The lights are on
After a couple of hours listening to Carth complain about my dubious “kill everyone for no good reason” policy in the just-released iPad adaptation of BioWare’s seminal Star Wars RPG, I can confidently give it several thumbs up as a touchscreen game.
This $9.99 purchase is a direct port of the entire game – no episodes, microtransactions, advertisements, or social-networking garbage has been introduced to sully KOTOR’s sublime adventure. On the other hand, no changes to the graphics or gameplay have been made either – the story is still told through the archaic version of Star Wars d20 tabletop rules. The graphics are exactly the same (though the resolution is much higher than the console game, of course, and the flawless framerate helps its crisp and fluid appearance on the iPad’s gorgeous display), the rules are the same, the story is the same…only the interface has changed.
The touchscreen controls are adequate. I’d still rather play KOTOR with a gamepad or a mouse/keyboard setup, but I don’t mind the iPad controls. Swiping controls the camera and movement, and feels natural if a bit imprecise after the initial adjustment period. Combat directives are given with simple touches for target, power, and item selection. I wouldn’t want to do anything in real time in this scheme, but KOTOR’s simple action can be paused at any time and combat outcomes are determined by die rolls under the hood anyway.
KOTOR’s environments look hilariously bare to the modern gamer’s eye, and animations are stiff and repetitive at best. Character faces still look surprisingly good, though, and the voice-acting is not only unrivaled by its peers but still better than most games released since its 2003 debut. The story has aged as well as any Star Wars tale and better than most; this remains one of the greatest RPGs ever created and is little worse for wear as it nears its tenth birthday.
Playing on PC with mods that improve a lot of the graphics and core gameplay is still the best way to play KOTOR in 2013, but this release crushes the competition on iPad. Don’t let the unconventional controls scare you away.
Neither EA, BioWare, or Aspyr (which handled this port) responded with anything but a "no comment" when asked about further back-catalog releases or the possibility of bringing this to Android, sadly.