Star Wars: KOTOR. it was one of the few games that almost swayed me to buy an original Xbox back in the day, but alas, it wasn't enough. i had tried a friend's copy of the game and found the battle system too hands-off and out of my control for my taste. so i never continued playing it.
when i purchased my Xbox 360 over a year ago, KOTOR was still a must-buy for me because it had many critics and fans raving... that, and since it'd been out for a number of years, i could pick it up for under $10 (and i do love my cheap games). well, next-gen games got in the way and i thought i wouldn't get around to playing KOTOR for a long time.
then i played Mass Effect and everything changed.
see, Mass Effect was created by the same developers that did KOTOR over 5 years ago. since i really liked Mass Effect - and since i'm on a huge sci-fi kick right now with Mass Effect, Star Trek: TNG, Babylon 5, etc. - i thought now would be the time to try KOTOR once again.
dear god why did i wait so long?
now, i've got quite a few "favorite games." if you scroll down a ways and look at my side bar, you'll see that there's over a dozen of 'em. however, among those games, very few of them are what i'd consider "near-perfect" - it's just that they are my favorites.
KOTOR is a near-perfect game - from its dialogue to its quest system to combat and story, it is just a damn well-designed game. perhaps the last time i felt this way about a game was after playing God of War, or maybe Ico.
the whole experience was just seamless. a marvel of game design. it allowed the player to make meaningful choices that affected how the game played out. these choices were not always black and white like in Mass Effect - i sometimes found myself using dark-side tactics to get what i wanted because i saw no other way.
what compounded these light/dark decisions was the wonder of a story. it's difficult to talk about it because talking about it would give away too much, but let's just say that many of the characters have things happen to them that bring into question both the goodness of the light and the badness of the dark. i played through the game as a Jedi, but after going through much of the game i started questioning whether or not i made the right decision - or rather, who would it hurt if i just played it a little more dangerous, a little more dark.
it was unbelievable. never has a video game affected me in such a way. BioWare found a way to set up a dialogue system, quest system, and overall story that made me question the light side.
oh, and the twist! now, since the game is 5 years old i had heard people talk, and i knew there was going to be a twist. i also knew in what vein the twist was going to be. however, when it happened, it caught even me off guard. what great storytelling. this twist was part of the reason i started to question the light side. amazing.
something i haven't even touched on yet is the combat and leveling up systems! when i first played the game a few years ago, i felt that it was too hands-off and out of my control. however, i think playing FFXII actually got me used to what type of combat system KOTOR has to offer. your characters basically go through the motions of what you tell them to do, but it happens rather rapidly. you can pause the action to take stock of what's going on and issue new commands, but really its meant to just be pretty much hands-off. what its doing is computing all these numbers and factors that are ripped straight out of Dungeons and Dragons and playing it out before your eyes. see, the combat and leveling up systems work so well because they borrow HEAVILY from D&D - a tried and true game.
playing KOTOR i could see how heavily they borrowed from it to form the basis of Mass Effect. however, i think in the process of trying to evolve with Mass Effect, they actually took a couple of steps back. it was too easy to identify the good and bad ways of doing things in Mass Effect, the D&D in action combat system was abandoned for a third-person shooter to no doubt appeal to a wider audience (but to its determent), and the story wasn't nearly as thought-provoking and twist-filled as KOTOR. however, i still like Mass Effect - it's just that i love KOTOR.
this is as close to a perfectly-designed game (specifically, a western-style role playing game) that i've ever had the honor of playing. it is perhaps the best game of the last 5 years.
9.95 out of 10