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Ask any game critic to name the most important or influential games of the past decade, and odds are they’ll bring up Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. First released for Xbox and PC in 2003 (and again for Mac the following year), KOTOR instantly became one of the most revered games of its generation, delivering a sprawling, original role-playing epic set thousands of years before the events of the Star Wars films. It helped raise the bar for player choice in RPGs and bolstered fans’ flagging faith in Star Wars — and now, 10 years later, it’s fully playable on iPad.
Telling the story of a player-created hero destined to amass a group of fascinating companions and become a powerful Jedi master, KOTOR lets players explore huge, open environments on a variety of distinct planets. And while there are frequent opportunities to swing a lightsaber or fire a blaster in semi-turn-based battles, the real action is arguably in the conversing with each planet’s inhabitants; depending on your choices, it’s possible to form alliances or pick fights, uncover new quests, push your character toward the Light or Dark sides, and ultimately alter the course of the story. Whether you want to play as a kind-hearted crusader or a cruel mercenary is completely up to you, and that’s a big part of KOTOR’s enduring charm.
Squeezing a game as enormous as KOTOR — which features hours of voice acting, dozens of hours of gameplay, and multiple distinct planets to explore — seems like a daunting task, but the iPad version handles it with few compromises. In fact, the most significant change is to the controls: moving forward now requires swiping upwards and holding your thumb or finger in place, while swiping across the screen moves the camera. Commands, menus and interactions with objects, meanwhile, are all handled simply by tapping. This can feel more than a little awkward, but given the game’s relatively slow pace and menu-driven battles, the controls never quite get in the way.
Otherwise, this is by and large the same KOTOR we remember, which is both a good and a bad thing. As complex and involving as the game still is, it’s aged in unexpected ways; a lot of its environments, for example, seem excessively cavernous given that only small handfuls of small people inhabit them. Its character animations now seem weirdly stiff, and some of its dialogue comes off as cheesy or silly when it’s trying to be serious. Even so, KOTOR remains immensely playable 10 years later — it made our list of The 25 Best Mac Games Today, after all — and the ability to take it anywhere makes it even more so.
The bottom line. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is one of the best games of the 2000s, and the iPad version is an uncompromisingly faithful port.
iPad 2 or newer running iOS 6.0 or later
A complete iPad version of one of the biggest, most involving RPGs ever made. Offers fun turn-based combat, memorable characters and settings, and lots of multiple-choice freedom.
Its graphics, writing, and environmental design are all starting to show their age. While the movement controls don't get in the way of gameplay, they never quite feel comfortable, either.