The Star Wars universe is bursting with potential beyond the storyline of the six movies, and that’s why Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is so interesting. It’s set 4,000 years before the movie storyline, and still pits the age old battle of Jedi against Sith with brand new unique characters. The game originally launched back in 2003, but now the BioWare classic has come to iOS thanks to Aspyr Media. It’s a major release as it provides such a detailed RPG adventure set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
The game begins on a ship that is about to be blasted out of the sky, and soon you’re stranded on a planet starting with humble beginnings working your way through alien slums in an attempt to flee the planet. Then you’re off to eight expansive planets to explore, and everything you do in the game contributes to upgrading your character, and deciding their destiny of the light or dark side. It takes quite awhile to get into the heart of the game, but once you do, you have access to over 40 different force powers, and can truly dive into the essence of the Star Wars franchise. The story is plenty engaging though, and it keeps you going through the initial stages as you prepare for double digit hours of adventure.
The gameplay itself revolves around team based real time strategy as you direct your main character to perform certain attacks at specific enemies. You have two other characters at your disposal that you can switch to with a tap, or just rely on them for AI back-up. The main problem with the combat is that it’s surprisingly passive, and devoid of strategy as it takes a bit for each move to play out. You can move to cancel any attack, but no matter what you do, your characters are always vulnerable. When you set an attack, you and your enemy stand in place and attack each other back and forth with no chance to dodge or avoid any damage. There’s also no way to direct an overarching strategy for your team, and instead your other two team members just perform their own attacks, usually on who it is you’re targeting. There are similarities to the quest based set-up of another major release this week, Warhammer Quest, in that the back and forth attacks are dependent upon the skill levels of the combatants.
It’s surprisingly rudimentary for such a previously praised title, and I’m sure existing fans will disagree with my assessment, but there are just shallow and repetitive sequences. You keep traveling to new areas, and unlocking new abilities, but the base game mechanic just doesn’t have the strategy of numerous other RPGs on any platform. It’s great to have expansive worlds, but part of what provides hours of gameplay is running through barren and repetitive areas. It can become quite frustrating to not have clearer directional and avoidance input, but that’s also a part of the iPad version. The control scheme leaves quite a bit to be desired, and is frustrating at best. You swipe left and right to move the camera, and swipe up and down to move in a straight line and it can be quite tough to change directions. Also targeting environmental objects is a hassle as well with overlapping touch targets sometimes misconstrued with movements. The menu system is another problem with such archaic levels of interaction to actually equip or use items for special attack sequences.
The game is a port of a decade old game, and the developers really provided us with a lackluster effort. Everything was originally designed for multi-faceted physical controllers, and the effort given to map those interactions for touch is simply poor, leaving a tedious interface. It gets the job done, but we expect more of touch controls, especially when you think of the creativity shown by other developers. There’s such an ornate storyline and adventure to explore on your iPad, and it’s still one of the most deluxe experiences in the App Store. It just could be made better for the iPad as the controls do interfere with the enjoyment of the game. The gameplay itself is also limited in scope, and the entire iPad experience makes you put up with all of these different issues. One other glaring issue is that the auto-save system isn’t the best, and you don’t always remember to manually save.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic ($9.99, iPad) is an exquisite game of the past, but is a mediocre game of the present. The main battle sequences stem from combating the poor touch controls, bland gameplay sequences, and numerous game structure issues. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is better off not on the iPad, and thus one to skip.