Nearly twenty years ago, BioWare shook up the role-playing game (RPG) landscape with the release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the original Xbox. Like never before players were thrown into an adventure set 4,000 years before the events of the films. Players traveled the galaxy gaining party members, uncovering mysteries, and honing their connection to the Force all to defeat the sinister Dark Lord of the Sith, Dark Malak.
Whether the player was to be the hero or villain of the story was left to their choice as their decisions and moral aliment shaped the fate of the galaxy. Following the success of Knights of the Old Republic on Xbox, the groundbreaking RPG would go on to influence beloved franchises Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age while spawning a franchise of its own with a sequel and the basis for the massively online player role-playing game Star Wars: The Old Republic.
While the remake of Knights of the Old Republic is likely at the forefront of the minds of Star Wars fans, developer Aspyr looks to give fans of the franchise something to hold them over by bringing Knights of the Old Republic to the Nintendo Switch. Anyone who has experienced Knights of the Old Republic on the PC knows the pain that comes with the plethora of bugs that players experience even today. As someone who has experienced a catastrophic glitch on the last mission more than once on PC, I was admittedly worried about what the twenty-year-old game would play like on the Nintendo Switch.
Aspyr, who will be working with Sony for the upcoming remake, has a long history with the franchise as the developer for the Knights of the Old Republic ports for Mac OS X, iOS, and Android. This alone gave me all the hope I needed to jump back into one of my favorite Star Wars stories.
Thankfully, the Nintendo Switch port for Knights of the Old Republic took me right back to 2003, playing the game on my Xbox on a 24 inch CRT TV. While the graphics are dated given the time of release, it does not take away from the stellar story and world-building that exists from the opening crawl. The scaling used for the port makes the resolution change nearly perfect making it a better experience than playing it on my PC.
Whether it was in my hands or docked to my projector, none of the magic of the various characters, planets, or combat is lost as the pacing of the story and the mysteries that unfold come quick as players are thrown right into action on a Republic ship under attack by the Sith. The opening minutes of the story plunge players straight into combat and it is here that the port really gets its first test.
Using the Star Wars Roleplaying Game and its d20 combat system, players engage in round-based combat where combatants attack and react at the same time. Even though these actions happen in real-time, the player is able to pause to make decisions on how best to proceed in combat in any given situation. With the large variety of group makeup coupled with AI that varies its tactics, every encounter goes slightly differently and makes for on-the-fly decisions.
Players familiar with other BioWare properties like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, you should have no problem figuring out the simplified versions of those titles combat systems. I personally was never a fan of the way the controls translated to PC and even my Andriod device. However, the Nintendo Switch feels like the perfect console for the controls designed for an original Xbox controller. Both pro controller and docked formats felt natural and we were easy to pick up as Knights of the Old Republic runs through its tutorial as the first combat begins.
As the game progresses, so too does the ability to customize gameplay. By picking from three basic character classes (solider, scout, or scoundrel) and three Jedi subclasses (consular, guardian, sentinel) later in the game, players can choose how they want to engage in combat and tackle various obstacles. To supplement any gaps in ability based on playstyle (a soldier who isn’t good at repairing droids for example) Knights of the Old Republic adds further variability by introducing different party members as the story progresses.
Players can add up to two additional party members while out on missions to round out the team to be ready for any situation. While there isn’t a romance option, there is still plenty of opportunities to build relationships with the team that can influence whether or not you want that character in your party based on morality. Or if the player chooses to go solo and tackle the galaxy alone, then that is the path they can choose.
The charm of Knights of the Old Republic was the ability to create your own hero story in the Star Wars universe. That hero could follow the path of the light, fall to the dark side, or live as a grey Jedi with its alignment system. The choices player makes affect the story through speech or actions and despite being almost twenty years old, the characters and the stories they tell still hold up. While the differences in gameplay based on player choice may not be as deep as future BioWare properties, Knights of the Old Republic still offers a variety of game experiences.
As players begin to grow their party with different opinions, it is not uncommon to have party members commend or show disdain for how the player proceeds. The characters themselves, all with their own specializations and motivations, also have different story interactions based on party makeup. It allows for even someone like me who has played through Knights of the Old Republic nearly a dozen times to experience differences in interactions even if I know where the overall story will end.
For issues with the port, there aren’t many. There weren’t any game-breaking glitches or bugs that prevented me from playing the game as intended. Pathing can still be wonky but nothing that was present in 2003. My only gripe would be the same I had all those years ago. It is no secret that BioWare has become a master of the initial character customization with their newer titles, the same can not be said about Knights of the Old Republic.
When players create a character they have very basics to choose from that essentially cover 3 generic white and hairstyles faces, 3 generic Asian faces and hairstyles, and 3 ethnically ambiguous brown-black faces and hairstyles. So while many of the choices you make might be ones you would make in your character’s shoes, you may not be able to look like you. While this is not anything wrong with the port itself, it may be worth mentioning as it is clear this is an early 2000s game that does not hold up to current standards of customization. While we are unsure how changed if at all this will be in the remake, this lack of character creation diversity may give some pause.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the Nintendo Switch port for Knights of the Old Republic. Aspyr knocked this port out of the park. The port fits perfectly into what the Nintendo Switch has to offer. After having port playthroughs on the PC and Andriod, the Nintendo Switch port is the first time I felt like I was authentically playing Knights of the Old Republic since my first Xbox.
By coming to a console that covers such a wide demographic of gamers, it is the perfect opportunity for those looking to recreate the magic of the days on the original Xbox or someone who is looking to create their own Star Wars story for the first time. While the story is not canon, it does not take away from the twists and turns that still make this one of my favorite stories in all of Star Wars. Even though it is nearly twenty years old and I can’t wait to see how my next playthrough goes since Knights of the Old Republic is a game that keeps on giving.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic port is available now on Nintendo Switch.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Even though it is nearly twenty years old and I can’t wait to see how my next playthrough goes since Knights of the Old Republic is a game that keeps on giving.