KOTOR - 17 Years Later - How Game Storytelling was Changed Forever in a Galaxy Far Far Away
Updated: Jul 29, 2020
Its a hot summer in 2005 and I am in the midst of building my first PC when a my roommates boyfriend gives me a cracked copy of this Star Wars game. He kept calling it KOTOR, which at first I was like "what the hell kind of name was that?" Later it hit me that Knights of the Old Republic was a mouth full. Needless to say with Mountain Dew and Slim Jims in hand, I loaded the .exe file on my newly built PC and I was hooked...there was just one problem. The cracked version only let me get to the first planet, and then there was a bug. I was not impressed so decided to do the responsible thing and buy the game out right. I dont remember what I paid for at the time - I think it was about 40 dollars for the PC and it had 4, yes 4 disks to load onto the computer. It took me driving across the boarder to an Oklahoma Walmart, since the small town I lived it at the time of Coffeyville Kansas didn't have it. I wanted to know who was this Bastila? what did the visions mean? and from there I was hooked on what I feel is one of the best pieces of Star Wars storytelling in the Gaming Media (though I haven't finished Jedi Fallen Order, just to put that out there.)
Over this last weekend KOTOR Celebrated its 17th aniversary of being released on XBOX on the 19th of July. Now as stated before in previous article I am more of a PS4 Gal in the years following with The Force Unleashed, but for KOTOR I got the Game of the Year Edition PC of this game. (once I found it that is) but I was hooked. So what is Knights of the Old Republic?
The story is set almost 4,000 years before the formation of the Galactic Empire, where Darth Malak, a Dark Lord of the Sith, has unleashed a Sith armada against the Republic. You train and become a Jedi, and must venture to the different planets of Tatooine, Dantooine, Kashyyyk, Korriban, Manaan, Rakata Prime, and Taris to defeat Malak. You have to choose from three character classes (Scout, Soldier or Scoundrel) and customise their look, gender and age at the beginning of the game (although limited to what we are used to today.) Through interacting with other characters and making plot decisions, your character will earn Light Side and Dark Side Points, and the alignment system will determine whether you align with the light or dark side of the Force while engaging in round-based combat against enemies.
Now this game is not obviously the first Star Wars Game to come out, it wasn't even the first game to come out where you could play as a Jedi. But what stood it apart from other games before it was how deep the character development was. It was the first time everything was customisable from your look, to your lightsaber. As your character you were able to also decide if you are a dual weapon or single, with an obvious shift in the game - Jedi powers become unlocked and you are able to then also decide just how truly good or evil you are.
Early on in the game I was taken by the music and voice acting of this game. The score sets the tone and mood of the entire piece and Jeremy Soule captures this perfectly.. we are introduced by Carth Onasi - voiced by Raphael Sbarge - and we are taken on a crazy adventure where the world of Dark Jedi and aliens on Taris transpire.
You keep hearing about this young female Jedi, a bit head strong and arrogant, but Bastia Shan is the best. When I saw her I was hooked! Her voice was just so mesmorsing and I never saw that in a game before. All I knew was the terrible dialogue form Resident Evil (lets be honest you cringe too at the original line delivery)
Through choices and conversations you learned about the head strong Jedi - and some of the barbs between her and the Mandalorian - Canderous Ordo was classic. But throughout your missions and conversations a bond is starting to form with the young Jedi. You can play as either a female or male, however, the only gay romance available in the game is with Juhani, who was the very first female written character in the Star Wars universe to be a lesbian. But there wasn't the same gender romance aspects in games until Mass Effect - which also a lot of these voice actors went on to have major roles in. But this is where we start to get into major spoiler territory.
**** It is advised if you haven't played the game - and I highly suggest you do - to not read any further as I have to spoil some major plot points. *****
Through out the game you keep having visions, visions of Bastila, of you, of a battle. More and More you bond builds with this character to the point if you play your cards right and unlock the kiss on Tatooine, that you fall in love. There is just one catch, All this time you have been chasing the dark Sith Lord Malak, while hearing about his former master Revan, never realising that Revan is in fact....You.
Let that sink in a moment...there is a wonderful moment, almost like how they did it in the movie Saw, where you see flash backs - lines that were clues are repeated and all the pieces fall into place and then there is a shot much like the art above where Revan takes the mask off and its your characters face. Without playing the game and dealing with all this textured and layered story building this reveal might seem a bit weak - but for a 20 year old on a hot summer in small town Kansas it was everything. I was shocked, I was hooked, and its the biggest EU story I wish was canon today. But we are getting there.
In the Rise of Skywalker we hear of a "Dyad in the force, not seen for generations." For me when I heard that in the cinema I was immediately taken to this game. A young female Jedi with a dual lightsaber (yellow) with brunette hair and a British accent, falling for a Dark Sith Lord, through understand of his heart and not his previous deeds, seeing his true nature. Needing each other to pull one another out of darkness and into the light. No im not talking about Reylo, its Bastia and Revan. But as you can see the similarities are striking and for my personal head canon that's who I think Palpatine is referencing, The Tragic Ballad of Bastila and Revan. There is a whole continuation of their story in EU stories and things but I will leave that for you to discover.
The game has a few different endings, a lightside and a darkside depending on what you chose, but nothing like the 40 ending from Detroit: Become Human. but for the time it was cool to see your decisions changed the outcome of the story. There was a follow up with a KOTOR 2 and then a massive The Old Republic Online RPG, but nothing captured the magic of the first game.
But Knights of the Old Republic would continue to cause ripples in the Star Wars Universe and Community to this day. Game Informer In 2007 ranked the KotOR plot twist as number two in a list of the top ten video game plot twists of all time. The Los Angeles Times listed Knights of the Old Republic as one of the most influential works of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
In early 2017, plot elements from the game were referenced in the animated TV series Star Wars Rebels such as the Mandalorian Wars and the ancient Sith planet Malachor. Additionally, Darth Revan was set to appear in the "Ghost of Mortis" arc in Star Wars: The Clone Wars but this was cut though a deleted scene of it does exist.
In 2019, Kathleen Kennedy stated that Lucasfilm was looking into developing movies or television series in the Knights of the Old Republic era, but that no plans had yet been made. It has also been speculated that this was more in reference to the now announced "High Republic." BuzzFeed News reported that Laeta Kalogridis would write a Star Wars movie that's based on the Knights of the Old Republic video game series. (but this was never confirmed)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - The Visual Dictionary, a book guide to the 2019 film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, contained a reference to one of the Sith Legions of the Sith Eternal organization led by Emperor Palpatine named after Darth Revan.
But another fun little tie in to the Rise of Skywalker and Knights of the Old Republic is once again Bastila Shan - or more Jennifer Hale who voiced her, she is one of the voices that Rey hears when all the Jedi tell her to "Rise". In Canon it is actually the character of Aayla Secura - But for my head canon it's Bastila.
So what now for the ground breaking game? would I want a remake? Knights of the Old Republic has had multiple ports and I was even playing it on my iPad on the train when I used to commute from work, getting my head around a game that used to take 4 CD's to load onto a PC could now be an app on my iPad. Its also for a time what my Retro Game Night on Twitch (and might return back to)
There was a time where someone tried to give the game a facelift with a updated render engine but sadly a cease and desist was issued. If I'm honest for me I dont want a remake, I wouldn't mind and updated look like whats happened with the Resident Evil games, but for me keep the voice acting! please those characters voices make the game. But games like Jedi: Fallen Order are in that vein of storytelling and character customisation and hopefully with games like The Last of Us 2 and the decisions based games like Until Dawn and Detroit Become Human we might get another RPG game for Star Wars. But until then I will continue to replay with my first Dyad on Thursday's Retro Game Night.
Be sure to check out my content here on the Beyond the Blast Door Network on Wednesdays and you can also check out my Star Wars Game Streams on Twitch.