18 Years Late to the Party, I Still Love KOTOR
KOTOR is the famous acronym for Knights of the Old Republic, one of the most treasured Star Wars games ever created. If you’re a Star Wars fan or someone who grew up in the 2000s you would no doubt be familiar with this game. Until last year, it was for me just a game that I knew was highly regarded by almost everyone who played it. I don’t know why I never got around to playing it until so late, I don’t really have an explanation other than I just didn’t.
In general, the early 2000s were a great time to be a Star Wars fan. Games were coming out left, right, and center, alongside the release of the now-beloved Prequel movies. KOTOR came out at the peak of this time in 2003. This was just after the release of Attack of the Clones which is in my opinion the weakest film in the Star Wars franchise.
From here things only got better as we soon saw the release of the Battlefront games, KOTOR, and other great games. 2005 saw the release of Revenge of The Sith, and so things were certainly looking up for Star Wars fans at that time.
Story and setting
KOTOR starts us in the middle of a battle on a starship under attack from Darth Malak and the Sith. You are given the option to choose between three different character classes as well as other means of customization such as the gender of your character. You also get to pick your own name.
After you battle Sith warriors and make your escape from the ship you are tasked with finding the Jedi Knight Bastilla. After you find her you are able to travel to Dantooine where you are finally able to become a Jedi.
While on Dantooine you discover a weapon known as the Star Forge that you must destroy before Malak uses it for his own ends. From here you travel to various planets throughout the galaxy until you ultimately find your way to the Star Forge.
The story is arguably the strongest aspect of this game. From the beginning, you really do feel as though you are part of a Star Wars movie. It plays like one of the best-written things to come out of the Star Wars universe. There are memorable characters all through the game and your interactions with them are great. There are also plot twists and mysteries baked within the story that always leaves you wanting to know more. Overall I think the story is incredible and one of the best from any game I’ve played.
As stated, KOTOR is an RPG from the early 2000s and if you play it nowadays, you can feel its age. I can’t deny that the gameplay is extremely dated and somewhat frustrating at times. For example, the near-constant misses that occur whenever you try to attack an enemy regardless of the weapon you’re using, even at extremely close range. It’s extremely similar to the problems Morrowind had, but despite its flaws, the game is still fun to play.
One of the positive aspects of the game is that you are able to issue commands to and control your party members. This seems fairly basic by the standards of today but for its time it was a huge deal. There is also a massive number of NPC’s that your character can engage with and for whom you can perform side quests. The menu system was, for its time, quite easy to navigate and use.
There is also a really cool morality system which reminds me of Fallout. You have a choice of how you play the game and certain actions will make you lean more towards the dark or light sides. Many of these actions also are baked into the story and can change the outcomes of it dramatically.
How does it feel today?
As stated I didn’t play KOTOR until last year. Despite this, however, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it. From the get-go, it was clearly dated but there was something about it, something I couldn’t really put my finger and even now I don’t think I can. It really does play in a specific way that is unique to KOTOR and this is part of the magic of it.
When you play games nowadays it’s very easy to notice elements that remind you of certain other games. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily however I didn’t get this as much with KOTOR. I’ve just never played another game that really has the same feel as it does, which is part of what makes it such an amazing game almost 20 years later.
The party system is really fun, as I always appreciate RPGs where you can have companions or a party with you. Invariably it serves to make the game more fun with the interactions you have between yourself and your party members. Of course, this is a Bioware game and Bioware would later go on to make the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games which had a similar system. It’s clear that those games are rooted in what Bioware deployed so successfully with KOTOR.
By far my favorite aspect of the game is that when playing, you really do feel like you’re a part of the Star Wars universe as if you are watching one of the movies. The franchise needs more RPG’s and this is an excellent example of how to make one. The immersion was brilliant as the game had its serious moments but there were also more light-hearted aspects too.
Everything in the game sort of comes together to make something brilliant. The story combined with the dialogue, great characters, gameplay, and atmosphere all enhance the others to make something that in my opinion, is a legitimate masterpiece.
In conclusion, it is hard to deny that KOTOR is not just one of the best Star Wars games, but one of the best video games of all time. At the time of the game’s release, it was hugely popular and that popularity and love have continued to this day. For good reason too, seeing how it’s just as good now as it ever was.