When the original Xbox first hit the scene, I could not have cared less. I was a Nintendo/Sony fanboy through and through and refused to so much as glance at Microsoft’s system...until a particular game came to the system exclusively. A game that wanted to challenge a player’s morality within a game, providing real consequences for actions, and an affect on the overall story. Best of all, it was all set within the Star Wars universe. I couldn’t pass it up, and it remains on the strongest games to have ever graced a Microsoft console.
Each month the Cinelinx staff will write a handful of articles covering a specified gaming-related topic, similar to our Movielinx series on the film side of things. These articles will be notified by the Gamerlinx banner. Gamerlinx is an exploration and discussion of our personal connections with video games. This month, we're putting the focus solely on Microsoft's gaming console, and exploring the best exclusive titles (throughout all generations) to have ever come from the Xbox systems. Join us in our discussion all month long, and share your thoughts with us!
When talking about the best Xbox exclusives, it’s impossible to not mention Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR). It did so many things right, that it remains one of the most talked about RPGs around, and despite an MMO set within the same world, fans are still clamoring for another entry in this franchise. It also remains one of the best stories created within the Star Wars universe, managing to engage audiences on a deeper level within the story than even some of the films.
While many Star Wars games that came before were considered good, few could boast a strong story that added to the lore in a significant way. KOTOR broke the mold by crafting a deep story filled with characters you genuinely cared about and wanted to hear from. From a gameplay perspective, this made the RPG experience, on the whole, a great deal better.
To be entirely honest, when I play role-playing games (or just about any game), I’m solely focused on the story. I’ll skip side-quests and exploration in exchange for getting to the next story point, as that’s what I care about most. While this pattern has changed for me as I’ve grown older, back when KOTOR first came out, that’s how I played everything. Yet, KOTOR was among the first games in which I altered the way I played. Because I was so invested in the characters, and spent time learning about them and trying to befriend them (another foreign concept in gaming), I wanted to go and do more missions with them.
In this way, Knights of the Old Republic changed the way I approached these kinds of games, and I don’t think I’m the only one who went through this experience. On top of caring about the characters and story on a deeper level, having your conversations affect not only you, but how your crew interacted with you had a major impact on playing as well.
With a range of options to choose from in how you responded to people, suddenly gamers found themselves thinking about their answers. If you went into the game with a specific plan in mind (whether you wanted to be good or bad), you had to think about how you approached people and the missions you did. What’s even better, is that sometimes in order to get something you really needed for your group, you had to go against the way you had been playing and answer opposite of your overall game plan. This happened to me a few times while playing on the light side of the Force, and it caused me to really think about the morality at play.
One of my favorite moments in the game came fairly early on when you’re exploring a planet and come across a crime scene. Being a Jedi, they look to you and your team to help out, to determine who is at fault for the fatal shooting. This required you to talk a pair of suspects and between their conversations and other evidence, figure out who’s at fault. Your answer would determine if the right person was arrested, or the wrong one.
It’s a simple thing really, but again, it caused you to question things a little more than you normally would in a game and presented another morality challenge. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small moment in the game, but one that resonated strongly with me and is an excellent showcase of how the game tried different things to engage players (sort of like when you had to help rescue the people turning into monsters, or not).
While the gameplay and tactical fighting aspects of KOTOR are certainly all worth mentioning and enjoying, by far the best thing about the game was it’s story. For the first time in a long time, Star Wars fans had a story that could compete with the films in terms of depth and epicness. It added to the mythology of the Saga, by showing us an aspect of the the galaxy far, far away that has never been seen before. Despite not featuring any of the main characters we knew and loved from the films or books, Bioware delivered on a story with several emotional and action packed high points.
These are the sort of things that helped set KOTOR apart from any other game out there and helped cement Bioware as a company to keep your eye on. For me personally, it was the first time I felt the need to even own an Xbox and I can honestly say I bought a console for the sole purpose of playing KOTOR on it. It did exactly what an exclusive should do, encourage people to consider a machine for it, a killer app essentially. It remains one of the best video games to ever bear the Star Wars name and as such remains one of the best exclusives to have ever graced an Xbox console.