KOTOR or Knights of Baldur’s Effect

Back in college when I didn’t need sleep to live I powered through this game in a weekend.  Me and my boys HK and Canderous sowed evil across the galaxy and showed up the sanctimonious assholes on the Jedi Council what was what in the time it took to cram for a midterm.  I loved it. The setting (free of the constraints of the films) and the mechanics made the game fresh. When I fired it up a second time I wondered if it would hold up.

Evil will always win because good is dumb.

This is probably the most playable game we’ve done so far.  It’s got modern gaming sensibilities despite being rough around the edges. You can see the beginnings of a lot of what’s standard these days.  There’s a branching morality scale that affects your appearance, interactions, and general storyline. I know good and evil decisions had been done before but Bioware made this a core feature in the game. In fact, you could say the game is mostly built around the questions of which side of the Force will you choose.

Often the choice is somewhat ham-fisted. Will you carry this poor old Twi’lek grandmother across the space highway and give all your credits to her so she can buy all her grandchildren Life Day presents or will you cut her in half with your lightsaber, steal her money and sell her grandchildren into slavery.  You’re either Ned Flanders or space Hitler. Nuance isn’t this game strong suit.

Despite being almost a decade old, this game looks great, especially the environments.  From the cities to the deserts to the ruins, it all holds up. The character models are mostly fugly, and for some reason a lot of the characters are really shiny, like glistening-with-oil shiny. It’s a bit off-putting at first but you get used to it.

Also in surprisingly good is the sound. Praising a game’s sound design seems like the lamest complement you can pay, but trust me it matters.   The sound effects (blasters, lightsabers, etc.) are straight out of the movies, voice work is good (you may notice FemShep herself, Jennifer Hale, as Bastila), and the music is decent (though is bizarrely absent of much of John Williams’ score). Gameplay tastes shift, graphics get outdated, but great sound is always great sound.

Of course there is plenty to bitch about, like the aforementioned shallowness of the morality choices, the horrendous inventory, many of the side-quests are silly or unmemorable, and the SHOCKING TWIST isn’t very shocking. But these aren’t showstoppers. It’s an older classic that’s surprisingly easy to get into. It’s fun to see how Baldur’s Gate grew into KOTOR, and how KOTOR grew into Mass Effect/Dragon Age.  This gaming linage that makes for a pretty impressive bloodline, so don’t forget this middle child.

PS – KOTOR’s sequel is something of a tragic tale of a good game ruined by rushing it out the door half finished. And not even in the typical ‘I wish they would have spent a little more time on the end’ kind of way, but in a ‘wait where did half my party go? THAT’S the final boss?!’ way. It also set up a sequel that never happened. It also spawned a dedicated group of fans that spent years working on a patch to finish the game. That alone makes the game pretty notable.

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About Stylist

Poet, librarian, and video game enthusiast.
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