Knights of the Old Republic – iPad

So, I’ve finally gotten to the end of my first play through. Rather than review the game in its totality, I thought I’d look at how it’s been converted to the iPad.

Let’s start – perhaps controversially – with a negative. The game is 2GB in size. Yeah, two gigabytes. People with a 16GB iPad are really going to choke that one down as are those with a 32GB. 64GB & 128GB’ers will find it easier to have the game installed on their machines though given the multiple paths through the quest for the Star Forge, it may hang around for a while. Even so, 2GB does take a few hours to download depending on one’s broadband speeds so no casual uninstalling/reinstalling.

The iPad is no PC – which means that one size fits all so the myriad graphic options are eliminated. There’s a set design which is remarkably detailed, smooth and well rendered. Though in all honesty, I’ve played KOTOR on several PCs and despite keeping graphic options at the same – I never noticed a difference. Brightness is an issue in sections of the game and even with the iPad turned up to max, they can still look gloomy and hard to make out. Something an update could sort out perhaps? The movies/cut scenes work so much better on the iPad than they did on the PC – are they still utilising Bink Video? I dunno but they played beautifully.

This version of KOTOR is the full game – i.e. there’s Yavin IV as a planet one can visit for expensive, rare items to purchase for your adventure (not a cash purchase I hesitate to add folks, this is strictly within the confines of the adventure). IIRC, the Xbox version of the game omitted the planet. I haven’t discovered that there is anything omitted for issues of space which is a great thing and will reward familiar players looking to get in on the general nostalgia trip.

One trick the developers really missed out on was the chance to tweak some of the features of the game that Obsidian messed around with on KOTOR II. For example, if you loot a storage locker, it’d tell you it was empty once you’d taken items out of it thus stopping you from going back over previously searched lockers. And some of the feats could have been sexed up also – I don’t think gameplay balance would have been affected too much and even if it were, a minor tweak to enemies the further one progresses would have restored equilibrium. It’s still a shame that the players all cap out at level 20; it’s quite possible to get to level 20 long before you enter the final stages of the game making the last sections redundant and therefore encourages you to skip over sections of the game as Experience Points are no longer needed. Again, if any of the (re)developers are reading, please consider a minor update!

Now the controls – yes, the game as you have doubtless heard utilises a complete touch screen interface. Swipe left to turn/look left. Swipe right to turn/look right. Swipe up to move forward and trace your finger if you want to bend rather than walk in a straight line. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of the controls although you’ll want to ensure you have a decent cleaning cloth as by the end of a session, the screen will be utterly filthy. Conversation options are chosen from a list on the right. Its simple enough to get through and there’s little chance of pushing the incorrect buttons by mistake. And in combat, there are sub-menus that pop up for commands if one so wishes to vary combat stances. It can slow the game down a little (on the PC, the scroll button on the mouse took care of that) but has the added bonus of making you think about combat.

One of the issues that did drive me nuts is the swoop racing – I found it so difficult as to be unplayable. I completed the mandatory race on Taris, utterly failed on Tatooine and didn’t bother with Manaan. The controls just don’t work. Again, you swipe left and right to move the swoop bike and tap to switch gears but the vehicle handles as if you were plastered. This makes you constantly miss the accelerator pads on the race tracks. KOTOR could really do with a couple of arrow buttons on either side of the screen to control the swoop bike section and even a separate button above said arrow buttons to change gear. It’s a shame as the Tatooine swoop races lead on to a couple of side-quests which you cannot really complete unless you can win races.

Haven’t got too much to offer on the sound/music though it’d have been nice to have a “sound track” option to be able to listen to Jeremy Soule’s rendition of a galaxy far, far away. With the default sound levels, there are parts of the game where speech or ambient music can be muffled. I haven’t worked out why as yet though I suspect it’s just a quirk of the game. If you’re listening/playing the game through earphones, no need to crank the volume past 50%, honest guv.

Other odds and sods – the game is a battery guzzler, or at least it is with the brightness turned up to full. Three hours of solid play will suck about 60% of battery life and the iPad will warm up a fair amount so try and rest it on a table. Also, there’s no achievements to shoot for which is a shame although an achievement list would act as a major spoiler.

All in all though, I think KOTOR is a worthy purchase and good value for money, especially considering it’s a ten year old game and how much mileage one can wring from it with all the classes of character, the two genders and the light and dark side endings. It is an excellent conversion and works really well on the iPad. A few tweaks wouldn’t go amiss though but I think that this really is a potential game-changer for the iPad and will hopefully lead to KOTOR II or even…just maybe The Old Republic. And of course the many other RPGs out there.

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