As extensively explained already in our original post when Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic ($9.99) hit the App Store, this is a game with a ton of history behind it. With its tenth birthday coming up this summer, there’s no better time to either replay this classic, or get deep into the game as a new player.
Set roughly 4,000 years before the events that transpire in the movies, players travel around the galaxy doing various Star Wars-y stuff as they track down Darth Malak, who not only used to be a Jedi but also now holds the title of Dark Lord of the Sith. The game is largely framed around a series of events that have lead to a almost-too-typical setting where the Jedis are now spread across the universe, many have died, or, potentially worse yet, have defected to the dark side.
Darth Malak has seemingly endless resources for his war against the Jedi, which is suspected to be the result of something called the “Star Forge." Learning the secrets of this device, its location, as well as the mysterious past of the character you’re playing are among the main things that drive the plot of KOTOR forward. There’s some twists and turns along the way- Some entirely predictable or cliche, and some not – But largely the game is enjoyable from start to finish.
There’s even an early version of the morality system that we’ve come to take for granted in RPGs these days, and players can gravitate towards the light and dark sides of the force which has a drastic impact on the game. So, if you enjoy a light play through of KOTOR, be sure to keep it on your device for a dark play through in the future.
Combat is party based with party members that rotate in and out as the story progresses, and all of your actions are done in Dungeons & Dragons style turns with specific actions being queued up in the fights. The game actually is deeply rooted in the Star Wars tabletop games, which makes combat have a very mature feel to it, as its all based off an already matured battle system from the paper source material.
KOTOR is a weird game to review. Being ten years old, and eventually ported to both the Mac and PC, there’s already a bazillion reviews out there, along with endless fanfiction and deep analysis of the game’s plot. Additionally, the last decade has been great for GameFAQs, where you’ll find guides for everything ranging from complete walkthroughs to guides for character building to how to do hardcore solo runs. In other words, it’s been long since established that this is an incredible game.
As far as the iPad port is concerned, we were all stunned by just how well the game runs. Even on the comparatively underpowered iPad mini the frame rate is totally solid. I’d argue the iPad mini is even the best platform to play it on, as the lower resolution of the iPad mini screen makes the (also) low resolution assets of KOTOR feel like they “fit" a little better. The game itself has aged surprisingly well, but, lack of true Retina assets do jump out at you when played on the iPad 3 or 4.
The game is controlled with a variety of on-screen controls and an invisible virtual joystick of sorts to control movement. The initial impression these controls leave you with are not great, but that’s largely because the default sensitivity feels way, way too high. I highly recommend fiddling around with the options and finding a sensitivity setting that jives with you before you even leave the first room- It’ll make playing the whole game much more enjoyable.
The save system is surprisingly great for a port like this. You can save basically whenever you want, and the game’s autosave system will make a save every time you enter a new area or every 15 minutes if you’re not obsessive about saving all the time. In my experience, progress loss due to saves has been minimal, which is a great thing for any mobile port of classic games like this.
KOTOR isn’t a perfect mobile game by any stretch of the imagination. The lack of Retina assets will undoubtedly make it an auto-nope for people who care about that kind of thing, and even in the best situations the virtual controls still are a bit clunky. Additionally, having to even think about or manage your save files feels archaic- But, this is a ten year old game designed to be played with a controller and the porting job Aspyr did is beyond admirable.
As I mentioned at the top of this review, if you’ve never played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and you’re even vaguely interested in the Star Wars universe or just surprisingly deep RPGs in general, this is a game you need on your iPad yesterday. KOTOR is easily among the best Star Wars games, and on my personal list of top RPGs I’ve played in my life. If you’ve already played the game to death, like most ports, this one offers nothing new- But you could consider doing an opposite alignment run from what you played originally for a slightly fresh experience.
Whatever you do though, don’t miss KOTOR. I don’t care what platform you play it on, as long as you play it- Especially if you’re a Mass Effect fan, it’s ridiculously interesting seeing just how much Mass Effect is in KOTOR and how much KOTOR is in Mass Effect. Consider it a really awesome history lesson in Bioware RPGs that also happens to be an incredible gameplay experience as well.