To celebrate the ten-year anniversary of its original release, Knights of the Old Republic--arguably the greatest Star Wars game of all time--has been ported to the iPad, and is now available on the App Store for $10.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic set the gaming world on fire when it launched on consoles and PCs in 2003; it not only garnered numerous awards (including a Game Developers Choice Award for Game of the Year in 2004), but also received accolades from sci-fi fans, Star Wars nerds, and RPG fans in equal fervency. This was the Star Wars game that finally delivered on the promise of the universe that George Lucas created. Even after ten years, the core elements of KOTOR--great storytelling, sharp dialogue with fully realized-characters, and an immersive, deep world--shine all the brighter on the new tablet platform.
Knights of the Old Republic is set thousands of years before the events of the original Star Wars trilogy, and you play a character caught in the midst of a galactic civil war between the Republic and the Sith. While it's hard to spoil a ten-year-old game, KOTOR's plot is still worth preserving for the uninitiated, so I'll say this: the dialogue is snappy, witty, and full of difficult choices. More so than even modern Bioware titles like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, your Jedi character is called upon to utilize his/her powers of persuasion and negotiation to get things done: You'll diplomatically try to resolve disputes, you'll solve murders, and you'll actually get to do a great deal of what "being a Jedi" supposedly means.
But that doesn't mean there won't be fighting. Utilizing rules from Dungeons and Dragons and the game system from Wizards of the Coasts' Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, the combat is actually turn-based and--mercifully--under the hood. Action pauses when you enter combat, so you can issue orders to your three-person party, but you can also just sit back and watch it unfold. This is partly why the iPad port works so well: your success is ultimately determined by the tactics you use and their timing, and these can be easily deployed by a tap of a finger. You'll often juggle the priorities of your team, swapping between party members to heal, throw grenades, or deploy force powers and attacks.
I thought I'd miss the ability to use the WASD keyboard controls and a mouse, but the ability to pull up menus, switch characters, and manage my party was all remarkably easy with iOS's touch interface. That doesn't mean the game is a cakewalk--even in beginning skirmishes with gang members, I found that I needed to quick save frequently, often needing to ponder new strategies to defeat a particularly stubborn group of enemies. Really, the only drawback of the touchscreen interface was navigating the world outside combat--turning your character around, for example, often took several swipes.
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