Jedi Archives: Knights of the Old Republic: A Less Than Elegant Game from a More Civilized Age
By Richard Lynch
On November 19th, 2003 Bioware, a game studio mostly known for the Dungeons and Dragons-based RPG series Baldur’s Gate released Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Inspired by a single throwaway line from Ob-Wan, “For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic” KOTOR sought to answer questions and expand the elaborate mythology of Star Wars. What was this “Old Republic”? Who were the ancient Jedi? And what were those Jedi protecting the Old Republic from? The answer, it turned out would spawn an entire expanded universe within the Star Wars EU leading to not just to video games, but to books, comics, and legions of fans.
Kotor brought us ancient Sith Lords like Darth Revan and Darth Bane and gave us a new look at several familiar planets. It showed how the Galaxy was very different but also quite the same and gave us tons of popular new characters. But does the actual game hold up? The short answer is no, but only in some aspects. I originally planned to spend this piece praising the original game’s design and innovations, but in replaying the game, I’ve come to realize just how far Bioware and RPGs, in general, have come. Many of the environments suffer from a bland confusing layout, a fault of the time it was made. As one of the first major games to feature an element of moral choice, the decisions you are given tend to feel painfully on the nose often asking you to choose between the best and worst possibilities with very little wiggle room. And then there are the truly awful space battle sequences that nearly had me quit the game entirely when I first played it. Like many games from the early Xbox/PS2 era, the gameplay just doesn’t hold up to modern scrutiny.
Now despite all this negativity, there is undeniably one aspect of KOTOR that stand above many of its contemporaries and even sequels, the story. Knights of the Old Republic’s somewhat open-ended story that could change drastically based on the decisions player made was leagues ahead of its time. There’s a reason this one game has led to so many spinoffs side stories some of which have even made it into the series main cannon. This was assisted by complex systems that allowed you to grow your character how you saw fit, something that later Bioware games seemed to put less of a focus on in favor of a more action heavy focus.
Many people have been hoping for some sort of TV series to continue the series, but I think this would be a mistake. The best part of KOTOR was how it allowed fans to tell their own story within a previously unseen part of the Star Wars Galaxy. With the new focus on an interconnected cannon, now would be an excellent time for Bioware to reboot the series and explore new and alternate ideas without fear of contradicting previous games. Like many of the Star Wars books that have released over the last few years, this allows for an opportunity to reimagine flawed aspects with the added benefit of modern graphics and technology. Best of all anything that happened in a new KOTOR would indisputably be part of official canon.
What would this new game look like? Well, it shouldn’t just tell the same story over again. Instead, it could focus on an earlier time, perhaps showing us the first appearance of the Sith and the conflicts that followed. This sorry could reintroduce characters like Revan but from a new perspective the ties the events to the new films. Perhaps a new Kotor game could tell us who Snoke is or give us the history of ancient characters like Yoda or Maz Kanata by moving the timeline a little closer to the events of the films. No, what happens, there’s endless potential for new stories to be told using the mold that Kotor created almost 14 years ago.