Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: July 31, 2003
PC and console role-playing games have long been two very different entities within the same genre. Part of this is due to cultural discrepancy; the vast majority of console RPGs come from Japan and focus on strong presentations (visually and aurally), compelling plots and linear gameplay experiences. However, most of their computer counterparts originate in the west, and emphasize user-controlled exploration over clear-cut storytelling. It took Canadian developer BioWare to finally combine the best of both worlds, creating an open-ended game with a strong story and high production values. While everyone hoped that they would successfully bridge the gap between these two very different worlds, many feared that the entire project would end up as an amalgamation of the disjointed fragments of two completely different genres.
Starting the game, you’re given the option to choose from three different types of characters, each with a male and female rendering. The soldier is a powerhouse, relying on brute force and plenty of combat to get the job done. Scoundrels are quite the opposite; with little strength and vitality to work with, they use their wits to avoid confrontation as much as possible. Finally, the scout is a character that strikes a balance between the two extremes. Next, you can either continue with a set of predetermined statistics, or go all-out and completely customize your character. You’re given a set number of points to distribute between your feats and skills (as discussed later), as well as your attributes. These consist of six characteristics that are essential to the foundation of your character: strength, dexterity, constitution, wisdom, intelligence and charisma. Each one controls your effectiveness with certain abilities – such as wisdom – which determines your proficiency with the Force.
After the creation process is complete, you’ll be treated to the game’s opening text crawl, as well as a space battle that’s jarringly similar to the first few moments of A New Hope. Your ship (the Endar Spire) is under attack from Sith forces near the outer rim planet of Taris. The evil Lord Malak is frantically searching for a Jedi known as Bastila, fearing her powerful battle meditation technique. A miraculous escape finds you and another Republic soldier stranded on the planet below, which is now under Sith blockade. Your primary mission is to rescue Bastila and find a way off of Taris, but even while following that path, numerous subplots and side quests arise; some completely independent of the main story, some helping to further the plot of Knights.
Your actions and reactions will eventually allow you to develop into a full-fledged Jedi, but which path you follow is entirely your decision. It would be reasonable to argue that it’s more difficult to abide by the way of the light, as you must avoid collecting on lucrative bounties and generally pass up moneymaking ventures in favor of a life as a philanthropist. The dark side is much easier to succumb to, though it lacks many of the rewards and the sense of satisfaction of the light. Ultimately, you’ll probably want to experience both journeys, not just for the separate ending, but also for the contrast in experiences and conversations with others.
The red bar next to your character’s portrait measures your remaining vitality, or health. If one of your party members has their life fall to zero in battle or through some other means, they’ll remain unusable until combat has ended or the threat has passed. They’ll then be revived, though their VP will still remain critically low. On the other side of the portrait is the Force meter, which is, of course, only available to those trained in the Jedi arts. The use of Force powers will drain this bar; the exact amount depends on the level of the ability. However, this gauge regenerates itself outside of combat, so while there’s no need to purchase additional restorative items, it does limit the number of abilities that you can use in a single conflict.