The gameplay is based on D20 Star Wars editions. The classes available are: Scoundrel (lots of skill points, sneak attacks, and a few feats), Scout (average number of skill points, trap dodging, implants, and a few feats), and Soldier (really few skill points and lots of feats). I usually play a Scoundrel or a Scout in my replay, because the skills are more useful than the feats once you know what combat style you want to use and the content you are going to face. Also, over the course of the game your character will become a Jedi; once again there are three classes available: Guardian (melee-oriented class), Sentinel (balanced melee/force power class), and the Consular (force power class). I find the game slightly unbalanced once you become a Jedi, because the lightsabers deal a lot more damage than the regular weapons, not to mention all the force powers giving you an edge over the enemies. Also, the first time you play, you don’t really know what is going to happen, so you can’t really “maximize” your character, while in subsequent playthrough you can plan what you want to be. This also makes the game easier. The game can be played in turn-based mode, too, being based on DnD. This allows for a more strategic approach to encounters and makes it easier to use grenades, too.
My favorite playthroughs are with the Scoundrel, moving to the Consular later. Lots of skill points, lots of Force power, but not very good with a weapon. It doesn’t matter; the Consular is a machine of destruction with the Force, yet it is also considered the worst class by many. They just don’t understand how to play it. The easiest class is Soldier going to Guardian. I like the Guardian; the Force Jump is a cool intro into combat, and the class is good at damage dealing. The Scout isn’t a bad starting class, but the Sentinel is average; it doesn’t bring anything interesting over the Consular or the Guardian.
KotOR is a BioWare game, so this means companions! There are nine companions that you acquire in the game. I prefer the companions with awesome stories to tell; this means Jolee, Canderous, and HK-47. Jolee is a runaway “Grey Jedi,” Canderous is a Mandalorian, and HK is an assassin droid that tries to pass for a protocol droid, minus the manners. I also like Zalbaar; he’s a Wookie, nothing more to say here. Juhani isn’t bad either, and she has a cool accent. Now for the companions I don’t really like. Carth is annoying and too emo for my taste. He happens to be the females’ main interest and the first companion you get, too. I always play a male character in KotOR just to avoid the romance with him. Mission Vao is a 14-year-old Twi’lek who is best friends with Zalbaar. My problem with Mission is that she’s a bit bratty — well, a lot, actually. She also tends to get in arguments with Carth in the early part of the game, and it’s annoying. Finally, Bastila is a mixed bag. She’s quite arrogant, but romancing her is quite funny. I kind of like her, but she’s also annoying in the “know-it-all” fashion. I’m totally neutral to T3-M4; he doesn’t speak and has no story to tell you.
This is where KotOR shines. If you like Star Wars, the story is good with interesting plots elements and the Twist. The most amazing thing about the game when you play it for the first time and you don’t know about the Twist is that you don’t realize how in-your-face the whole thing is. Your companions keep poking you with it all the time. It’s also interesting how it affects other people around you. The game is also the first one with the good/evil alignment seen under different shapes from the Jade Empire and the Mass Effect series. In the world of Star Wars, though, it’s light or dark alignment; that’s all you get. Personally, I find this part is a bit so-so; you get light point for being a poor, super-nice guy and dark points for being a rich jerk. I think I only finished the game once dark-sided. I always go “super-nice guy.”
Some people call KotOR the best RPG ever made. I don’t think it’s the best, but it sure is a really good Star Wars game and a really good role-playing game, too. It’s also the BioWare game that had everything their next games would have, except for a voiced protagonist. Companions, morality choices, “home base,” conversation being cutscenes, etc.