Knights of the Old Republic is a sci-fi RPG set in the Star Wars universe. That’s right, nerf herders: thanks to Aspyr Media, Inc. the BioWare / LucasArts hit from 2003 is now playable on your Android device.
Set thousands of years before the events of the Star Wars films, the game follows the adventures of a young Jedi. Not having played the original, I couldn’t rely on nostalgia to form my perception of the game. However, players of BioWare’s other titles, including Yours Truly, will immediately notice similarities.
Take combat for example. The player controls an individual character by assigning combat actions (switching characters at your discretion, or your character’s death) in a manner similar to Dragon Age II. The dialogue choices, sometimes necessitating a choice between the light or dark side of the Force, are a clear precursor to Mass Effect’s paragon / renegade dynamic. It also provides a true role playing experience by allowing players to customize the ethnicity and gender of the protagonist, another BioWare calling card.
As Aspyr points out in the Playstore, “KOTOR for Android has not been slimmed down for mobile in any way. It is the full KOTOR experience!” While this is meant as a disclaimer for the massive file size, it also summarizes the pros and cons of porting a console game to a mobile device.
For a fraction of the cost of a new console or PC game, lovers of the original and newcomers alike can explore this richly crafted piece of the Star Wars universe. Despite over a decade of advancements in gaming since the initial release, KOTOR has aged surprisingly well. The graphics, while slightly dated on a larger monitor, look marvelous on a smaller screen. Its soundtrack (by renowned video game composer Jeremy Soule) is epic, reminiscent of the original Star Wars score. That’s not the only reason to play with the sound on either; several alien races speak their own language, which adds to the immersion of the universe. And like any good RPG, the world is full of problems that it seems you and you alone can solve.
What doesn’t quite work:
Aspyr is correct to point out that this is not a slimmed down version of the original game. But some aspects of KOTOR do not translate well to a mobile device. Controlling your character’s movement and shifting the camera are both done with the same finger swiping action, which is often clunky. While trying to throw a grenade at a monster before running out of its instant kill range, I found myself running into a wall, thus ensuring my entire party’s grisly death. Repeatedly. I ended up needing to pause the game and shift the camera, which disrupted the flow of combat. Yes, Aspyr offers full HID controller support, but at that rate I might as well play on the PC. Playing on a tablet (or with a stylus) may solve this, but it wasn’t a serious drawback. Another slight headache (sometimes literally) is the smaller screen. Migraine sufferers take note: fonts and icons are very small, and reading KOTOR’s subtitles and menus can put significant strain on the eyes. This reviewer could not play for more than an hour at a time.
Even with those issues, this game is still worth our attention, in large part because it further complicates the discussion about what constitutes “real” gaming. The plot isn’t any less interesting or engaging because it can now be played on a phone. This fascinating story is now available in line at the bank, delayed at an airport, or realistically, any of the boring places we often find ourselves when we’d rather be home playing videogames. Whether fans of BioWare and/or Star Wars are re-discovering KOTOR or playing it for the first time, the mobile version makes it easy to start an adventure. Who wouldn’t want to gallivant around the universe with a Wookiee sidekick?
Is it Hardcore?
You know it to be true.
This BioWare classic is still fun to play, even shrunk to pocketsize. These ARE the droids you’re looking for.