Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
I am a casual fan of RPGs. Although I am still more towards FPS style games, good RPGs have always found a place among my collection. However, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, hereafter referred to as SW:KOTOR, only was given a spot as it was a relatively inexpensive choice. However, this does not mean it's a bad game. Sure, there's not as much control over the action as I'd like and such, but that doesn't make it any less of a game. It just makes it a better RPG.
Let's start at the beginning, and I mean 'beginning'. Set a whopping 4000 years before any of the movies, the intro kicks off in the classic scrolling Star Wars style. Shortly afterwards, your character wakes up in the middle of a heated space battle between the Sith and the Republic.
And I do mean, your character. For, you get to create a profile for you to use in the game. You get to choose between male or female, and from three classes: Soldier, Scout and something else. It'll come to me eventually. After choosing one of these, you get to choose how skilled your character is in some particular fields. Each field helps create a different way to play SW:KOTOR. For instance, you could be the ultimate computer hacker, who can break into databases with ease and whose computer prowess is unmatched. Or you could be the mechanic, who can fix anything that needs to be. Or you could be the sly thief who can hide from anyone, anywhere. Or you could be a conman, who can talk his (or her) way out of anything and can convince anyone to do anything. The possibilities are limitless. Of course, you can't spend all your points on one thing, but you can be heavily biased towards it. Going up in levels can earn you further points to spend on these.
Then, you get to pick your powers. Although these are not Force Powers (yet), they are still formidable. Some powers mean you become better with blaster pistols, while others mean you become more attuned to your swords and such. Some classes start with some of the powers, so as to narrow down your choices. For instance, the Soldier class starts with the ability to equip any type of armor, while other classes do not.
Last, you get to name your character. This is self explanitory. However, the Random Name generator has a secret. I'll let you figure it out.
This being a RPG, there are other characters too. You get 9 other characters to control and create parties of three with. However, your party must contain your custom character. This brings up an important issue. What if you were to 'ignore' one member of your 'crew', but then needed their help? Nothing to worry about, as KOTOR has a wonderful system where if you have a party member who is levelled below your main, then they automatically catch up. It is cheap, but effective. The annoying bit is choosing their traits, level for level. Fortunately there is an automatic levelling up system, but it is dependant on the class of character.
The next staple of RPGs is the fights. No nancy-pancy wuss-fest here, you'll get into so many fights you'll feel that you're the only one they're trying to kill. Fortunately, you have control over as many, or as few, characters in your party as you want. The AI is smart enough to use health packs on their own, but this doesn't occur as frequent as one would hope. The downside of the AI is when you finish a battle with really low health, and your AI comrades run off to fight the next bunch of evil doers. This only happens if the other guys are within targeting range though. The best, and I mean best, aspect of the combat is that there are no random battles. Every enemy is visible even before combat. It's about freaking time! Well, actually, there is one area where random battles do occur. It's on Tatooine, outside the city limits. But those guys are easy to kill.
There may be other places where these occur, but I haven't been everywhere yet. I'm actually still trying to finish the game. I was close, but my save was lost. At least, I think I was close. That's how long this game is, you never know for sure when it's done. Some games extend their lifespan with extras. Others extend it with side quests. This one extends it's lifespan with more story. AND side quests.
Of these side quests, only two are dominant: the card game Pazaak and the swoop bike races. Both are on nearly every planet you visit.
Special mention here goes to the Light-Dark system. Some of the conversations and quests you get involve decisions. These decisions can lead to you earning Light or Dark points. These points depict what type of Jedi you are. Give the rakghoul serum to the medical center which will give it out for almost nothing, and you become a better Light Jedi. Give it to the crime lord who'll sell it at extortion prices to the rich and let the poor snuff it, and you become a better Dark Jedi. Your main character is the only one who can change their Light/Dark aspiration, but everyone else has already got an aspiration.
The downsides to this game that I found were the annoying, yet vital 'Auto-Level' sequence, the limited choices when customising your character and the lack of multiplayer.
Overall, I'd suggest this game to any fans of RPGs or Star Wars. It's worth looking at for casual gamers too.
One last thing, I'd reccomend you to listen to everything HK-47 says. He's the funniest character.