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KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC / Lucasarts / PC
Oh boy, KotOR. I feel like I should start out by saying I'm not much of a Star Wars fan. I enjoyed the original trilogy (IV-VI) when I was a kid, but they don't do much of anything for me now, and have some pretty cringe-worthy moments if you try to watch them as an adult. And then that newer trilogy (I-III) was just flat boring and cheesy to me. Needless to say I also have zero interest any of the 100000000 spinoffs, and none of the video games have ever registered much with me either, except for the original Star Wars arcade game with the boss cabinet.
See, KotOR is one of the best-reviewed games of all time. The Metacritic total is something like 91% or 93% with nearly a hundred reviews. Now of course, LOL Metacritic, but it's really hard to find a bad word said against this game in forums or anywhere. And yet, all it really did for me was alternate between boring me and pissing me off. And I think the reason for that is that the one thing the game really does right - recreating the atmosphere and ambience of the Star Wars universe - was just such a plus to Star Wars fans that it flooded their capacity to critically reason with regards to any other aspect of the game. Since I don't really give two shits about Star Wars, the game's problems and clunky design decisions stood out a lot more sorely. That's my theory, anyway. At least for now.
Mostly I dislike that the game is so chock full of combat and yet it's all so *boring*. You're just sitting there watching blaster fire being clumsily traded half the time (everyone shoots like a typical Stormtrooper in this one, even if their levels are pretty good.) And yes, Butthurt Nostalgia Defense Force, there's some depth to the combat in that there's mines, and different grenade types, and shields, and etc. But when the enemy mobs are all so samey and so generic in their tactics, it's largely irrelevant. Shoot at them when they're far away. Switch to melee weapons when they get close. Put up energy shields if they're shooting blasters. If they put up an energy shield, melee them. If they start hucking grenades, get that guy first. Send Jedi to melee with Sith. Wash, rinse, repeat for countless repetitive battles. Also, mandatory constant weapon switching from a menu that takes three click-throughs is terrible.
The game also teases you with the promise of alternate puzzle solutions and non-combat builds via such skills as Persuade, Hacking, Sneak Attack, Jedi Mind Tricks, etc. But really, the game ends up being like Fallout - the non-combat skills are a nice perk here and there, but there's such a massive pile of mandatory, unavoidable and difficult combat that your character gets forced into primarily being some kind of a battle build regardless, or you simply aren't making it very far in the game. And if you don't start out with a combat-focused character build, you're never going to catch up to where your character is ever really competent in combat, and will have to lean heavily on your two other party members to do most of the asskicking for you.
Terrible pathing and AI decisions add another shit element to the battles. Open a door to a room. There's mines in front of you, and enemies with blasters on the other side. Lead character sets about disarming the mines ... at least until support characters notice the blaster fire, and run right through the mine you are currently disarming to get at the enemy, blowing themselves and you up. Combat is all in real-time, and you can pause it to issue orders, but there's just no good way to tell other party members to just HOLD FUCKING STILL. Here's another good example. You're in an open area where you can see pretty far in most directions. There's a couple monster groups off to the left, which is where you're trying to head, and then an absolute mob of shitheads over to the right. So you order your characters to attack the group on the left, using your advantage on them to get damage bonuses. A great plan, until you notice your melee character arbitrarily decided to run 50 miles to the right to single-handedly engage the giant mob who would have left you alone had you not provoked them.
Outside of combat, you'll often run way the hell across a town scene or something, only to find that your party just decided to loaf and not follow you, and you can't move onto another screen until they're all right behind you, forcing you to run all the way back and then forth again to meet up with them. There's also a major problem on the PC with characters freezing and refusing to move for a solid minute or so after executing any combat action.
But wait, there's more! How about absurd boss difficulty spikes (and boss battle ambushes out of nowhere)? How about being able to be permanently and suddenly fucked over because you lost or misused some important shit, like computer hacking tools and various grenade types that are virtually mandatory for the harder bosses, and not be able to replace them because everything costs a million dollars in this game and money is hard to come by even if you're doing every sub-quest?
The real game-breaker for me was throwing some bullshit halfassed gun turret arcade sequence in right after a boss battle and a shit ton of cinematics. No explanations, no warning, no chance to save, no nothing. Fuck you, game. This is a throwback to the terrible days of sudden poorly-designed "arcade sequences" popping up randomly in adventure games. Not a place we want to go back to, Bioware bros. Maybe this controlled better on the Xbox, I dunno. On PC it's a nightmare of clunky bullshit control.
I don't know. I guess it's the loving recreation of the Star Wars universe that sets fanboy hearts a-flutter for this one, or maybe the primitive "morality system" (before it became a linear, oversimplistic cliche that Bioware games got a reputation for.) Maybe it's the Big Plot Twist that will be spoiled well in advance by reading absolutely anything at all on the internet about this game other than this review. For whatever it's worth, to me the game was just clunky, buggy, turgid and tedious.
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