Review – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Switch)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (or KOTOR) is one of the best and most important Star Wars games of all time. It is also one of the best and most important RPGs of all time. It was the game that catapulted the (formerly) beloved studio Bioware into the mainstream, and also the game that finally allowed us to dive into a Star Wars story in which we were free to decide our fate based on our actions. It was the game that proved that the West knew how to make console RPGs that were as good as the ones produced en masse in Japan.
But here’s the catch: even for its time, KOTOR was a very flawed game. Even I, who has loved this game ever since I first played it back in 2005 or so, have to admit that the damn thing is beyond janky, especially by today’s standards. It suffered from a series of glitches, had a putrid framerate, and its visuals were unimpressive even for the time. This is why we have all celebrated the announcement of a full-fledged remake of the game, being developed by the folks at Aspyr, best known as the company that remasters old Star Wars titles for modern platforms, such as Republic Commando, Episode I: Racer and Jedi Outcast.
We know that the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic remake is years away from release, so Aspyr did the right thing and released a remastered version of the game to platforms other than the Xbox, KOTOR‘s original home. The thought of being able to play KOTOR on the Switch was beyond enticing, as the machine is a perfect fit for RPGs, but it also made me worry. You see, for as much as I love Aspyr’s current modus operandi, their last Star Wars remaster, Republic Commando, was a dud on the Switch. It ran at a horrendous framerate. I feared that KOTOR would end up running at a snail’s pace with tons of glitches, given its more complicated intricacies, and the aforementioned amount of jank it has had ever since 2003.
Don’t worry, my dear readers: Knights of the Old Republic runs well on the Switch. It runs better than its original version, which, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly a feat. For the most part, this game runs at 60fps, with little to no loading times, at an increased resolution and aspect ratio. I’d say it’s the bare minimum for a game to be considered an acceptable remaster, and not just a port to a different system, because at the end of the day, this feels just like the same eighteen year old game. Its visual and performance improvements did not wow me as much as the improvements seen in Aspyr’s remaster of Episode I: Racer, for example, but that doesn’t mean I did not enjoy playing this version of KOTOR.
On the contrary, it helped remind me why I have loved this game ever since the mid-2000s. I have to admit that it took me a while before getting used to the game’s, err, “unique” combat system, which is a mix between turn-based, real-time, Dungeons & Dragons dice roll chances, and a bit of MMO sensibilities, which feel like no other RPG out in the market. The closest I can think of is Xenoblade, and only after squinting my eyes really hard. I completely understand if it doesn’t click with you: it is confusing at first. It feels like nothing else in the genre. It takes a long time before you master its many features. But boy oh boy, it feels rewarding when everything clicks.
It’s also hard not to love the game’s characters. From Bastila proving that not all mid-2000s Jedi Knights were boring and square monks, to the sadistic (but totally polite) HK-47, not only the best character in the entire game, but possibly one of the best Star Wars characters of all time. I love the tons of dialogue options, the interactions between you and your teammates, and even the utterly dumb voicework given towards each alien species. I love how the Ithorians still sound like dubstep bass drops, and that the Twi’lek males still have only half a dozen lines of Huttese repeated ad nauseum. It’s dumb as hell, but it wouldn’t be KOTOR without them.
I won’t try to beat around the bush or hide the fact that, yes, Knights of the Old Republic has aged a lot ever since it first came out a whopping eighteen years ago. Its visuals and confusing control scheme weren’t good back then, and they certainly aren’t good now. But there’s just something about this game that makes you want to overcome its issues. It is one hell of an amazing RPG that engrosses you in its rich and detailed world, full of amazing characters and storylines. It actually fits quite well on a portable like the Switch, considering its improved loading times and framerate. If anything, it served to remind me why I loved it so much back in the day, and why it so deserves the next-gen remake treatment it’s currently receiving.
Let’s be honest: Knights of the Old Republic was an ugly game ever for its time. I appreciate the improved resolution, aspect ratio, and framerate, but this is still a very ugly game. Thank goodness for the smaller screen size.
KOTOR‘s combat system is something that you will either love or hate. It is confusing at first, it doesn’t look epic onscreen, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize it was pretty incredible for its time. The rest of the game suffers from a bizarre control scheme, but hey, that’s KOTOR to you…
The epic score you would expect from a Star Wars game and the epic voice acting you would expect from a Bioware game… as well as like half a dozen lines of dialogue for each alien race, which all sound dumb, but in a charming way.
Fun Factor: 8.5
Knights of the Old Republic has aged. I won’t deny that. In many ways, it looks and feels jurassic. But its story, stupid amount of content, and customization system make up for these shortcomings. If anything, it actually fits well on a portable like the Switch.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is available now on Xbox (the OG one, albeit playable via backwards compatibility on more modern systems), PS4, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was provided by the publisher.