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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 29, 2003

'Knights' takes 'Star Wars' into world of role-playing

By Marc Salzman
Gannett News Service

"Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic," top, and "Pirates of the Caribbean" both include detailed 3-D graphics and animation.

Gannett News Service

"Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" and "Pirates of the Caribbean," the newest role-playing games (RPGs) for Microsoft's Xbox console, go beyond Dungeons & Dragons-style monsters and magic.

Each single-player game features mainstays of traditional role-playing game play, including epic nonlinear quests and characters whose abilities increase over time, but these new RPGs also pull and twist the genre into new directions.

Both cost $49.99 and are rated "T" for teen.

'Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic'; LucasArts, www.lucasarts.com; out of 4

"Knights of the Old Republic" is the first RPG set in the "Star Wars" universe. It takes place 4,000 years before the events of "Episode I: The Phantom Menace," a turbulent period where powerful Jedi battle malevolent Sith.

You begin this lengthy adventure by creating a character from scratch or by selecting a randomly generated one. Depending on your character's actions throughout the game, he or she will become an upstanding galactic citizen or a heartless, evil one. Missions and storylines evolve accordingly if your character is lured to the dark side.

Like many RPGs, your character is accompanied by a "party" of characters — human, alien or droid — to explore 10 huge worlds, which include the desert planet Tatooine and Chewbacca's home world of Kashyyyk.

The battle system is a unique combination of turn-based and real-time fighting, therefore the action can be paused to assign orders, swap weapons, select Force powers and heal party members.

Other features include beautiful 3-D characters and environments, several mini-games, 12,000 lines of spoken dialogue and downloadable weapons and other items available this winter through Xbox Live.

To say "Knight of the Old Republic" is an ambitious stab at turning the "Star Wars" universe into a deep RPG would be an understatement.

'Pirates of the Caribbean'; Bethesda Softworks, pirates.bethsoft.com; out of 4

Inspired by the feature film of the same name, "Pirates of the Caribbean" puts you in the role of 17th century freelance ship captain who is caught in a power struggle between the English and French.

You and your crew must sail to the Caribbean to engage in trade and ship-to-ship combat, which involves boarding other vessels for sword fights and pistol shootouts.

Like "Old Republic," behavior will define reputation, so a cutthroat mercenary will likely have a different game experience than an honorable merchant. Regardless, you must accumulate wealth during game missions to buy bigger ships and hire new crew members.

The graphics are quite attractive, with realistic water and weather effects, particularly the severe storms.

"Pirates" does have a few shortcomings such as some cumbersome controls and technical bugs, but they don't detract from the game too much.