I'd heard about the hype surrounding KOTOR for years. Yet, I never made the time to play it. Finally, when I upgraded my computer, I thought it was finally time to give the game a try. As a Star Wars fan, I couldn't have been happier. Here are a few key points:
The game has a very rich story, far better than most of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Your character is a Force-sensitive Republic soldier who leads an odd assortment of characters to locate an ancient superweapon controlled by the Sith. However, along the way you face dozens of side quests and have to make decisions in how you respond to challenges. You get to influence the story through your choices and can eventually head down the light or dark path. Thus, decisions have consequences - and it's not just the very final decision in the game, but innumerable small decisions when conversing with characters. I played through once, but it's clear that I could play the game again in its entirety and it would be a very different experience.
The characters are undoubtedly the best part of the game. KOTOR manages to incorporate a fairly substantial leading characters and dozens of important supporting characters. Many of these have become fan favorites, including Bastila Shan, Canderos Ordo, Darth Malak, and of course Darth Revan. This is because each character has a unique personality and, more importantly, the grow and mature during the course of the game. You end up really caring about them by the time you're done.
This game was released in 2003, yet the graphics hold up surprisingly well. Certainly better than most of what I'm used to on the Wii. I'd love for BioWare to rerelease KOTOR with improved graphics, but there's really not much to complain about here. Of course, this might depend on how powerful your computer is and whether you're willing to risk smooth performance for better graphics (fortunately, my computer's really powerful, so I got both!).
I was a bit worried that the RPG-style gameplay would detract from the combat experience. However, it's seamless. Your characters don't pause during turns, but rather keep fighting. If you order your characters to attack and then sit back, it becomes an almost cinematic experience. However, be sure to invest some time learning how the combat system works and about your equipment. After a few hours into the game, you'll find that you have far more items than you'll ever be able to master.
I kid you not, my only complaint is the ending. After such a dramatic quest, it was a bit of a letdown. I was expecting a 10 minute cinematic denouement chronicling the fates of each character. Oh well...
I've read a lot of complaints about stability issues. Fortunately, I didn't experience much of this at all. I played through the entire game (around 50 hours) and it only crashed twice. However, I just got a new MacBook Pro, with the highest performance specifications, so my experience probably isn't typical. You will definitely need a powerful computer, but the game is good enough that you'll be able to put up with the occasional stability problem. Just be sure to save frequently.
After having played and beaten KOTOR, I'm simply left hungering for more. I'm going to try to get KOTOR II, but there's not much else out there. It's sad that Star Wars video games have only declined since KOTOR. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was a big disappointment. Hopefully, the new Old Republic game will bring back the glory days!