the freedom to pursue other interests. Games like Sundog from the early days of gaming, some of the Ultima series of games left you free to explore the galaxy or world you inhabited. You were free to take up the profession of galactic trader buying and selling goods from planet to planet, smuggling contraband, pursuing bounties on criminals or simply unfortuantes who ran afoul of the real powers in any society, seeing to help the weak and confused who are prayed upon by the powerful and evil.
The game restricts your movements to a few locations and there are few open ended choices that you can make.
Even the end of the game closes and does not permit further adventure when the final quest is finished. The better games allow you to play on once you have completed your quests. They provide a structure for many activities beyond the restrictive confines of a plotline and allow totally free flowing adventuring in a strudtured world. Alas, Kinghts of the Old Republic lacks these qualities.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (SWKOTOR) violates another cardinal rule of game design. When you are moving your character around, the other non player characters (NPCs) do not automatically get out of your way. This game "rudeness" extends to your own party members at times.
Sometimes pushing on them (party NPCs) will cause them to move out of your way. Sometimes you get caught in a corner or between the party NPCs and some of the graphic landscape or non party NPCs. Unfortunately, this "feature" is just bad game design. Lucas Arts and BioWare are capable of much better game design than this.
Don't get me wrong. Knights of the Old Republic is a wonderful game fully living up to the sterling reputations of BioWare and Lucas Arts Entertainment. We highly recommend the game to all who love computer role playing adventures and even action games.
The game could have been so much more. It just did not live up to the full measure of its potential.
The game starts with you as a talented recruit aboard a starship which is attacked by the Sith. You must fight your way to the bridge to assist in its defense. Your secondary goal is to get the Jedi commander to safety. As the plot unfolds, the game player takes the role of a male or female soldier, scout or scoundrel of the republic travel to up to seven worlds, two spaceships and one orbiting battlestation. On the way the game player pickes up a crew of five who run the gamut from battle hardened mercinary, 14 year old female scoundrel (like a thief or rogue), jedi, old republic pilots, and two droids.
The HK-47 droid has a particularly funny sense of humor or lack there of with a twisted bent. Over time we learn that the hero is not what he seems, and thus unfolds the mystery.
You are free to turn to the light side or the dark side and embrace their respective teachings and principles. The quests unfold over two different paths with the light side much more developed than the dark side. In time you can become a master or the dark or light side of the force regardless of your force powers or abilities to fight with light saber, pistol, carbine, or rifle. The heavy weapons of the commando or bounty hunter are not supported in the game, but the more mundane weapons are. Also not supported are the open handed teras kasi monks and melee weapons adepts other than jedi.
The animation of the graphics is choppy at times. The video is so choppy at times that the character gets hard to control in certain sections of the map. Using our basic machine which has a 2GHz processor, 1GB RAM, and an ATI processor (9700) with 128 MB VRAM we still experienced choppiness on occasion but especially when the massive battles on the star forge were being waged.
Voice scripting, typical of most products out today, is wonderfully done by the cast of players. The script is a good one and enhances the voice actors' performance.
What can I say? The game uses the music score from the films augmented by some newly composed pieces by a competent composer, alas not the original composer of the Star Wars music for the films.
Industrial Light and Magic does some of the best sound effects in the business and the Lucas Arts Star Wars license on the package and the agreement provides the makers of the game access to these origingal sound effects from the films.
We finally fixed the problem we were having by installing an ATI 9700 card with 128 MB VRAM on our computer and swapping out the nVidia Ti 4200 with 64 MB VRAM. The problems were totally related to the nVidia card. We have reinstalled the game on this computer and are continuing testing of the computer problem.
We fixed the AMD computer that was not booting by using F8 to access the CMOS. We then used the Windows XP disk to boot the previously unbootable computer and used the repair routine to repair the Windows XP install. We then had to install all the updates and service packs and the AMD computer was right as rain. We did not reinstall SWOTOR on this computer.
When I first loaded this game up in my Pentium 4 CPU 2.0 GHz with nVidia GeForce4 Ti 4200 and 1.0 GB DDR SDRAM, the game played choppy with many lock ups and delays. Eventually the game would lock up for 20 seconds then free itself for about 2 seconds. The game became totally unplayable. This phenomenon has persisted with other games even after we uninstalled the game and installed the patch recommended by Lucas Arts support.
Installing the game on a Sony 1.8 Ghz SONY (PCV RX-580) machine with a 9700 ATI card with 128 MB VRAM and 512 MB DDR SDRAM resulted in a game that would bypass the lockup on the battleship, but the game was too difficult to play with the lurching and stuttering in the graphics. We also installed the game on a 1.5 GHz Sony (Sony PCV RX470DS) with a 8500 ATI card and 64MB VRAM the game remained unplayable.
Finally we tried the game on an AMD computer with a 333MHz front side bus. The game played fine until we entered the undercity a second time and the game crashed as we were moving the character with the W key of the AWDS directional key group. That computer also had a nVidia 128 MB VRAM card and the nVidia graphics became inexplicably scrambled. All of the video card settings had to be reset. The card could not load higher than 4-bit color after the reboot. 32 and 16-bit color were no longer an option when looking at the monitor properties obtained while right clicking the Windows XP desktop.
We reinstalled the video drivers on the 2.0 GHz Pentium 4 and the AMD. The 2.0 GHz Pentium 4 did not restore function but the AMD did for a short time until we got a memory management error and the AMD shut down. The error message said "A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer."
The "memory-management" error message suggested that we check to make sure any new hardware or software is installed correctly. The error also suggested that we ask the hardware or software manufacturer for any windows updates that we might need. The error further indicated that we should reboot the computer in safe mode and disable the Bios memory options such as caching or shadowing . The stop error indicated that "If problems continue disable or remove any new hardware or software.
We have concluded that there is something seriously wrong with this game. The game apparently has the potential to damage the permanent settings of the video card. All the computers described were in perfect condition prior to loading this game.
We have spoken to Lucas Arts about the problem, but have been unable to get any assistance beyond an initial email telling us where we could download a beta patch at http://swforums.bioware.com/viewtopic.html?topic=2802848forum=80. Lucas Arts has identified"a very specific problem" with Intel i845 and i850 chip sets with the 100MHz front side buss and some problems with the ATI 9600 video card. This beta patch was designed to address those problems.
Several harware gurus that we talked to at East Coast Micro Distributors (www.mdecm.com) suggested that we completely remove all nVidia files using a remove files utility on The Guru of 3D website guru3d.com.
There are four disks to install the game containing tons of information. Standard install from CD-ROM with no provision for DVD. Already the technology for a higher capacity plastic disk than DVD has been released and yet companies still bring out their games on CD only.
The game is a single player game.
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