It was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Wait, no, it wasn’t. It was just under a decade ago when Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic made its debut. Now it’s back in iPad form, but is it worth buying?
On the plus side
Knights of The Old Republic — or KOTOR, to make it easier for me to type — is a bone fide classic. It’s got everything that makes the Star Wars movies great in it, from authentic soundtracks to wide, galaxy spanning drama, all tied against a roleplaying mechanic that lets you take your character down either the light or dark side of the force, although there’s little real benefit in being wishy-washy and trying to balance things half way.
The chances are exceptionally good that you’ve played KOTOR before, what with it having been around, and been exceptionally popular for quite some time now. If you haven’t, and you’re a fan of the Star Wars mythos, you’re in for a particular treat, as the game hits many sweet notes along the way that’ll reverberate well with you. I don’t want to spoil all that much, although it’s fair to say that a decade-old game is well beyond the reasonable statute of limitations for spoilers. Still, I have played KOTOR before, and playing it through on the iPad is reminding me of many of those fine moments.
Aspyr — who also handled the Mac port of KOTOR — have done a fine job in translating the controls over to a touchscreen. With a minimum of a learning curve you’ll quickly adopt the play style, although it’s arguably worth turning the default sensitivity down just a hair. Saving has been simplified as well, so even if your iPad play is distracted by other issues you’re unlikely to lose much (if any) play time, which is often an issue for tablet RPGs.
KOTOR’s design style was cutting edge a decade ago, which is to say that yes, the models in-game do look a little dated. But if you ever wanted an argument that in-game graphics aren’t everything, then KOTOR manages it, because it’s still immensely playable.
On the minus side
There are some aspects to KOTOR’s GUI that could perhaps have been tightened up. When you’ve got dialog choices, they’re represented numerically on-screen, which does both look and feel a little clunky. It works — you won’t make the wrong dialog choice by accident — but it’s one aspect that I wish they’d tightened up slightly.
My only other issue with KOTOR is the asking price, currently $10.49 from the Australian iTunes store. The issue here isn’t one of magnitude, but of relativity, and specifically the price you’d pay for the PC or Mac version. Either version is commonly available for around $9.99, slightly less than the iPad version, and they’re also often the subject of download sales packages. If you just wanted to play KOTOR, and it didn’t have to be in a tablet setting, you could potentially save a few bucks going down that route.
Should you buy KOTOR? Absolutely. It’s still a prime example of good RPG design, as well as one of the very best Star Wars games ever made. Given that field encompasses a lot of truly terrible titles, that might not sound like much of an achievement, but even given that, KOTOR is still a gem.