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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic PC CD-ROM

Published by LucasArts
Developed by Bioware Corp
Released - Out Now
Price : £34.99

The original Star Wars trilogy are perhaps amongst the best movies ever made. I was very excited when I learned that George Lucas had decided to make the first three films in the Star Wars saga. The first two films, in my opinion, though have been massively disappointing and now I honestly wish he hadn't bothered. Has my enthusiasm for Star Wars diminished? Not really but where Episode I and Episode II have failed to rekindle my interest in Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic has definitely succeeded.

Knights of the Old Republic was developed by the excellent Bioware Corp. A few years ago now LucasArts decided to allow external developers to work on their top franchises and with Knights of the Old Republic, this decision has reaped handsome dividends. Rather than simply choosing a time period from the movies, Bioware have set the story four thousand years before the formation of the Galactic Empire. In doing so they have been free of the restrictions of the Star Wars saga, which has allowed them to be creative and make a plot that truly works as a game. Despite the game being set far earlier than the films, once again we have the Republic and the Jedi Order in very real danger of being completely wiped out thanks to a Sith uprising. Even though the game is set so far before the famous events of the film the game contains enough Star Wars ideology and characteristics that it's as if George Lucas had written the script himself.

Bioware are famous for providing the game engine for various Black Isle Studios RPG games (the Baldur's Gate series being the most well known) and for developing the excellent Neverwinter Nights. If you've played Neverwinter Nights you'll recognise many of the gameplay aspects that are found in Knights of the Old Republic. The combat in the game is in pausable real time. During a battle though you can queue up orders for each character under your control and then unpause the game and watch them carry it out. The combat seems to have more fluidity about it than in Neverwinter Nights and is actually more entertaining to watch, especially when lightsabres are involved. You move your character around with the 'WASD' keys like you can in Neverwinter Nights, although you can't point 'n' click to move your character like you can in Neverwinter Nights.

Of course the first thing you'll do in the game is to create your character. You can choose either a male or female scout, scoundrel or soldier as your class. You'll also get to customise the look of your characters and alter the beginning attributes to your liking. Later in the game you'll get a chance to become a Jedi Guardian, Jedi Consular or Jedi Sentinel. You can even be seduced by the dark side (your actions and answers to conversations will earn you light side and dark side points throughout the game). The game begins with a Sith attack on your space craft, the Endar Spire. This section of the game acts as a tutorial and will teach you the basics of the game. You'll learn to fight, use your inventory items as efficiently as possible and also how to make use of other party members when you don't have the appropriate abilities. Even though it's steeped in Star Wars atmosphere this is a full blooded RPG of the finest quality.

One of the major disappointments with Neverwinter Nights was that you could only have two characters (your main character plus one other) in your party. To make matters worse the characters that you could hire to accompany you lacked character and you never got a sense of depth with them. They had no story to tell or personality to speak of. This didn't provide the same feeling that Baldur's Gate II (and other earlier titles) had, where your party members would argue with each other or form romances. Thankfully though Bioware have done brilliantly in including a range of characters that feel like they have a personality and a history in Knights of the Old Republic. There are characters that dislike each other and ones that get along well with other characters. You can have nine members in your party but you can only take 2 with you at any one time so that with your own character the maximum you control is 3 characters, which is much better than in Neverwinter Nights. The characters you don't pick to take with you will either remain in your hideout or the Ebon Hawk spacecraft depending on the stage of the game you are in.

Knights of the Old Republic looked fantastic on Xbox and it looks even better on the PC thanks to the improved screen resolution and the ability to apply anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing. Throughout the game you'll travel to eight different worlds including Taris, Tatooine, Dantooine and Kashyyyk and they all look great. The environments have more detail than Neverwinter Nights and I was surprised to see that the game was as demanding as Neverwinter Nights. The character models are actually quite impressive (they were on the Xbox too) and many of the different races from the movies (such as Wookies, Twileks and Jawas) will be instantly recognisable and they all look great. Like the Xbox version the camera is placed behind your selected character but can be rotated. You can also switch to a first person mode if you simply wish to look around you, although there is no need to do this.

RPGs are generally deaf gamer friendly and Knights of the Old Republic is a shining example of how deaf gamer friendly a game can be. Subtitles can be enabled and once they are everything in the game is subtitled. All cutscene dialogue and conversations are shown in a clear blue text. You can even alter the size of the text which again is excellent. All information within the game is in text too, so you'll never be unaware of what's going on. The game comes with a 76 page manual which has actually been very well done and explains what all the icons mean that you'll see in the game and the rules for the various mini-games that you'll encounter. All of the basic gameplay concepts are covered too, which is always great to see.

It's very difficult to put into words just how good a game Knights of the Old Republic really is. If you're a Star Wars fan you'll love it as it offers, in my opinion, a far richer and more satisfying story than either Episode I or Episode II. If you're a RPG fan then you'll be impressed by the way Bioware has taken the Star Wars franchise and applied d20 role playing rules and system to the game. If you're a Star Wars and RPG fan then this could be the best game ever made, it's just that good. Whilst I don't think a sequel has been officially confirmed yet, I suspect there will be one and I hope there really is one because as far as I'm concerned it's the game of the year on PC (probably Xbox too) and any game on any other format would struggle to compete with this excellent game.

Overall Game Rating: 9.7/10
It's probably not the best RPG of all time but it's definitely the best Star Wars game of all time. Knights of the Old Republic delivers the most satisfying Star Wars experience since Return of the Jedi. Easily the PC game of the year.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Absolutely superb for deaf gamers.